Visiting one of America’s gorgeous National or State Parks can be a life-changing experience. There’s nothing quite as magical as the boundless beauty of the great outdoors and the wildlife that inhabit it. That said, it doesn’t come without risk, which is why every park has a long list of rules and regulations visitors must follow for the safety of both themselves and the natural space.
And even when those rules are followed to the letter, visitors must accept that a certain level of risk is unavoidable. Nature can be unpredictable, and even the most carefully planned day outdoors can end in disaster. Amelia Dean, who came all the way from the UK to visit Custer State Park in South Dakota, fell victim to one such incident when an encounter with a bison turned into a harrowing near-death experience.
“It’s a surreal enough experience let alone the fact that we weren’t doing anything that really warranted it. We were just having a walk in the park,” Amelia explained from a hospital bed in Rapid City, SD. She and her friend were visiting Custer State Park with their dog when they decided to go hiking.
Unfortunately, the pair ran out of supplies in the summer heat and quickly became desperate for water. They saw a bison herd ahead, and though they could have turned around, they knew the quickest way to water was to keep moving forward.
Custer State Park Tourist Remains Paralyzed Following Bison Attack
Park officials advise maintaining a distance of at least 25 yards from their native bison. Though they’re typically docile animals, bison are easily spooked and can cause serious harm and even death when they attack.
According to Amelia Dean, she was following the rules carefully. In fact, she claims that she was more than 100 yards away from the herd when a large male started running in her direction.
“The bison just ran down the hill at her. It came right up and stopped in front of her. And then apparently, they had a bit of eye contact for a few seconds,” Dean’s mother explained to Dakota News Now.
The bison then gored Amelia Dean in the thigh and tossed her 10-15 feet into the air, severing her femoral artery. Two of the nerves in her leg were damaged as well, leaving her paralyzed from the knee down. “I have basically no movement in my foot,” Amelia said. “I can’t walk without a walker or crutches.”
The attack took place about 8 weeks ago, but Amelia remains hospitalized. Thankfully, she’s now preparing to undergo treatment with a peripheral nerve specialist. The family hopes that this treatment will put her on the road to a full recovery.
As for Amelia, she doesn’t blame the bison or Custer State Park in the slightest. “I hope this doesn’t discourage people from traveling,” the brave tourist explained. “Travel and explore and have fun. This is a freak accident. This isn’t going to happen every time somebody walks in a park.”