HomeOutdoorsNewsYellowstone boardwalk collapses under weight of bison bull

Yellowstone boardwalk collapses under weight of bison bull

by Jon D. B.
Yellowstone bison on boardwalk
Bison passing over boardwalk in Yellowstone National Park. (Photo credit: MARK RALSTON/AFP via Getty Images)

Yellowstone National Park visitor Adam Nigels managed to capture the moment an enormous bison bull shattered boardwalk boards beneath his hooves.

While enjoying the sights at Norris Geyser Basin, Nigels started filming as several of the iconic mammals began passing through. The first loud, intense sound you hear is, in fact, the boardwalk’s large boards snapping under the 2,000 pound bull.

Thankfully, the visitors on both sides of the boardwalk keep their distance. It’s hard to imagine anyone wanting to try and get in the way of animals this heavy and powerful, but it happens all the time in Yellowstone, so we celebrate the small wins.

As Nigels says, “The Yellowstone bison can be very dangerous up close. However, in this moment, they were simply trying to cross the boardwalk and wanted nothing to do with the surrounding people.”

“Stay safe and don’t walk toward them if you plan on visiting,” he adds in his YouTube description.

Indeed, we talk a lot about National Park Service wildlife regulations here at Outsider. In Yellowstone specifically, visitors are required to keep a minimum distance of 25 yards between themselves and wildlife at all times, including bison and elk. Predators like bears and wolves require a far greater 100 yards.

But wildlife is wild, and they do as they please. So just like Nigels’ footage shows, sometimes the animals approach you or your area. And when they do, immediately begin giving them space, stay back, and let nature take its course. Otherwise, we run the risk of snapping in two like this boardwalk.

The weight of a Yellowstone National Park bison

Nigels’ video is currently making the rounds on the internet, including social media and news outlets sharing his viral footage as a cautionary tale. But the incident is almost a year old now, having been filmed in June of 2022. It somehow slipped through the cracks at the time, however.

In truth, it’s surprising this does not happen more often. With all adult North American bison (Bison bison) weighing anywhere from 1,000 to 2,000+ pounds and Yellowstone’s boardwalks made of wood, how they’re all in decent shape year-round is a bit baffling.

When 2,000 pound bull places their hoof down, they’re placing the majority of their weight onto a relatively tiny pressure point. These gargantuan beasts can be over 9-feet-long and stand at 6-feet-tall on all fours, yet those four hooves are only around 4 inches wide on average. If there every were a recipe for shattering boards, that’s it.

To remain whole (unlike said boards), the park requires the following:

It is illegal to willfully remain near or approach wildlife, including birds, within any distance that disturbs or displaces the animal. Always remain at least 100 yards (91 meters) from bears or wolves, and at least 25 yards (23 meters) from all other wildlife.

Please use roadside pullouts when viewing wildlife. Use binoculars or telephoto lenses for safe viewing and to avoid disturbing wildlife.

Yellowstone National Park Wildlife Safety Regulations

For more on park wildlife (and relevant safety), see our Yellowstone National Park Wildlife Breakdown next.