HomeOutdoorsNewsYellowstone National Park Backpackers Say They ‘Had to Flee’ After Bison Approached Them

Yellowstone National Park Backpackers Say They ‘Had to Flee’ After Bison Approached Them

by Caitlin Berard
(Photo by Nano Calvo/VWPics/Universal Images Group via Getty Images)

In National Parks all across the country, tourists behaving irresponsibly seems to be a daily occurrence. Everywhere you look, there are park visitors standing inches from boiling geysers; approaching angry elk, moose, and bison; and throwing random objects into the Grand Canyon for no reason at all. It’s such a common sight, in fact, that there are entire social media pages dedicated to the topic (and rightfully berating the offenders).

With that in mind, it’s refreshing to hear a tale of park visitors behaving exactly as they should, treating the outdoor space and the wildlife within it with the reverence they deserve. In a video posted to the YouTube channel Voyager’s Diary – Through My Lenses, a massive bison wanders across a boardwalk at Yellowstone National Park, blocking the path of a group of backpackers.

In a subsequent interview with Newsweek, backpacker and channel owner Priyanka recounted the awe-inspiring encounter. “We were on the boardwalk and the Bison appeared out of nowhere, we had to flee and maintain the park-mandated safe distance (25 yards) from the beast,” she said. “We learned something that day. It’s their area and staying on the boardwalk doesn’t mean we’re immune.”

Though the bison didn’t give the backpackers a second glance, they followed outdoor etiquette to a T. Rather than testing their luck in an attempt to pass the bison, they re-established the required distance.

Yellowstone National Park Backpackers Avoided a Bison Attack With Wise Reroute

The conscientious backpackers understood that simply staying on the boardwalk wasn’t enough. By walking closer, even if they stayed on the designated path to do so, they risked making the bison feel threatened, potentially sparking an attack. Though it forced them to change their hiking plans for the day, Priyanka explained the encounter gave her and her companions “more love and respect” for nature and wildlife.

As Yellowstone National Park and other parks constantly remind their visitors, it’s always the humans’ responsibility to maintain a safe distance from the local wildlife (at least 25 yards from most animals; 100 yards from bears, wolves, and other predators). Even if the animal is the one to walk toward you. And yes, even if they venture into a visitor-designated area such as a parking lot or picnic space.

Weighing up to 2,000 pounds, bison aren’t overly aggressive animals. Should they perceive a human’s approach as a threat, however, they’re capable of delivering quite a punch. A bison charges at 35 mph, producing over 13,000 Newtons of force as it throws the entirety of its weight at its target.

With that kind of force, a bison can easily toss a grown man several feet into the air with one bone-shattering headbutt. In the last 45 years, over 80 people have been seriously injured or even died from a bison goring in Yellowstone National Park.