WATCH: Bison Scratches Belly on Badlands National Park’s Famous Exit Sign

by Jon D. B.

Few things beat a good scratch if you’re a big hairy Badlands National Park bison, and this giant bull has it all figured out.

Megafauna or tiny pup, mammals love a good belly scratch. North American bison are no exception. But for the love of all that is holy, heed Yellowstone National Park‘s advice: “Don’t pet the fluffy cows.”

Thankfully, that’s not at all what’s happening in this excellent clip straight out of the Badlands. The phenomenal South Dakota national park is home to thousands of wild bison, and they do as they please. This big bull, for example, saw the famous “Leaving Badlands National Park” sign and thought, ‘Now there’s an excellent scratching post.’

TikTok user Kel_Reth filmed the footage. “It was our first time visiting,” she comments excitedly. It’s hard to imagine a better sight leaving the park!

As the bull makes with a lazy belly scratch, a buddy stands close by as he patiently awaits his turn. Gotta love nature.

Whether in Badlands or Yellowstone National Park, ‘Don’t Pet the Fluffy Cows’

It’s imperative to remember, however, that bison are enormous wild animals. They may seem docile or mild-mannered, and they typically are. But all wild animals are unpredictable, and when they’re as large as bison they can do some real damage at the drop of a hat.

Yellowstone’s “fluffy cow” mantra and poster was conceived for this very reason after three bison gorings occurred in the park in less than a month’s time. All three wound up on film courtesy of flabbergasted visitors, and none are a pretty sight.

“Think it over! Also, think safety and act safely. You can help keep yourself and other visitors safe and wildlife wild by setting a good example! Remember to treat wildlife with proper caution and respect. The safety of animals, as well as your safety, depends on everyone using good judgment,” Yellowstone captions the poster.

It’s a tad playful for such a heavy topic. But the National Park Service (NPS) knows, as does Outsider, that the best way to teach wildlife safety is through engaging content. Imperative safety information posted with a regular ol’ photo is likely to go in one ear and out the other. And as more and more visitors flock to Badlands and all national parks, this safety information is more important now than ever.

Crucial Bison Safety from NPS

Firstly, NPS asks visitors to Give Animals Room. “The best way to stay safe around wildlife is to give animals room to move. Many parks require you to stay a minimum distance of 25 yards from most wildlife and 100 yards from predators like bears and wolves. If you’re close enough for a selfie, you’re definitely too close. Use binoculars or a zoom lens and move back if wildlife approach you,” the service states.

Secondly, Do Not Disturb Wildlife. Period. “Even when you’re farther away, leaving wildlife alone can help your viewing experience—plus it’s the law. It’s illegal to feed, touch, tease, frighten, or intentionally disturb wildlife. Remember that wildlife in parks are wild and can be unpredictable when they’re disturbed or surprised,” NPS explains.

And thirdly, always Be Responsible. “Ultimately, staying safe and keeping wildlife wild is up to you! When you go out into a national park, it’s your responsibility to keep yourself, your family, and the wildlife safe.”

For more on Badlands National Park wildlife and bison safety, see our Badlands National Park Wildlife: Where to See Iconic Animal Species in the Park & Key Wildlife Safety next.