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YELLOWSTONE NATIONAL PARK — In recent days, videos have emerged of a visitor to Yellowstone National Park petting a bison near Old Faithful, raising concerns to warn visitors about the dangers of approaching wildlife.
Yellowstone National Park visitors have recorded a woman who approached and pet a full-grown bison near the park’s popular Old Faithful viewing area on April 17. Whether she was aware of the danger or not, this visitor was playing a very dangerous game.
Despite warnings posted throughout the park, 2015 was one of the worst years on record for bison attacks in Yellowstone, with five attacks occurring from May-July. In those five encounters, three people were “tossed” and two people gored after getting too close to one of North America’s largest land animals. All of the people involved sustained injuries ranging from minor to serious.
Park regulations require visitors to remain 100 yards from the park's bears and wolves, and 25 yards away from the rest of Yellowstone’s "large" animals. But many of Yellowstone’s visitors continue to disregard those safety guidelines each year at their own peril. Wild animals may appear docile and tame, but they can be unpredictable and dangerous.
Wildlife incidents are nothing new, but some fear the prevalence of camera phones (which lack adequate zoom capabilities), and trends like sharing selfies on social media are largely to blame for the recent rise in wild animal attacks. All five of the people injured in last summer’s bison attacks were within 10 feet of the animal when it charged —well under the 25 yards prescribed by the National Park Service. Most of them were taking pictures when the attacks occurred.
The woman caught petting the bison last weekend is now facing a fine for approaching and harassing park wildlife. She was "extremely lucky" according to park spokesman Amy Bartlett.
Approaching wildlife is a game of chance with potentially disastrous consequences. Stay safe in the outdoors this summer and always adhere to park regulations regarding wildlife.