Tourist Taunts Yellowstone Bison

Park animals are still wild animals (and are not interested in being in your selfie)

buffalo, bison, yellowstone park, tourist, car, traffic
Bison, and tourists, slow traffic in Yellowstone. Photo by Brian Gratwicke

Maybe—all evidence to the contrary—the idiocy of a tourist stuck in Yellowstone National Park traffic displays in showing a bull buffalo who’s boss has always been with us. It’s just that now we can capture and share individual instances of it with the entire world.

In the short clip below, the tourist, in too-tight and too-short shorts, pounds his chest, clearly wanting the animal to come at him. A kid in the car where somebody is filming the incident calls, “C’mon buffalo! You can’t let them boss you around!” The buffalo charges the man half-heartedly a couple of times.

If the animal had really been ticked off, the guy would be dead by now. But God looks out for fools—sometimes, anyway—and the brave tourist eventually retreats. It’s the next scene on the TV news story of the event that I found interesting. The broadcaster speaks to Dave Salmoni, Animal Planet’s large-predator expert.

“That guy’s lucky to be alive,” he says, explaining that buffalo are temperamental. A big bull like the one seen would drop his head, charge, stick a horn into the guy’s “groin area,” and toss him 20 feet in the air. “If he’s lucky, the bison will leave him alone. If not, he’ll get thrown a few more times because buffalo are very aggressive.”

Salmoni laughs when asked what he’d like to tell the tourist. “Ha! I’d have dragged him by his ear back to the car.”

He notes how most of us think that society will protect us with fences from anything truly dangerous and says that there’s a “huge spike in people getting hurt for selfies,” citing recent incidents with sharks and a lion.

The Park Service is looking for the guy and will press charges for endangering wildlife if it can find him. Any animal that kills a human is generally hunted and killed whenever possible, presumably on the theory that once it has killed a human—no matter how provoked the attack—it has crossed a threshold and is more likely to do so again. It’s unfortunate but not completely without logic. If morons were the only victims of their stupidity, that would be one sad outcome. The death of an otherwise innocent animal just adds to the tragedy.

If you see something like this happening, I hope you’ll speak up before real harm is done.