Reckless Tourist in Yellowstone Photographed Trying to Touch Bison

By: Georgia | Published: Jul 05, 2024

A visitor at Yellowstone National Park found herself in a precarious situation when she got too close to a bison during the peak of rutting season. 

Despite numerous signs warning of the dangers, she approached the massive animal, known for its unpredictability during this time.

Caught in the Act

Aimee Lopez, watching safely from her car, caught the whole scene on camera

Advertisement
A tourist crouches to photograph a large bison at close range in Yellowstone National Park, with another observer in the background and a scenic view of forested mountains

Source: touronsofyellowstone/Instagram

As the tourist edged closer to the bison, snapping photos, Lopez took to the internet to share her disbelief: “These were taken in Yellowstone yesterday. It got worse, she tried to pet it.”

Advertisement

Turning Her Back on Danger

The danger escalated quickly when the tourist turned her back on the bison to pose for more photos. 

Advertisement
A tourist appears to touch a bison on a roadside in Yellowstone National Park, with a clear blue lake and dense forest in the background

Source: touronsofyellowstone/Instagram

This risky move during the animal’s mating season could easily have triggered a violent response, showcasing a serious lapse in judgment.

Situation Intensifies

Realizing the gravity of the situation as the tourist reached out to touch the bison, Lopez didn’t hesitate. 

Advertisement
A close-up of a lone bison grazing in a field at Yellowstone National Park during sunset

Source: Wikimedia Commons

She immediately drove off to find help, later recounting online, “At that point, I drove up the road and got a ranger.”

The Threat of Bison

The National Park Service consistently warns that bison are the most dangerous animals in Yellowstone, posing a greater threat to humans than even bears or wolves. 

Advertisement
A group of bison grazes near the Yellowstone River with some bison standing in the water, surrounded by a vast grassy landscape

Source: Wikimedia Commons

These formidable creatures are particularly defensive when threatened.

A Frightening Reminder

Just weeks prior, an 83-year-old woman was gored, suffering serious injuries from a bison, proving that these animals will defend their space vigorously. 

A bison family, including a calf, grazes in a green field at Yellowstone National Park

Source: Yellowstone National Park/Facebook

“The bison… lifted her about a foot off the ground with its horns,” an NPS spokesperson reported.

Advertisement

NPS Issues a Warning

In light of recent events, the National Park Service has reiterated the critical importance of keeping a safe distance from wildlife.

A warning sign at Yellowstone National Park reading "DANGER DO NOT APPROACH WILDLIFE" with a silhouette of a bison, beside a real bison looking at the camera

Source: Yellowstone National Park/Facebook

They emphasize to visitors, “It’s your responsibility to respect safety regulations and view wildlife from a safe distance.”

Advertisement

The Legal Side of Wildlife Safety

Approaching wildlife in US National Parks isn’t just dangerous; it’s illegal

Two photographers with large lenses on tripods photographing a herd of bison in a snowy landscape at Yellowstone National Park

Source: Wikimedia Commons

Offenders risk fines or jail time, a serious consequence for a moment of thrill.

Advertisement

Safe Viewing Distances

The NPS advises keeping at least 25 yards away from bison and elk, and a much safer 100 yards from predators like wolves and bears. 

Two grizzly bears scavenging on a carcass by a small pond in Yellowstone, with crows around them

Source: Yellowstone National Park/Facebook

These guidelines help ensure both visitor and animal safety.

Advertisement

How to Watch Wildlife Safely

For those eager to observe Yellowstone’s wildlife, the safest way is from within a vehicle, using binoculars or a camera with a zoom lens. 

A herd of bison grazing near a steamy geothermal area in Yellowstone National Park, with lush greenery and a river in the background

Source: Wikimedia Commons

This method allows for close-up views without disturbing the animals or putting human lives at risk.

Advertisement

Viewing Etiquette

Yellowstone encourages the use of designated pullouts when viewing wildlife to avoid causing traffic jams or accidents. 

A curvy road snakes through the rugged terrain of Yellowstone National Park, surrounded by dry grasslands and pine forests, under a cloudy sky with mountains in the distance

Source: Yellowstone National Park/Facebook

It’s vital to remember that stopping in the road not only disrupts traffic but can also lead to dangerous interactions with wildlife.

Advertisement

A Cautionary Tale

This recent episode serves as a stark reminder of the inherent risks involved in wildlife interactions, especially with Yellowstone’s bison. 

A bison with frost on its face grazing among snowy bushes in Yellowstone

Source: Yellowstone National Park/Facebook

Visitors must adhere to park guidelines and maintain safe distances to ensure both their safety and the well-being of the park’s wildlife inhabitants.

Advertisement