One more time, for the people too slow to catch the train to common sense.
Yellowstone National Park is not a petting zoo.
Say it with us.
Yellowstone National Park is NOT a petting zoo.
It bears repeating because last weekend, on the park’s opening day no less, a woman walked up to a bison resting next to a walkway and petted it.
The woman was caught on videotape by other tourists, who were clearly stunned. (Click here to watch one of the videos.)
Several times the animal seemed to tell the woman to back off, jerking its head and horns at her as she touched it. A man standing at a much safer distance appeared to be taking photos of her.
The animal was clearing trying to warn her, Montana bison rancher Troy Westre told NBC Montana, noting that his bison are much tamer than the ones who live at Yellowstone.
“When you come up onto a bison herd their first alert is a half-cocked tail,” Westre said. “The more mad they get the higher it goes, straight up. But they’ll shake their head and that means you’re too close.”
Here’s part of the play-by-play of one group of people who watched and taped the incident.
“Is she stupid? She’s totally antagonizing it.”
“Where are the rangers?”
“And this is the summer where one of my girlfriends got killed.”
“I just wanna go yell at her because it’s people like her that just ruin it for everybody.”
What makes the incident even more perplexing is that bison, which can weigh up to a ton, injured at least five people at the park last year.
In what became known as the year of the “bison selfie,” at Yellowstone, tourists were gored when they got too close while taking photos, the Idaho Statesman reports.
“I’ve seen people do stupid things ... this was by far the stupidest thing,” Brett Johnson, who filmed the incident last weekend, told the newspaper.
He said the bison was standing the first time the woman tried to pet it. She walked away, the bison settled onto the ground, and the woman came back. That’s when Johnson grabbed his camera.
“Holy cow. She’s doomed,” he thought as he recorded her.
Johnson’s 9-year-old son, Bryce, watched, too.
“I’d like to pet a buffalo, except I wouldn’t like to die,” he can be heard saying on the video.
The National Park Service uses videos of its own to sort of shock visitors into staying away from the animals at Yellowstone.
Bison might seem big, bulky and slow, but they can move very quickly, park officials warn. One video on the park service’s website shows what happened to one dim-witted man who tried to taunt one.
The bison gored him and threw him up into the tree.
(Click here to see it.)
Perhaps the woman last weekend was suffering from “vacation brain,” that well-documented temporary lapse of judgment that makes tourists do things that put them in harm’s way.
Last May, for instance, Yellowstone rangers saved a 71-year-old New Yorker after he fell backward over a stone wall while trying to take a picture.
“As they say, you can’t make this stuff up,” Ken Phillips, branch chief of search and rescue for the National Park Service, told the Kansas City Star last year.
His caution then to millions of national park visitors still stands: Be careful.