Last week, the West Yellowstone Chamber of Commerce posted a video of a bison charging children on its Facebook page—accompanied by a scolding:
"This video is one that makes us angry, expecially at the irresponsible person behind the camera urging the children 'to go ahead and touch him.' This group has no idea how incredibly lucky they were that no one was injured or killed. Yellowstone is an incredible place that allows us all to experience wildlife in a way that can you can no where in the world. But, it is also a place where safety rules, regarding wildlife and thermal features, are so important to follow. As a leader or parent or guide, it is your responsiblity to take the time to understand and follow them, and provide the example for others."
Roughly three people a year are attacked by bison, according to a paper by Dr. Luanne Freer. Bulls that may weigh more than 1,800 pounds can charge at speeds of up to 30mph. Often, they lead with their heads—not a pleasant thought considering they have pretty large, sharp horns. During an attack, it is not uncommon for them to gore people and throw them more than 10 feet in the air. Bulls are more aggressive in July and August, when they're looking for a date. If a male kicks dirt into the air and puts its head down, the way a cartoon bull might, that isn't a good sign.
Yellowstone advises visitors not to go within 75 feet of bison. They offer up that distance because of the ungulate's speed and agility. Take, for example, the mane-shaking male below, who stutter steps around a pine, throws a man into the air with enough force that he flips, and then cuts back to the other side of the pine to hold his ground in a clearing. Now, consider what might have happened if that man were a child, and it becomes easy to understand the tone taken by the small town chamber of commerce.