Yellowstone Bison Tosses Child Into the Air

By author of The Realblog with Stephanie Mallory

A group of tourists were standing within a few feet of the bull buffalo when it charged

I used to work a summer job at the Old Faithful Inn in Yellowstone National Park. On my first day there, I was ushered into a dark room and instructed to watch a film about potential dangers in the park. The film showed elk, bison, bears and other Yellowstone wildlife chasing and injuring park visitors. It also shared statistics on deaths and accidents within the park, and tips on how to keep yourself safe. Too bad that visitors to the park aren't required to watch the same video upon their arrival. If one family from Florida had watched it, maybe their young daughter could have been spared a terrifying incident involving a bison earlier this week. 

In the video above, you see the bull toss a 9-year-old girl into the air when the animal charged a group of about 50 tourists that had approached to within 10 feet of it. The incident occurred near Observation Point Trail, in the area of Old Faithful Geyser.

The video shows a man and woman (apparently the parents) running away from the animal as it throws the little girl high into the air. According to CBS News, the girl's family took her to Old Faithful Lodge for treatment by emergency personnel and later to a clinic where she was treated and released.

All too often, national park visitors risk injury or death by getting too close to wild animals.

Bison and other wildlife injure tourists regularly in Yellowstone, which gets about 4 million visitors annually. Last year, a bison gored a California woman after a crowd of visitors got too close to the animal. When I worked in the park, I frequently observed visitors walking up to within only a couple of feet from elk and bison. At times, they'd even try to touch them. 

The National Park Service (NPS) advises visitors to remain at least 25 yards from most wildlife and at least 100 yards from predators like wolves and bears. The NPS rule of thumb is, "If you cause an animal to move, you're too close." In fact, it is illegal to willfully remain near or approach wildlife, including birds, within any distance that disturbs or displaces the animal.

All too often, national park visitors risk injury or death by getting too close to wild animals. Earlier this month, video footage of a mama bear charging a man who repeatedly approached her cubs in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park went viral. The guy was lucky the bear didn't go through with an attack.

Those of us who spend a lot of time outdoors have a healthy respect for wildlife and understand how dangerous wild animals can be. Those who only get outdoors during an occasional vacation sometimes underestimate Mother Nature and end up paying a heavy price.

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