By Ruffin Prevost
CODY, WYO. — A Massachusetts man was badly injured Saturday when he was gored by a bison in Yellowstone National Park after failing to retreat as the animal advanced toward him.
Robert L. Dea, of St. Newbury, Mass., suffered a broken collarbone, shoulder blade, several ribs and a groin injury when he was tossed nearly 10 feet in the air and pinned to the ground.
He was flown to a hospital in Idaho Falls, Idaho and is expected to recover, according to information released Monday by the Yellowstone public affairs office.
The incident happened near the Norris campground when Dea allowed the bull bison to approach within a few feet of where he was sitting and refused to move away, park officials said. He did not taunt the animal, they said.
This is the first such injury to a park visitor by a bison in two years, said Dan Hottle, a Yellowstone spokesman.
It is not uncommon for visitors to be gored or trampled by bison, as there are approximately 3,900 of the animals spread across the park.
The animals, which typically weigh between 1,000 pounds for females and 2,000 pounds for males, often congregate near roads and other developed areas where Yellowstone’s 3.5 million annual visitors gather.
Bison are vegetarians, feeding primarily on grasses and sedges, and typically live for 12-15 years.
They can be aggressive and are deceptively agile and fast for animals their size, reaching a top speed of 30 mph.
Though an estimated 30-60 million bison roamed the great plains of North America before the mid-1800s, Yellowstone is the only place in the lower 48 states where wild bison have ranged continuously since prehistoric times.
Bison may seem rare to Yellowstone visitors unfamiliar with them, but they are not endangered, and many private ranches raise them for food. Some of the park’s dining venues serve bison, as well as elk, which can also be found in the park.
Park officials remind visitors that regulations require staying at least 25 yards from most wildlife and at least 100 yards from bears and wolves. Visitors must move away from approaching animals, and should never feed or approach any wildlife.
Contact Ruffin Prevost at 307-213-9818 or [email protected].