Yellowstone visitor fully recovered one year after close encounter with bison

Yellowstone National Park visitor Robert Dea usues binoculars to watch a bison moments before it gores him. (courtesy photo by Barbara Dea - click to enlarge) Yellowstone National Park visitor Robert Dea usues binoculars to watch a bison moments before it gores him. (courtesy photo by Barbara Dea – click to enlarge)

By Ruffin Prevost

CODY, WYO. — A year after he was seriously injured in a close encounter with a bison in Yellowstone National Park, a Massachusetts man has fully recovered from the traumatic experience that made international headlines.

Robert Dea, 59, of Newbury, Mass. had planned a two-week sumer vacation to Yellowstone and a Montana guest ranch with his wife and their friend in June 2012. But he ended up spending eight days in the hospital instead, after being tossed around by a bothered bison.

A year after the incident, in which he suffered a torn groin, broken shoulder blades and several broken ribs, Dea reports that he is “pretty well back to my normal physical and mental state now.”

“I have no remaining pains or damage from this incident,” Dea wrote last month in an email detailing his progress over the past year. “It is truly remarkable that I took such a hit, and was so severely injured in the moment, and yet survived without any permanent disabilities.”

Initial press accounts of the incident were featured on the Drudge Report and other high-traffic websites, spawning a series of sensational stories and online comment threads that Dea, a technical writer, said were misinformed and hurtful.

As detailed in coverage of the incident from last summer, Dea faulted himself for not getting out of the animal’s way. He had been viewing the bison through binoculars, and had a mistaken impression that staying put was the safest option as the animal approached.

Dea and his party had been driving near the Norris campground when they spotted a lone bison near a river. So they pulled over to watch, along with a group of about six others.

As the bison moved away from the river, it followed a path that led toward Dea, who knew that it was unwise to run from bears, so he didn’t pull back. He had spent time around cattle and had even seen bison behind a fence in a different setting, and figured it was best to just stay put.

But just after the bison passed him, Dea recalls saying something like, “You be a good boy now,” and looking away as he stood up from where he had been sitting on a log.

That’s when the bison wheeled around and butted Dea in the lower back, sending him flying at least 10 feet into the air. He landed on his left shoulder, suffering a torn groin, broken shoulder blades and several broken ribs.

Park rangers administered first aid and Dea was flown by helicopter to a hospital in Idaho Falls. He spent eight days in what he called “a pain-filled haze” before moving to a hotel for three more days of recuperation. Insurance covered most of the bills, which he described as “enormous.”

“I still dearly love animals—yes even bison—and support efforts to clear a place for them to survive and prosper in their natural habitat without being hunted and hounded by human encroachment,” Dea said last month.

Dea said he’s happy to offer an update on his progress and to recall the incident as a reminder to park visitors about the dangers of getting too close to wildlife—or allowing wildlife to get too close.

“It was an intense experience, mainly a painful and terrible one, but I am thankful to have come through it so well, and thankful to the park staff, doctors, and others who helped me through it,” he said.

Contact Ruffin Prevost at 307-213-9818 or [email protected].

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