Yellowstone visitor gored after failing to yield to approaching bison

Visitors to Yellowstone National Park risk injury when allowing bison or other wildlife to approach within 25 yards. (Ruffin Prevost/Yellowstone Gate - click to enlarge)

Visitors to Yellowstone National Park risk injury when allowing bison or other wildlife to approach within 25 yards. (Ruffin Prevost/Yellowstone Gate file photo - click to enlarge)

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.

Buffalo gore warning yellow flyer

The National Park Service issues bright yellow flyers warning of bison gorings to every Yellowstone National Park visitor at entry. (NPS image - click to enlarge)

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].

26 thoughts on “Yellowstone visitor gored after failing to yield to approaching bison

  1. Even though bison are not endangered, I find it incredibly jarring to come in from a day of watching a gorgeous Yellowstone herd in Lamar Valley, and find bison on the Canyon Lodge restaurant menu. Of course lots of places will serve bison, I just wish Yellowstone NP, with its unique connection to these unique bison, wouldn’t.

    • Why not? I live in rural northeast Georgia and my neighbor grows bison. We’ve visited Yellowstone and enjoy seeing bison and elk. We look forward to enjoying another good elk or bison steak next time we’re in the Yellowstone area.

    • Its lean and health, plus it reduces herd population which cuts down on starvation deaths over the winter. Its a win win.

    • Barbara,
      I do not know if your are a vegetarian or vegan. Or is it the idea of eating something you just saw walking around that is strange? Lots of us who live close to the land or farm find it totally natural to KNOW where your food comes from, whether it is our organic produce, eggs or meat and be involved in raising and collecting it. Take your place in the food chain, it’s OK.

    • I agree. These animals have been pushed to the brink of annihilation, and we still slaughter them for food. Totally unnecessary.

    • So how do you feel when you see a cow along the road and then walk into MacDonald’s and see hamburgers on the menu? So don’t order it, try the vegie burger.

  2. Do you feel the same way when coming into dinner after walking through the garden? Good grief, humans eat animals stop pretending you live in a fairytale.

  3. By your logic, those who raise cattle, sheep, chickens, etc. should be vegetarians. Yellowstone is offering tourists another feature of the wilderness experience: buffalo steak. If you attempt to think outside the politically correct line incessantly bleated by the radical leftist animal rights crowd, you will realize that human beings are omnivores who learned to hunt so they could survive. BTW: that chicken you just ate didn’t grow up in that plastic bag in the supermarket.

  4. Yep, wild animals will do stuff like that and so quickly that you can’t get out of harms way fast enough.

  5. Humbled that I should find an opening greeting towards us Drudgites. Thanks for making us feel welcome.

  6. Hey, those guys should get in a little closer to get the really great shot!! GEEEEEEEZ!!!

  7. Everywhere I have traveled where there is wildlife, I have seen at least one nitwit who approaches too close for safety. Most of them are lucky. In Yellowstone, one major traffic hazard seems to be the visitors who have to stop their car dead, wherever it may be, to gape at a bison, elk, etcetera.

    Maybe the park service needs to quit rescuing people who do this, and let natural selection work.

    • Stan M – totally agree – was just there this past Thursday and my sons and I were discussing this very issue. The people that abuse the privilege to share in the beauty of this nature and wilderness deserve what they get. As we were departing the park, there was a herd of bison crossing the road, and yes, this causes a traffic delay, yet, there were some Darwin award winners in the making who decided to pull out of the traffic into the oncoming lane to go around. I was feet away from some clown on a motorcycle that almost went head on into a bison. My sons asked if I would have gotten out to help the guy, and I said that of course I would, right after I was done laughing and taking pictures. :-) The people are far more dangerous than the animals….

      • I had a similar experience in the Black Hills last summer. We were driving through Wind Caves National Park and came around a corner only to encounter a herd of bison. Being in a full-size SUV, I could not navigate through the herd, but someone behind me in a compact passenger car was in a hurry and decided to pass in the oncoming lane, startling a few and forcing more bison into our path, not allowing us to continue on for another 20 minutes. Seeing all the calves was neat, but had those people not been in such a hurry, we probably could have continued on our way in a few minutes.

  8. Growing up in Yellowstone there was a reason the word “touron” came about. Moron tourist. Keeps those of us in health care, the fire department, and search and rescue employed. Some people choose to learn the hard way.

  9. What’s the record for the annual goofy tourist toss? 10 feet seems low.

  10. You are all judgmental jerks! My brother is most certainly NOT a Moron to be taunted for this horrific attack! You are stuck up bullies. He was minding his own business respecting the beauty and wildlife, there were other tourists and bison there, this one decided to leave the area and walked by him appearing docile, (he didn’t think he should make any sudden movements, even to give him more space), when my brother turned to look at something else and was rammed from behind by this bull. He’s lucky he wasn’t killed, and you all should be ashamed for laughing at other people’s pain.

    • I am glad your brother will be ok. While not witnessing it, and not really getting the entire story, I can only ask why he didn’t move away sooner as the bison was approaching? Just sitting there (if he had time to move) doesn’t seem like a smart desicion. You have to respect that they are wild animals even when they seem docile…

    • Yes, the attack was horrific. It was also completely preventable. Park rules (displayed prominently on literature received by visitors at every entrance station and also on signs throughout the park) tell visitors they must remain 25 yards from wildlife (100 yards from bears and wolves). Had this rule been adhered to, this mishap would not have happened. By allowing the animal to approach to within a FEW FEET and then, by your post, turning his attention away from it, he most certainly was not showing respect for the park regulations or the creature’s status as a wild animal. Fortunately, he has the opportunity to learn from his mistake.

    • If he was less than 25 yards from this bison it was his fault. Period. If he wanted shots of bison he should have read up on them first, bought a telephoto lens and THEN decided on the proper approach. It is those who don’t heed the warnings (did you know that bison can jump right over a fence without a running start?) that cause wildlife in the park to be euthanized. Hopefully he will learn from this lesson and perhaps become an ambassador for the park regarding visitor safety. It’s the least he could do.

  11. When you are in Yellowstone you should always be aware of what is around you. Bison can appear and disappear in matter of seconds. I dont blame the Bison at all, they dont know any better but us humans need to use common sense when you are around wildlife. Yellowstone is not a petting zoo.

  12. Angela,
    I am sorry that he was hurt. I work in healthcare, volunteer on the fire department. I grew up in Yellowstone, literally in Yellowstone, and was taught what to do and not do. This is a wild area, not a zoo. The above comments are true and to protect people and the animals. Otherwise you are in my hands literaly. Learn from this. Use it to help teach others in a positive way.

  13. Hello all,
    I am the man referred to in this and many other articles as “the idiot who allowed the bison to get too close in order to get a great shot”. It’s quite interesting reading all these comments, from the point of view of being the perpetrator. This may be the original posted story, as its many inaccuracies proliferated throughout the other media articles.

    o I was not pinned by the bison; as soon as he sent me flying he turned and resumed his exit from the scene.
    o I was not holding a camera at the time of the incident (I did have a mini-binocular in my hand).
    o I did not “refuse to get out of its way”, but I am guilty of “failing to retreat”.

    It was my misfortune that I happened to be astride the bison’s path of exit from his watering hole; I do not consider this incident to be any one’s fault but my own. I spent time around bovine cattle as a youth, and in this encounter neglected to remember that this park bison is considerably less domesticated and docile. I do not believe or want YNP policy to change regarding control of these animals or park rules and regs; I only wish that human visitors may be mindful of the wild nature of such creatures and their potential for danger.

    The only aftermath to such a story should and must be that people be careful and respectful in the presence of wildlife. I pray that my own painful experience contributes to raising that awareness. May we all learn to coexist in harmony!

    • Robert,

      Thanks for posting your first-hand account of this incident. My story is based on a news release sent out by the National Park Service. You can read their original release here:

      In that release, the Park Service notes that you were “tossed nearly 10 feet in the air and pinned to the ground.” It also states that the injured party “let the bull approach to within a few feet of where he was sitting and refused to move away.”

      So if those elements are inaccurate, they derive from the original news release issued by the Park Service, which is what most reporters rely on to cover remote events in the park. As for a camera, I’m not sure what you’re referencing, as nothing in my story or the comments below it mention a camera. Was that an element included in coverage elsewhere?

      If you’re interested, I’d love to interview you about your encounter, your reaction to the media coverage and reader comments and how your recovery has gone since the incident.

      -Ruffin Prevost, editor
      Yellowstone Gate
      [email protected]