Tourists in Yellowstone National Park caused a dangerous stampede by getting too close to a herd of bison.
The giant creatures were caught on video approaching a river before breaking into a stampede that kicked up dust and threatened to steamroll right over bystanders.
A witness said tourists kept inching closer to the herd, despite their grunting and hoof-stomping – and warnings from others to get away.
According to Yellowstone guidelines, park visitors should remain 25 yards from bison at all times.
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Tourists near a river in Yellowstone’s Lamar Valley were filmed inching dangerously close to a herd of bison. Several of the giant beasts plowed passed the visitors as they crossed the river to join the rest of the herd
Lisa Stewart filmed the scene near Yellowstone’s Lamar Valley, where a cluster of tourists had gathered near a river.
At first she assumed it was a wolf sighting, but she soon realized the foolhardy visitors were approaching a herd of buffalo.
‘The people saw them and started walking closer and closer toward the bison,’ Stewart told USA Today.
The animals ‘kept getting more agitated by the minute,’ she added, grunting and stomping the ground with their hooves as they moved down the hill.
Eventually they broke into a stampede, only narrowly avoiding the onlookers as they galloped into the water to join the herd on the other side of the river.
Bystanders warned the tourists to get out of the way, Stewart said, and told them how stupid they were for walking toward the massive beasts.
‘You only see about four to six people on the video, but there were more in the same spot the bison came running from,’ she recalled. ‘It was amazing that they didn’t heed the warning of grunting, snorting and stomping feet!’
Stewart said she stopped filming, afraid someone was hurt, and was actually shaking a bit from fear.
‘I could feel the earth rumbling under my feet when it was happening,’ she told USA Today. ‘It was one of those moments your stomach turns over at the split moment you think disaster is about to happen.’
There are just under 5,000 bison living in Yellowstone National Park, the largest population on public land.
It’s not unusual for visitors to see them, though such violent encounters are rarer.
Last month, KTMF reporter Rachel Louise Just filmed dozens of bison stampeding through traffic in the park.
Dozens of buffalo stampeding through traffic last month in Yellowstone National Park
The incident happened the weekend of September 17, but Just shared it on YouTube last week.
‘Bison are my favorite animal so this was one of the coolest things I’ve EVER seen!’ she tweeted. ‘No idea what prompted the stampede but WOW.’
According to the National Park Service website, bison cause more injuries than any other animal in Yellowstone.
They’re agile, unpredictable and can reach speeds of up to 30 miles per hour.
Since Yellowstone lifted its coronavirus lockdown in May, two people have been injured by bison, including a woman who was knocked to the ground the second day the park was reopened.
Also known as American buffalo, bison are the largest land-dwelling mammals in North America, with bulls weighing up to 2,000 pounds and cows about half that.
Before the arrival of Europeans, there were an estimated 30 to 60 million bison in North America.
By the turn of the 20th century, hunting and targeting killing nearly wiped them out, leaving barely 2,000 on the continent.
Eventually a dedicated effort helped restore their numbers, though Yellowstone is the only place in the US where bison have lived continuously since prehistoric times.
Because they’re genetically pure, and not hybrids, the park’s herds behave like their ancient ancestors, according to the NPS, ‘congregating during the breeding season to compete for mates, as well as migration and exploration that result in the use of new habitat areas.’