Two frequent visitors to Yellowstone National Park ended up on the losing end of a close encounter with a lumbering bison last month when the agitated beast rammed their parked sport utility vehicle.
The unexpected collision was captured on video, and the footage has gone viral, as it shows the amazing power of Yellowstone’s 2,000-pound behemoths.
Tom Carter, author of books about day hikes in Yellowstone and Grand Teton national parks, was a passenger in a Nissan Xterra owned and driven by Suzie Hollingsworth, a Yellowstone tour guide.
The two were driving through Yellowstone’s Lamar Valley last month near the Lamar Buffalo Ranch when they stopped in the roadway to allow three approaching bison to pass.
“I thought the bison would simply run by our car at a full clip,” Carter said in an email. “Instead, at the last minute, the lead bison veers to his left and intentionally head-butts our car.”
“Don’t run into our car,” Carter is heard saying on the video just before impact.
“Holy crap!” Hollingsworth cries as the bison thuds into the front of her vehicle.
Even though the car was parked, the impact is intense, and ended up causing damages estimated at more than $2,700, Carter said.
Despite the bone-jarring smack, the bison seemed unhurt.
“After the collision, he passed the car on the passenger-side and continued walking down the road,” Carter said.
He’s quick to point out that there was nothing Hollingsworth could have done to avoid the bison. She was parked with the engine off and her hazard lights on, waiting for the bison to pass.
During winter months, bison often move along park roads, where there is less snow. The Lamar Valley road is plowed during the winter, and many animals travel along the roadway to avoid deep snow drifts.
Carter said he believed the bison may have been spooked by cars that were following too closely behind it in the oncoming lane.
“If you look closely on the video, you will see a line of cars following the three bison, essentially chasing them into our car,” he said, noting that park regulations prohibit chasing or harassing wildlife.
The uncharacteristically warm winter in Yellowstone this year has left animals “much more feisty than usual,” Carter said.
Park officials noted last month that a grizzly bear had been spotted in Yellowstone, cutting short its typical hibernation period by at least a month, most likely due to a string days with record high temperatures.
A park-wide count conducted in August found an estimated 4,900 in Yellowstone, with approximately 3,500 bison in the Northern herd and 1,400 in the Central herd.
Bison management remains a complicated and politically tricky issue for the National Park Service, as hundreds of the animals can stream outside the park’s boundaries during the coldest weeks of winter, causing conflict with nearby private landowners.
Contact Ruffin Prevost at 307-213-9818 or firstname.lastname@example.org.