Bears and Bison


First we had this incident with the black bears on the bridge.

The Park Service responded with a fabulous video about what to do at a bear jam. The only thing they left out was that if this had been a grizzly bear sow with three cubs, it likely wouldn’t have ended quite so peacefully.

Yesterday, a teen was gored by a bison near Old Faithful who was 3 to 6 feet away and turned her back.

Part of the problem is that the wildlife in Yellowstone seems almost tame. But this isn’t a zoo.

The Park Service is not here to guarantee you a safe visit. People burn themselves in thermal features (is it really that hot? Yes. Try boiling some water on the stove and then consider sticking your finger in it – that’s cooler than some of the hot springs in Yellowstone. No? Sure you don’t want to try it?). The wildlife can attack when threatened or not given a path to escape. Most animals don’t want to confront you. If you give them a way out, they’ll usually take it.

These two were making noises to try and get this bison to stand up for a photo. I stayed back as the bison quickly responded by rolling a few times, then standing and looking at these two. Simply that action was enough for me to have a way out should they escalate the situation. I tried to get their attention, but they only glanced over at me and ignored my shaking head, and said something to each other in a foreign language and laughed.


The rules are to stay 100 yards from bears and wolves, and 25 yards from other wildlife.

Do you even know how far that is? Can you estimate how far away something is?

Estimating distance is a skill that can be developed. And there’s an app for that!

I’ve been playing around with a measuring app from the App store: Easy Measure and a more complex one: Theodolite.

I don’t have an android phone, but Smart Measure looks like it should be able to measure distance as well as the height of that eruption of Old Faithful.

Start your vacation before you head to Yellowstone: If you’ve got kids, this is a great summer or home school project. Get them started on building the skill of estimating distances, and starting to teach them how to be safe when outdoors with wildlife around.

And you know the animals in Yellowstone are wild…I saw this bison a few years back and would have loved to know more about that battle wound.

Bison in Yellowstone National Park after an encounter where he lost part of a horn now covered in blood

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