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Yellowstone bison gores visitor and flings her 10 feet, park says

A bison crosses a road near Lamar Valley in Yellowstone National Park. (Erik Petersen for The Washington Post)
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An Ohio woman visiting Yellowstone National Park was gored by a bison and thrown 10 feet into the air this week after she got too close to the animal, park officials said.

The 25-year-old woman from Grove City, Ohio, whose name the National Park Service has not released, approached a female bison near a boardwalk at Black Sand Basin on Monday morning, according to a news release. While the park, located mostly in Wyoming, requires visitors to stay more than 25 yards away from bison, the woman approached within 10 feet of the animal, park officials said. Two other people also were within 25 yards of the bison, the Park Service said.

When the woman approached the bison at the Black Sand Basin boardwalk, west of the Old Faithful geyser on Memorial Day, the animal charged her.

“Consequently, the bison gored the woman and tossed her 10 feet into the air,” the Park Service said.

The woman suffered a puncture wound and other injuries and was taken to Eastern Idaho Regional Medical Center, the hospital for Yellowstone.

NBC News initially reported that the woman died of her injuries Tuesday. As of Wednesday afternoon, the Park Service had yet to say publicly what her condition was.

“The incident remains under investigation, and there is no additional information to share,” the Park Service said in its news release. “Wildlife in Yellowstone National Park are wild and can be dangerous when approached.”

Coleen Niemann, a spokeswoman for Eastern Idaho Regional Medical Center, told The Washington Post that the hospital “has had no recent patient death as a result of the injuries” in the events described by Yellowstone officials. Morgan Warthin, a Park Service spokesperson, did not give an update on the woman’s status and pointed to the hospital’s statement about there being “no recent patient death” from what happened at Yellowstone.

Bison, the largest mammals in North America, have injured more people at Yellowstone than any other animal, according to the Park Service. Bison are unpredictable and enormously strong, and although they can weigh as much as one ton and stand around six feet at the shoulder, bison can run up to 35 mph, which is “three times faster than humans,” the Park Service says. They can also jump up to six feet vertically “and can quickly pivot to combat predators,” according to the National Wildlife Federation.

Yellowstone is the only place in the United States where bison have continuously lived since the prehistoric age, according to the Interior Department. Between 2,300 and 5,500 bison live in Yellowstone, according to the Park Service. The Yellowstone bison are considered special because “they’re the pure descendants (free of cattle genes) of early bison that roamed our country’s grasslands,” Interior says.

Monday’s incident is the first reported this year of a visitor being gored by a bison after getting too close to the animal, the Park Service said. It is unclear whether the two other people inside the 25-yard limit were also injured.

Yellowstone officials have stressed that visitors must give animals space if they come near campsites, trails, boardwalks, parking lots or developed areas. Visitors should stay more than 25 yards away from all large animals, such as bison, elk, bighorn sheep, deer, moose and coyotes, the Park Service says. It advises guests to stay at least 100 yards from bears and wolves.

“If need be, turn around and go the other way to avoid interacting with a wild animal in close proximity,” the service said in its news release.