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Yellowstone visitor again gored by bison; second incident this week

A herd of bison grazes in the Lamar Valley of Yellowstone National Park in Wyoming in 2016. (Matthew Brown/AP)
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A Pennsylvania woman visiting Yellowstone National Park with her daughter was gored by a bison in the second incident of its kind this week and the third in a month, park officials said.

The 71-year-old from West Chester, Pa., whose name the National Park Service has not released, was walking back to her vehicle near Storm Point at Yellowstone Lake on Wednesday when a bull bison charged, according to a news release.

“The woman and her daughter inadvertently approached the bison as they were returning to their vehicle at the trailhead, causing the bull bison to charge,” the Park Service said on Thursday.

The woman suffered “non-life-threatening injuries” and was taken to West Park Hospital in Cody, Wyo.

It’s unclear exactly how close the woman and her daughter were when the bison charged. The park, which lies mostly in Wyoming, requires visitors to stay more than 25 yards from bison.

“Wildlife in Yellowstone National Park are wild and can be dangerous when approached,” the Park Service said, repeating the same warning it had put out just two days before.

The incident is the latest in a series in which bison have gored visitors who did not keep the appropriate distance.

Yellowstone visitor gored in second bison attack in a month, park says

Earlier in the week, a 34-year-old man from Colorado Springs was gored by a bison at the Old Faithful geyser. The man was walking with his family on a boardwalk near Giant Geyser on Monday when a bull bison charged the group, according to a news release.

“Family members did not leave the area, and the bull bison continued to charge and gored the male,” the Park Service said.

The man suffered an arm injury and was taken to Eastern Idaho Regional Medical Center, the hospital for Yellowstone. The Park Service said the Monday incident involved a visitor who was “too close to the animal.”

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

Before those two incidents, a 25-year-old woman from Grove City, Ohio, was gored by a bison and thrown 10 feet into the air on Memorial Day after she also got too close to the animal. While on a boardwalk at Black Sand Basin in late May, 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 in a news release.

When the woman approached the bison at the boardwalk west of Old Faithful, the animal charged her.

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

The woman suffered a puncture wound and other injuries and was taken to Eastern Idaho Regional Medical Center.

As the largest mammals in North America, bison have injured more people at Yellowstone than any other animal, according to the Park Service. They are unpredictable and enormously strong. Although they can weigh as much as 1 ton and stand about 6 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.

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 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.

While wild animal attacks are rare, dangerous encounters do happen, especially when humans ignore — or are unaware of — the rules and etiquette surrounding viewing wildlife. Cameron Harsh, the programs director in the U.S. office of World Animal Protection, an international nonprofit group, told The Washington Post last month that “wild animals want to be left to themselves.”

Yellowstone will reopen most of northern loop this weekend

The third bison incident in a month is part of what has been an eventful time at Yellowstone. Park officials announced Thursday that its northern loop will reopen on Saturday, less than three weeks after the park suffered severe flood damage. Record rainfall and historic flooding caused Yellowstone to close all five entrances on June 13. But 93 percent of the park’s road system is now open, and the temporary alternating license-plate system to limit visitors will be lifted during the holiday weekend.

The Wednesday incident remains under investigation, according to the Park Service. In its news release, the Park Service stressed to visitors — again — to not approach bison.

“Give bison space when they are near a campsite, trail, boardwalk, parking lot, or in a developed area,” the Park Service said. “If need be, turn around and go the other way to avoid interacting with a wild animal in close proximity.”

Andrea Sachs and Natalie B. Compton contributed to this report.

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