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Tourists Taking Selfies Responsible for Majority of Yellowstone Bison Attacks

Travis Smola

Cell phone photo technology may be responsible for people approaching too close to park's bison.

Taking a selfie with a bison in Yellowstone is a really bad idea. A new report suggests the majority of Yellowstone's bison attacks are caused by cell phones according to report by the Centers for Disease Control.

Park regulations require tourists to maintain a distance of 75 feet from bison within the park. But in the five attacks last year, three of the bison attacks happened to people standing 3-6 feet away. In each of those instances, the person was taking a photo.

It's an interesting trend based on data of past bison attacks because only 10 of 35 attacks between the years 1980 and 1999 involved photography. And most of the incidents did not involve people getting as close to the animals as they are today. In one instance last summer, a tourist felt the need to get within three feet of a bison for a selfie. Two of the attacks happened while the person had their backs to the massive animals trying to get a photo.

And as it turns out, it's the limited photographic technology of cellphones that may be to blame. "The popularity of smart phone photography with its limited zoom capacity and social media sharing of selfies might explain why visitors disregard park regulations and approach wildlife more closely than when traditional camera technology was used," the report said.

Fortunately for those five tourists, no one was killed in last summer's attacks. But three did get tossed in the air and two were gored. All but one had to go to the hospital for their injuries.

Limited camera technology prompting visitors closer and the bison's mating season happening during peak tourist time between July and September means many tourists are approaching bison when they are more aggressive.

Since bison are deceptively docile-looking, Yellowstone distributes flyers to visitors at the entrances and at visitor centers warning of the dangers of bison. Many signs also warn of the dangers throughout the park.

"Educating visitors about wildlife behavior and the need to maintain distances of 75-300 ft (23-91 m) from wildlife for safety of persons and wildlife is critical," the report said.


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Tourists Taking Selfies Responsible for Majority of Yellowstone Bison Attacks