So I’m looking through stories on The Associated Press wire and an item out of Yellowstone National Park caught my eye.
A 55-year-old man was in the park and had approached a bull bison to take a photograph of the animal. He got within 10 feet of it before the bison charged and gored him.
Thankfully, the man’s injuries were not life-threatening, the AP report said. But he suffered a puncture wound in his left leg.
Ten feet. Seriously, if you see a strange dog who isn’t wagging his tail at you as you approach, don’t you usually stay away? Especially if the dog is pretty big?
Yellowstone has long been famous for its animal encounters. The trouble is, wild animals are unpredictable. And that’s why park officials require visitors to stay at least 75 feet away from bison.
I bring this up because for a couple of reasons. First, Yellowstone is a popular destination for all Americans, Oklahomans included (I’ve been there twice).
But second, and most importantly, Oklahoma has its own wild bison population. In the Wichita Mountains Wildlife Refuge, bison roam freely. There are scores of them, and you can’t hike the trails there (or even drive through) without seeing them.
Still more graze in the Tallgrass Prairie Preserve near Pawhuska.
The temptation is to stop, whip out the camera and get as close as you can for a really good picture, something akin to what professional wildlife photographers get.
Keep in mind those photographers are using high-powered lenses and are shooting from a safe distance. You really don’t know what the animal is thinking. Bison can weigh up to a ton, so they generally don’t feel threatened by a person or two. But if that bison is spooked, in rut, protecting another bison or just isn’t in a very good mood, it can turn on you. They can run up to 30 mph, so there’s no outrunning an angry bison.
Stay a safe distance from wildlife, bison or not. Don’t feed them, touch them, or do anything else you might do with your pet. Don’t get me wrong, if you see a bison or some other cool wild animal, admire it from a safe distance but otherwise leave it be. I’d hate for any of you to become a headline.