Update: August 14, 2020
Ignoring all logic (and undoubtedly a few prominent warning signs), a tourist visiting Custer State Park in South Dakota on August 12 reportedly approached a herd of bison with her camera, attempting to snap a photo of an adult and a calf. And she learned the hard way that bison react when provoked.
Bison Attacks Woman & Takes Her Pants
A herd of bison block a road at Custer State Park, SD grabbing one woman, swinging her around, and ripping off her jeans.
— TMX.news (@officialTMXnews) August 14, 2020
According to reports, the defensive bison charged the woman, hooking a horn into her jeans and launching her out of them. Jo Reed, a bystander, caught the incident on camera. “[T]his was easily going to happen to the woman,” Reed wrote on Facebook. “I just knew they weren’t respecting these massive beautiful creatures’ space.” She reported that the provoked bison wasn’t euthanized. The tourist was apparently flown to a nearby hospital—according to one report, she sustained “injuries that were considered not to be serious.”
When observing wildlife, please, stay back! This incident and the slew of similar ones listed below are reminders that bothering wildlife, whether in nature or at a roadside zoo, is never a good idea—for you or for animals just trying to live in peace.
Originally published on August 6, 2020:
There’s a type of social distancing that must endure even if COVID-19 goes away: steering clear of bison and roadside zoos. Being “safe” in your car doesn’t just provide a false sense of security when it comes to COVID-19 transmission, it means next to nothing to the animals who’re still being disturbed and exploited. Take it from these drive-through “safari park” visitors who learned the hard way:
On Monday, a woman reportedly left Arbuckle Wilderness Park—a drive-through roadside zoo in Davis, Oklahoma—in an ambulance after apparently being gored by a bison. According to reports, the facility’s manager is alleging that the bison stuck his or her head into the woman’s car, wounding her hand with a horn while she was pushing the animal back. The incident occurred less than a month after a similar one in Tennessee in which a man was gored by a bison at the Tennessee Safari Park, a drive-through roadside zoo in Alamo.
According to comments made on Facebook, the man required 30 stitches and may have sustained nerve damage. The roadside zoo’s owner accepted no blame and claimed that he has “a video that will clearly show everyone and the jury that the park nor the animal was at fault.”
We certainly don’t need roadside zoo tragedies to tell us that bison will act on instinct when provoked or scared. In their natural habitat, the majestic animals have reminded humans to stay back, too—as in June, when a tourist in Yellowstone National Park was gored by a bison after approaching the animal. “The series of events that led to the goring suggest the bison was threatened by being repeatedly approached to within 10 feet,” said a local bison biologist. Simply put: Leave bison in peace.
You may be wondering, “Is a bison a buffalo?” The two belong to the same family, but they’re actually quite different. Unlike buffaloes, bison have a distinguishable hump on their shoulders and often sport a beard. Bison also have shorter, sharper horns than buffaloes.
Another fun fact: Like dogs, bison can indicate their mood with their tail. If a bison’s tail is down and swinging rhythmically, he or she is likely calm. But if the tail is standing straight up, be wary—the animal may be preparing to charge. It’s always best to keep your distance from bison.
Both Arbuckle Wilderness Park and the Tennessee Safari Park are unaccredited and have been cited by the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) for animal welfare issues. The Tennessee Safari Park was busted after allowing unattended guests to feed animals—dangerous neglect that could result in physical harm to both visitors and the animals. (Without supervision, what’s to stop animals from being overfed or, worse, fed something potentially harmful?) A USDA inspector also observed that the roadside zoo didn’t have an attending veterinarian and that several animals were in need of veterinary attention.
In 2018, Arbuckle Wilderness Park was ordered to pay $30,000 in penalties to settle alleged violations of the federal Animal Welfare Act, including for having insufficient public barriers. The USDA’s complaint also noted that the roadside zoo failed to provide animals—including a recumbent raccoon who was “was extremely ill or dying”—with adequate veterinary care.
If it’s quarantine-friendly activities you’re after, PETA has ideas.
Adding “drive-through” in front of a shady facility’s name doesn’t make it any less of a hellhole. It doesn’t make it any safer, either—for visitors or the animals imprisoned there. So stay home, order delivery from your favorite vegan-friendly restaurant, and binge on these life-changing, streamable movies.