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National park visitors can’t resist bison, despite warnings

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 Officials at Yellowstone National Park are warning visitors not to fraternize with wildlife after a woman was injured while trying to take a selfie near a bison — but that hasn’t stopped some visitors from posting their close encounters on social media.

A notice released by the National Park Service on Wednesday detailed the episode, which began when a 43-year-old and her child turned their backs to a bison while attempting to take a selfie. The animal was about 6 yards away. (It is illegal to be closer than 25 yards to the animals, park officials said.)

The visitors tried to get away when they heard the bison approach, but the animal lifted the woman up and tossed her with its head. She is the fifth person to be injured in an encounter with one of the park’s bison this summer.

“People need to recognize that Yellowstone wildlife is wild, even though they seem docile,” said Colleen M. Rawlings, a district ranger. “This woman was lucky that her injuries were not more severe.”

The park’s warnings are not subtle: Upon entering, visitors receive a bright yellow flier that depicts a person getting gored by a bison. Julena Campbell, a public affairs officer for Yellowstone, said in a phone interview that the summer, which is breeding season, is the most dangerous time to be near the animals.

The hormones coursing through the bison render them “like teenagers,” Campell said — just more dangerous.

Officials at Yellowstone estimate that the bison population there fluctuates from 2,300 to 5,000 animals, depending on breeding patterns.

On social media, the creatures appear to be a crowd pleaser.

Evidence on Instagram suggests that visitors are still happy to get close to bison and other large animals, despite the warnings.

“@ajmatesi got up close and personal to take this shot,” a visitor wrote Thursday.

“Maybe too close?” another visitor wrote Wednesday.

“Just making new friends,” said one woman, who posed with her back to an animal grazing yards away Tuesday — the same day the woman taking a selfie with her son was hit by a bison.

Campbell’s words of advice to those visitors seeking the ultimate close shot: “Just don’t do it.”

Since paper fliers aren’t keeping all visitors away from bison, Campbell said that the park will try to reach people through social media. Park rangers will soon be posting close-up pictures on Facebook — alongside stuffed bison at the visitors center.

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