Bloopers: When Bison Attack


Daniel and I are only human, and that means that our adventures aren’t always picturesque and perfect. We’ve had many quirky, messy and – frankly – terrifying moments in our travels, too. But all the better to laugh at afterward, of course! This is one of those moments from our travel Bloopers. A near-death encounter with a male bison:

The first time we saw a buffalo in Yellowstone, we were astonished; we pulled our car over and took poorly-framed photos out of our window. The second time we saw buffalo, we were in a herd of nearly 70 of them and it caused a major traffic jam. It was inconvenient, but very entertaining; we were able to snap so many pictures of the giant beasts only inches away from our car door. Regardless, we had read the warnings: “Do not approach a buffalo. Do not open your window. They are dangerous.” Those gigantic, fuzzy, lumbering creatures were dangerous. And it wasn’t until our third encounter with the buffalo that we understood the truth of the warning.

It was past midnight, and Daniel and I decided to cross the entirety of the park in our rental car. We wanted to get from our dinner place in West Yellowstone, to our hotel in East Yellowstone. The trip was awe-inspiring; nighttime gave us a perspective of the park that not many see. There was a brilliant blood-red moon hanging low in the sky, and dark cliffs that took us high above the ominous clouds of steam rising from the geysers below. Nature was alive: we saw owls casting shadows in our headlights, and coyotes sprinting across the road in front of us.

When we rounded a corner and were met by a car traveling the opposite way, we were instantly alert. They had flashed their headlights at us: a warning. “There’s probably an animal ahead,” Daniel says. And boy was he right.

Yards from where we had received our warning, a giant--seriously, giant--buffalo stood in the middle of the road in front of us. We slowed the car; there was no way we could get around the animal. Behind him, a shadow moved, and we noticed a smaller buffalo--a female. We were stalled, sitting directly in front of the bull who stood taller than our car; our headlights shined brightly at him, and he took it as a challenge.

No lie, it was a my-life-flashed-before-my-eyes moment when the giant bull tossed his head and actually did the hoof-pawing-at-the-ground move you see (much smaller) bulls do in movies. Everything else happened at the exact same moment: Daniel made some sort of exclamation, I was frozen but my mind was going a million miles a minute (his horns were sharp, they could go through our window in moments; how would I contact medics without cell signal in the park?), and the giant animal started running toward us. The giant, fuzzy, lumbering animal was no longer lumbering; he was sprinting. And he was huge.

I’m not entirely sure what happened, but at the very last moment the bull veered abruptly to the left. He was no longer in front of us and I lost sight of him as he left the area lit by our headlights. We sat for a second; but just a second. Daniel exclaimed again--something about “go!” and then it was ‘pedal to the medal’ and we sped as fast as we could from the giant bull and the horns that could have shredded through our car in an instant.

It was a near-death travel moment--the best kind of moment to live to tell.