I am thrilled to discover one thing that all Wyomingites agree on – how bizarre visitors to our national parks can be around wild animals. When a visitor was arrested for harassing bison and a few other strange behaviors earlier this month, nobody, but nobody, in Wyoming felt bad for the guy. I posted the story on my Facebook page and received unanimously outraged responses, ranging from hilarious to philosophical.
Most of us had seen the video of a very imposing bison confronting a bizarrely aggressive tourist who raised up his arms and seemed to yell at the shaggy beast that must have outweighed him about 10 to one. An average male bison weighs 2,000 pounds; the record-setting biggest weighed 3,801.
Traffic had stopped in Yellowstone National Park to let the male bison cross the road. Then one man in short shorts started following and trying to engage the animal. Happily, for all of us, this was recorded by another tourist and became an instant rage on the internet when it was posted.
We all got to see the beast turn around, seemingly shrug, then hustle toward his harasser. Of course, the harasser bolted. It was reminiscent of the scene in “Raiders of the Lost Ark” when a terrifying attacker cackled menacingly and swung around his huge sword while threatening Indiana Jones. Indy looked perplexed, then shrugged much like the Yellowstone bison did at his attacker and won the argument with a gun. It was the classic “Don’t bring a penknife to a gunfight” moment.
And for the tourist attempting to scare a bison with threatening gestures, it was also no contest. Think Tinkerbell versus Dirty Harry. Later the same man was arrested while engaged in an argument with a smaller foe, another human in a restaurant.
This whole episode totally delighted the entire population of Wyoming.
We love these stories of visitors mistaking large wild animals for lambs in a petting zoo. Bison run 40 miles-an-hour, but still people ask their friends to take pictures of them with an arm slung around the cute big fella.
One goring victim years ago allowed me to film an interview with him in the Cody hospital in hopes of preventing other people from doing what he did. He owned a shop in California called “Buffalo Bill’s” and he wanted a photo of him with a bison to put in the store. After the bison hooked a horn through the man’s belly and slung him 30 yards, he realized the error of his ways.
He lay on the hospital bed, sheepishly showing the giant scar that went from his shoulder to his hip. It was the ultimate, “Kids, don’t do what I did” lecture.
We can hope that people living in Wyoming see enough wild animals and read enough of these stories to avoid such capers. And while we smugly watch videos of misguided visitors to Yellowstone, it’s nice in an election season to have one thing we can all agree on; avoid playing chicken with a bison.