Is it okay to drive next to bison on the road in Yellowstone?

Author:
Publish date:
Vehicles stopped at a sunrise bison jam near Soda Butte in Yellowstone

Vehicles stopped at a sunrise bison jam near Soda Butte in Yellowstone

What do I do if bison are blocking the road? Is it safe to drive into the herd? 

Bison, also called buffalo, are so accustomed to cars and asphalt roads that they seem to know the right-of-way. Driving slowly behind a group of bison plodding along a two-lane road, you can certainly maneuver around them whenever it’s safe. Bison, when they do travel on the Grand Loop or other roads, usually don’t stop in the middle of the road, either. 

However, our city slicker impulses may be to beep the horn if one bison decides to hold everyone up. Be patient for bison to make their way off the road, or just simply go around them, but please save the honking for the city.

Bison on the road to Mammoth Hot Springs

Bison on the road to Mammoth Hot Springs

Can I pet a bison?

As for petting a bison? Absolutely do not get anywhere near bison. 

Grown and calf bison may look fluffy and genteel, but they are fast and aggressive. Male bison (bulls) weigh 2,000 pounds, while smaller female (cow) bison are roughly half the size, and they prefer keeping to their herds and guarding their calves. 

You won’t like a bison when he or she is angry, either. Despite their bony, 6-foot-tall frame, their herd instincts make them sensitive to outsiders, aggressive and easily agitated. They can run up to 35 miles per hour if they feel like chasing you.  They’ve been known to throw grown men 10 feet in the air like rag dolls with a just hook and jerk of their horns. In short, when encountering a bison, stay at least twenty-five yards away—or else.

Below is a video from July 2020 when a couple got too close to a bison. When it started to run toward them, the woman tripped and then played dead. Fortunately for her, the bison sniffed her and walked away. This video is a reminder of why it's important to stay 25 yards from bison in Yellowstone. 

Related: How Close Can I Get to Wild Animals in Yellowstone?

Related

Bison herd in Yellowstone

Culling the Last Wild Herd of Bison in Yellowstone National Park

These bison stem from an original population of 25 that survived mass killings. Yet, for the past 17 years, they have been sent to the slaughterhouse.

Bison along Rose Creek in Lamar Valley in Yellowstone.

Yellowstone Bison (Buffalo) FAQs

These large mammals are abundant in the park, stand 6 feet tall, and weigh over half a ton. There are typically 4,000-5,000 bison in Yellowstone.

Video: Conserving Wild Bison

Video: Conserving Wild Bison

Since wild bison compete with humans for habitat, it is necessary to "manage" this "wildlife." This video, discusses the problems with bison management.

Grizzly bear by lake

How many people get killed by bears in Yellowstone?

Although both black bears and grizzlies have a fearsome reputation for scratching or mauling people to death, attacks rarely occur, and deaths are even chancer.

Lewis Falls in Autumn

When Is the Best Season to Visit Yellowstone?

Is it worth visiting in spring? Fall? Every season brings not only a new landscape to the park, but a variety of exhilarating seasonal pursuits in Yellowstone.

Bison on the road near Yellowstone National Park

Do I need a car to tour Yellowstone? How long does it take to drive the Grand Loop?

Cars are the best option for taking a trip around Yellowstone unless you are riding with a bus tour or concessionaire.

A woman watching a bison from a safe distance in Yellowstone

How close can I get to wild animals in Yellowstone?

Stay at least 100 yards away from bears and wolves and at least 25 yards away from other large mammals like bison, elk, bighorn sheep, deer, moose and coyotes.

Fake Explosion

Is Yellowstone Going to Blow? Exaggerated Reports of Volatility

As long as there's been a National Park seated on a super volcano, there's been erroneous reports of impending doom.

Man on a Yellowstone boardwalk in front of a hot springs

Has Anyone Ever Fallen into a Geyser?

Visitors have in the past slipped and fallen into hot springs, or were severely injured with burns from erupting geysers, but it is extremely rare.