After a confirmed bison attack, Elk Island National Park (EINP) staff is reminding travellers to keep their distance.
Craig Neilson and his wife were camping at Astotin Lake Campground over the long weekend. While coming back from a run, Neilson was charged by a grazing bison. Neilson suffered a two-inch deep, curved laceration that required seven stitches to his left buttock.
The attacks are few and far between. Including the most recent incident, there have only been two bison attacks in the last six years at the park.
"Respect the animals, give them space, watch for signs of stress, be alert and be aware," said Dale Kirkland, the superintendent at EINP.
Kirkland believes the attacking bison was probably spooked by Neilson's presence.
Tips for avoiding a negative interaction with bison include:
- Stay in your vehicle and do not approach bison on foot along the roadside.
- Keep at least 100 metres (330 feet) away from bison at all times, even when you are in your vehicle.
- Avoid approaching bison where their escape routes are limited; they may charge more readily.
- If you encounter bison while hiking, don’t try to approach or scare them away. Make them aware of your presence, and if they don’t move off, walk well around them, always keeping an eye on them. If necessary, return to the trailhead.
- Never enter a herd of bison on foot or come between two animals, especially a cow and her calf.
- During the mating season (rut) bulls are more aggressive and may pose increased danger.
- Dogs must be kept on a leash at all times as they can agitate bison and provoke attacks.
There is no single strategy that will work in every situation with bison. Some warning signs may be if the mammal is snorting and tossing its head, raising its tail, raising its tail and defecating, turning its back, pawing the ground and false charges.
Bison may use their tails to show what they're feeling. Dogs growl, cats hiss and bison move their tails.
A bison's tail is a good sign of its current mood.
"Bison are wild animals. It's not unusual to encounter them here."
Spring remains an excellent time to visit to the area's closest national park to see the bison. The calves are visible and active.