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Visiting Antelope Island? Heed these wildlife safety tips

Jun 3, 2022, 6:00 PM
Bison at Antelope Island State Park. Photo credit: Utah State Parks...
Bison at Antelope Island State Park. Photo credit: Utah State Parks

SALT LAKE CITY — This week, a 25-year-old woman from Ohio got too close to a bison at Yellowstone National Park. She was thrown 10 feet in the air and hospitalized with a puncture wound.

Reportedly, the woman was on one of the boardwalks that surround the piping hot natural features of Yellowstone when the bison gored her.  It seems she did at least one thing right, by staying on the boardwalk. 

But she made at least one mistake that anyone visiting Antelope Island State Park in Davis County, where a large herd of free-range bison makes themselves at home, should keep in mind.

The bison roam on Antelope Island

In 2021, Antelope Island State Park hosted over one million visitors, and Utah State Parks officials say the trend of more people heading to state parks is on the rise.

Devan Chavez with Utah State Parks says that for the most part, visitors know the best practices that can help keep them safe around the bison that number between 500 and 750 on any given year.

“How they react might not be how one would expect a bison to react,” Chavez told the Dave and Dujanovic Show on KSL NewsRadio. (Think of the bison lowering its head, or digging the ground with its forelegs.)

But really, if you see a bison and it stops what it’s doing and starts paying attention to you? Right there, that already means you’re too close and you need to slowly start backing away.”

Male bison can weigh up to 2,000 pounds. They can stand six feet tall. And on Antelope Island they are free-roaming, so there’s no fence holding them back or keeping them away from visitors.

In other words, they’re not in a zoo. They are wild animals. 

“And they will react to people who are harassing them or infringing on them in any way,” Chavez said.

That’s why, if the herd is blocking a road at Antelope Island State Park, visitors are warned to just stay in their cars and let the animals clear from the road at their own pace.

“I mean, how many places can you go in the United States still where you can have that be an issue?” Chavez said. 

In other words, waiting in your car for bison to cross the road is a unique experience. A “memory-making” experience for you and the kids.

Chavez says there have been a couple of gorings at Antelope Island State Park in recent years and he calls it an uncommon experience. Investigate these safety tips provided by Utah State Parks to keep it that way.

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Visiting Antelope Island? Heed these wildlife safety tips