In the wake of news that a 16-year-old Taiwanese girl was recently gored by a bison as she posed for a photo at Yellowstone National Park, much of the country is abuzz about the risks of being injured by wildlife while visiting the park.
However, these types of injuries are much rarer than you might think.
In fact, the Minneapolis Star-Tribune reports, the chances of being mauled by a bear while visiting Yellowstone are a microscopic 1 in 2.1 million. When it comes to more docile creatures like bison, these odds shrink even lower. Only one or two bison-related incidents occur each year, if any.
The real cause behind most visitor injuries at Yellowstone? Slips, trips, and falls.
“The most common injuries in the park are typically from trips, slips and falls,” Traci Weaver, public affairs officer for Yellowstone, said.
In May, a 71-year-old man fell into the park’s Grand Canyon while trying to take a photo. Luckily, he only fell 25 feet before stopping himself on a precipice. Park rangers were able to rescue him as he braced himself on the side of the cliff.
“That was pretty incredible,” Weaver said. “If he’d have fallen just a little bit in either direction, it would have been fatal. He would have fallen over 150 feet.”
Slips, trips and falls like these aren’t just a common occurrence at Yellowstone. Every year, these injuries result in an astronomical 95 million lost days of work across the country.
Even rarer are the injuries and deaths that are caused by the park’s geysers and geothermal features. In the park’s entire history, only 20 people have died, the Casper Star-Tribune reports. As long as visitors stay on the marked boardwalks near these features and follow the park’s safety guidelines, they should be safe.
And while wildlife attacks are rare, it’s still wise to respect these animals’ boundaries. The park has launched numerous campaigns to educate its millions of visitors on staying safe around wildlife. Yellowstone park officials advise visitors to stay at least 100 yards away from bears and wolves and at least 25 yards away from the bison, elk and bighorn sheep that roam the park.
“We just hope people come here and safely enjoy the park,” Weaver said. “It’s always unfortunate when somebody gets injured while they’re out on vacation. We have our safety rules in place for a reason, and we just hope people adhere to them.”