Yellowstone reveals number of large animals struck by vehicles

·2 min read

Motorists in Yellowstone National Park were involved in 241 known collisions with large mammals such as bison, elk, and bears during the past five years.

While that might sound alarming, consider that millions of visitors drove on park roads during that period.

The numbers were provided to FTW Outdoors this week in response to inquiries regarding a recent nighttime collision involving a large SUV and a bison.

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Wrote Morgan Warthin of the park’s Public Affairs Office:

“So far in 2021, there have been more than 1.6 million recreation visits to the park and two known vehicle collisions with bison. In 2020, there were 3.8 million recreation visits and 14 known vehicle collisions with bison.

Bison steps onto a Yellowstone road. Photo: ©Pete Thomas

“There have been 241 known vehicle collisions with large mammals in the park over the last five years.”

More generally, traffic-related accidents are the most common cause of injury and death inside Yellowstone National Park, which encourages visitors to follow these safety guidelines:

• Drive cautiously and watch for animals. The park has hazards on the road you are not used to at home, like 2,000-pound bison! Other road hazards include soft shoulders, potholes and frost heaves.

• Use extra caution at night. Animal fur absorbs light, making them very difficult to see on roads at night even while using bright headlights. Slow down, especially on curves in the road, when venturing into the park during dark.

• Drowsy? Take a break. Driving while drowsy significantly increases the risk of car accidents, and with 450 miles of roads in the park, long days behind the wheel are common. Be sure to get adequate sleep before getting behind the wheel and take turns driving with other legal drivers in your group to protect yourself and others.

• Never park in the road or block traffic. If you need to stop or pull over for any reason, use a pullout and ensure all four vehicle tires are to the right of the white line. Stay with your vehicle if you’re stopped in a wildlife jam.

• Follow the speed limit. The speed limit in Yellowstone is 45 mph unless posted otherwise.

• Pack your patience. Winding roads and traffic often make drive times much longer than expected.

• Know before you go. For details on road closures and construction in the park, check out our park roads page.

–Top image showing a grizzly bear is courtesy of Yellowstone National Park