As many Americans flock to the nation’s parks in search of respite from the restrictions of life in a pandemic, it’s worth taking a moment to remind visitors that distancing doesn’t only apply to other humans. For entirely different reasons you should also steer clear of the megafauna that roam America’s wide-open plains.

A video, recently captured in Wyoming’s Nez Percé Creek, shows a woman tumbling to the ground while she and another tourist attempt to flee from a bison*. Although it’s unclear what led to the hair-raising encounter, it would appear that the couple strayed too close to the animal triggering it into a charge.

Unable to escape the surprisingly nimble bovid, the woman heeded the advice of other tourists shouting nearby and decided to "play dead." Fortunately for her, the tactic worked and the bison moved off leaving the presumably terrified woman "without a scratch," according to Cloie Musumecci who submitted the clip to news network KBZK-TV.

While a handful of bison attacks can be notched up to bad luck, many result from tourists invading the animals’ space in search of like-worthy selfies or shareable snapshots. Bison may resemble docile, cow-like grazers, but these irritable bovids are anything but placid. Between the months of July and September male bison are known to be particularly grouchy and may exhibit increased signs of aggression as their testosterone levels spike to meet the demands of the mating season.

"Bison are wild animals that respond to threats by displaying aggressive behaviours like pawing the ground, snorting, bobbing their head, bellowing, and raising their tail," bison biologist Chris Geremia explained in a written response to a recent goring in Yellowstone. "To be safe around bison, stay at least 25 yards away, move away if they approach, and run away or find cover if they charge."

Bison are capable of sprinting with remarkable speed, are far more agile than their sluggish demeanour suggests, and can pull off vertical jumps of about 1.85 metres (6 feet). Musumecci pointed out that the woman in the clip "is a Montana local so she knew to play dead in that situation." It may have been the best route to go given a lack of other options, but be that as it may, it’s best to avoid having to deploy last-minute survival tactics against America’s largest mammals – rather give them their space.

Header image: Justin Carone

*EDITOR'S NOTE: We originally described the bison as "particularly cantankerous," which may imply that it was in some way predisposed to attack. There is no evidence of this. The sentence was adjusted to ensure accuracy.