Some jaw-dropping details have emerged about a bison goring that occurred in Yellowstone National Park on July 17. Victim Amber Harris of Phoenix took to Facebook to recount the events that led up to the incident and the injuries she suffered as a result. The severity of the damage is shocking.
Harris, 47, fractured her spine in seven places and experienced a bilateral lung collapse after the bison charged her near the north end of Yellowstone Lake. She was staying at the Lake Lodge Cabins with her boyfriend and daughter at the time.
“We woke up our first morning and walked down to the lodge for some coffee then decided take a walk through a field to get to Yellowstone Lake,” Harris wrote in a Facebook post on Tuesday. “There were a few other people and about 20 elk roaming around so we waited for them to clear before walking through the field. About halfway to the water we noticed [two] bison. [One was] on the path we were walking and the other [was] in the opposite direction. We stopped and looked at the massive beast, about 50 yards away on the trail, hidden at first in the shadows of the tress. We watched him drop and roll in the dirt, like a dog would. He got up on his feet and started walking then running towards us.”
When the bison made contact with Harris, it struck her in the chest and back. It missed her major organs but left her with severe bruising in addition to her debilitating injuries.
“I was carried out of the field on a stretcher to an ambulance and then transferred to a helicopter for a life flight to Idaho,” she continues. She was treated at the Eastern Idaho Regional Medical Center in Idaho Falls, approximately 100 miles as the crow flies from the Lake Lodge Cabins.
A Surprise at the Hospital
What Harris didn’t know was that the vacation was supposed to end with a major surprise. Her boyfriend, Chris Whitehill, had a marriage proposal planned for Yellowstone’s popular natural bridge. With the trip cut short, Whitehill had to recalibrate.
“My love got down on one knee beside my hospital bed last night and formally asked me to be his wife,” Harris wrote. “Without any hesitation I said yes!”
Whitehill also organized a GoFundMe for Harris’ medical expenses. He confirmed in a recent update that Harris’ injuries did not require any surgery, but that she is wearing an immobilizing back brace to heal the fractures.
“Amber is a fighter and she is battling hard,” he wrote. “Making little progressions daily.”
The National Park Service recommends keeping a distance of 25 yards from bison, elk, and other wildlife at all times. (This recommendation extends to 100 yards for bears and wolves.) Harris estimated she and Whitehill were double that distance from the bison that charged her. But as the NPS points out, the bison rut occurs from mid-July to mid-August, and they can be much more aggressive than usual this time of year.