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Last week, an Australian tourist got his butt handed to him by a bison in Yellowstone National Park. While attempting to get pictures of the animal, the tourist crept a little too close.

The American bison has a relatively long thought process but a fuse barely a millimeter in length. The bison treated the tourist like a volleyball, seriously injuring him.

This was newsworthy for a couple of reasons. First, it's surprising that it happened to someone from Australia, a country with some of the most lethal animals on the planet. If anyone should be wary of wildlife, it should be an Australian.

Second, throughout Yellowstone National Park are signs warning people not to stop and approach large wildlife. These are big, official signs intended to keep tourists safe.

Driving through Yellowstone is miles and miles of: "Do Not Stop To View Wildlife," "Do Not Feed Wildlife," "Do Not Approach Wildlife (Including Squirrels)," "Our Wildlife Will Hurt You," "Seriously, Keep Your Ass in Your Vehicle."

The problem with any sign is that it can never be large enough to contain all the information necessary to be of any real help to idiots. A warning sign is merely a tip or a hint. Sometimes a stern hint, but a hint nevertheless. Idiots don't do well with hints.

This probably explains why every year some Yellowstone tourist gets stomped, bitten, or gored by a large animal that was just trying to mind its own business.

I've seen it happen. More than 20 years ago, on vacation with my family, I watched a tourist get the crap beat out of him by a bison. I wrote about it in a journal I kept for that particular trip.

"In an open area cars and motor homes were parked haphazardly along the shoulders. The center of attention was a lone buffalo grazing in a meadow beside the road. Like everyone else, we pulled over to get some pictures of this flea-bitten bit of American history.

"Things might have gone well but for this portly guy with a camcorder the size of a suitcase. He decided the warning signs were meant for timid people, people who do not have National Geographic ink in their blood. Camera running, he trucked on down into the meadow with the buffalo."

For childhood reasons not worth explaining, I don't like regular cows. A bison is actually a cow that joined a gang, so I didn't need a sign to tell me not to fool with it. When the crowd followed the guy with the camcorder, I stayed up on the road. I made sure my family did, too.

Sure enough, all the company eventually bothered the buffalo. He threw up his shaggy head, jettisoned some snot and then hooked and butted a suddenly hysterical mob of tourists.

Grass-stained, sweat-soaked, and bleeding, the portly guy eventually made it back to his motor home without his camcorder which had been stomped into a mudhole. He turned and cursed the buffalo, lecturing everyone on the necessity of having such a savage and unpredictable animal euthanized.

I can see the logic in the argument. But if we're going to put down any creature, let's put down the stupidest ones first. That way we'll need fewer signs.

Robert Kirby can be reached at or Find his past columns at