SYRACUSE, Utah – Park officials at Antelope Island State Park in Syracuse, Utah, have had two reports of bison attacks this year, which happened in separate incidents several months apart.
In an unlikely coincidence, both victims happened to be at the park together on September 27 when the second attack took place.
Kyler Bourgeous, 30, had been hiking in Antelope Island State Park on June 1 when he encountered two bison at the top of a trail. He attempted to get out of their sight, but it was too late — one of the bison spotted him and charged.
The bison gored Bourgeous’ right torso, just barely missing his vital organs. The bison then kicked his head and trampled him. Bourgeous suffered broken ribs, a collapsed lung and head injuries, according to CNN Salt Lake City affiliate KSL.
A few months after being attacked by a bison in what he thought was a freak accident, Bourgeous finally felt comfortable enough to return to the park. He asked Kayleigh Davis, 22, whether she wanted to go and see the sunset together on Antelope Island.
“I thought my incident was a freak accident with really bad luck with the positioning, and that we’d be fine going back out there,” Bourgeous told KSL.
Unfortunately for Davis, luck was not on her side, either.
Davis decided to run ahead of Bourgeous and his two golden retrievers when he stopped to apply bug spray. They agreed to meet at a mile marker ahead of where they had split, as she says that he was faster and she knew he would quickly catch up.
Davis spotted a bison near the trail and, not wanting to take any chances, she tried to avoid it.
As she waited for Bourgeous, Davis began to feel uncomfortable with the bison within eyeshot. Not wanting to wait there by herself any longer, she turned back to find Bourgeous, 30. She took the same precautions as she did before, maintaining a safe distance while making sure she did nothing that could potentially rile up the bison.
A group of bikers came down the trail and that’s when she noticed the bison charging at her.
“I didn’t know what to do, so my first instinct was to run away from the bison,” Davis told CNN. “But you can’t outrun a bison. When I looked over my shoulder, I saw that he quickly caught up.
“That’s when he flipped me up in the air. I must have been thrown about 15 feet.”
The bison sniffed her, digging its feet as if it were readying to charge again.
Remembering Bourgeous’ story and the advice he received to remain still in a situation like that, Davis remained motionless.
“In the back of my mind I didn’t think it was going to work because he was still acting like he was going to charge, but I thought testing out staying still and playing dead would be better than trying to run away again,” Davis told CNN.
“Bison aren’t predators, so they don’t have a chase instinct,” said Antelope Island State Park assistant manager Wendy Wilson. “They just respond to what they feel is a threat. So just staying still, not showing any movements or aggression, or trying to get away, was probably the right thing to do.”
The leader of a troop of Boy Scouts was nearby and attempted to get the bison away from Davis. The bison bluff charged the scout leader, stopped and then just walked away.
“It was probably too much activity all at once,” Wilson told CNN. “She ran past the bison, that piqued its interest. Then she turned around and ran back, and that probably aggravated it. And then a couple of cyclists biked by at the same time. My guess is all that activity all at once kind of aggravated him and he may have felt like he needed to protect himself.”
Davis was airlifted to McKay-Dee Hospital in Ogden. While she suffered non-life-threatening injuries, her upper left thigh was gored and she broke her right ankle.
She was released from the hospital on Monday.
While Davis has given some thought on returning to the park, she says it may be as a volunteer at the visitor center.