This week, a video has been circulating claiming to show a herd of bison “running for their lives” out of Yellowstone National Park. The suggestion has been that the animals are sensing imminent danger associated with a volcano in the area.
But there’s just one problem: park officials told Reuters that the video actually shows the bison galloping into the park, not out of it.
Below is what appears to be the most popular version, which includes some alarming claims:
“It was a spring-like day and they were frisky. Contrary to online reports, it’s a natural occurrence and not the end of the world,” park spokeswoman Amy Bartlett told the outlet.
In fact, one person who claims to be the person behind the original video (many versions have been posted) of the bison running included a detailed description of where the event occurred, and said it’s actually an annual occurrence:
March 14, 2014 — This herd of Yellowstone National Park Bison dashes from Mammoth Hot Springs eastward along the roadway and deeper into the park. If the herd matriarch gets the urge to run, she will … and the entire herd will run to keep up.
I’ve been lucky enough to live and work here year-round in Yellowstone National Park since 2010, and every Spring I am blessed to witness them running … in a celebration of life, in a celebration of the coming richness of the Spring Season … and running for the sheer joy of being able to!
That man is Leo Leckie, and he was interviewed by the LA Times:
The spreading anxiety was caused by baseless rumors and deliberate misrepresentations of what those bison were actually doing in the video, according to Leo Leckie, a sales associate of the nonprofit Yellowstone Assn., an educational partner of Yellowstone National Park.
Leckie ought to know. He shot the video, which lasts 1 minute and 9 seconds and was originally posted March 14 on his Facebook page under the title, “Yellowstone bison on the run for the joy of Spring.”
“Those bison were running for the sake of running,” Leckie said in an interview Thursday. “There was nothing chasing them. There was no mudslide. They were just running.”
Added Leckie: “And they were running into the park, not away from it.”
The park also published a video with a fuller explanation saying that, during the dead of winter, the animals will drop to lower elevations and even wander outside the park in order to find food. When spring returns, they flood back into the park:
As for volcanic and seismic activity, the official video explains that the area experiences thousands of earthquakes a year, but many of them are very small. But Al Nash, the chief of public affairs at the park, did say that the park experienced its biggest earthquake (4.8) in 30 years on Sunday.
Still, he says, that’s no cause for worry.
“We have seen no signs to suggest the Yellowstone volcano is about to erupt,” he said.
Peter Cervelli, associate director for science and technology at the U.S. Geological Survey’s Volcano Science Center in California and a scientist with the Yellowstone Volcano Observatory, agrees.
“The chance of that happening in our lifetimes is exceedingly insignificant,” he told Reuters.