In a minute she’ll be waiting for a group of bison to clear the path. The next time she runs for her life when a bison charges at her. The phone falls as the bison impales her back and she falls, screaming in pain, into a thorny bush. In the following video, Clark uses profane language.
@rebeccaclark Solo hike at Caprock Canyons State Park & Trail in Texas. I was charged and gored by a bison because I was supposed to CLOSE to pass them on a trail The Official Texas State Bison Herd restored the historic Charles Goodnight bison herd in part of their former range in the park. Posting to support safety while enjoying Texas State Parks #TPWD #bisonetiquette101 #hikingsafety #llbean #chaos #rei ♬ dumb dumb – accelerated – maze
With limited cellular service, she told the Washington Post, she managed to call her son and rescuers reached her about 50 minutes later. The attack resulted in 54-year-old Clark being hospitalized for six days with a large laceration in her back, but she expects to make a full recovery and be able to explore the great outdoors again by December.
“I was very fortunate,” said Clark, an infant specialist from Boyd, Texas, who describes herself as an avid and experienced hiker. She said she forgot she was recording during the attack, but when she rediscovered the clip in the hospital, she decided to post it on TikTok to warn even the most seasoned hikers to never be complacent around wild animals .
“The more I looked at it, I was like, wow, I was just too close,” she said. “And there are people out there like me who are becoming confident.”
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She credited Caprock Canyons with having extensive warnings not to get too close to bison, including a large exhibit at the visitor center, but she said it was her second visit and she wasn’t paying as close attention as she should have.
According to the National Park Service, bison can run three times faster than humans, despite weighing up to a ton. Officials at Yellowstone National Park, home of the country’s largest and oldest wild herd of bison, warn that bison have injured more visitors than any other animal in the park, including three people who were attacked in a month earlier this year.
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Texas Parks and Wildlife spokeswoman Stephanie Salinas Garcia said the agency was aware of Clark’s attack and had been in touch with her throughout her recovery. Visitors to Caprock Canyons should stay at least 50 yards away from bison, Garcia added.
On its website, the agency recommends following the “rule of thumb”: if you close one eye, stretch out one arm, and put your thumb on the bison, it should completely obscure the animal’s view—otherwise you’re too close.
In Clark’s video, the animals’ tails begin to swish before one of the bison charges at them. According to Texas Parks and Wildlife, fearful bison raise their tails in a question mark, a sign you’re disturbing the animal.
“Other signs of excitement or disapproval will paw the ground and bow their heads,” the agency says. “In bison culture, a frontal gaze can convey a threat or just plain rude behavior, especially towards dominant males. If you see any of these behaviors, leave the area.”
As a general rule, the agency says if a bison changes behavior in any way as a result of your presence, you should vacate the area. “You are visiting the home of bison,” it says.
He went to the park on a date where he was gored by a bison, assuming it wouldn’t happen again. He was wrong.
Caprock Canyons, located in the Texas Panhandle about 300 miles northwest of Dallas, is home to the Texas State bison herd. They are the only remaining specimens of the Southern Plains bison subspecies, according to the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department, and are genetically distinct from any other bison in the world.
In 1878, rancher Charles Goodnight and his wife decided to conserve their few remaining bison on the southern plains, as hunting had nearly wiped out the subspecies. The ranch owners donated the herd to the state in 1996 and the animals were moved to the Caprock Canyons, part of their historic range, according to Texas Tech University’s Natural Science Research Laboratory. In the long term, the state hopes to restore the subspecies to a 100,000-acre sanctuary.
On the day of the attack, Clark hiked the park’s Eagle Point Trail alone, a return trip. On her way out, the herd of bison blocked the path, so she veered off the path to avoid them, she said.
This gave her “confidence” that she could slowly walk past the herd as she encountered them on the way back, but suddenly one of the bison turned and charged her. As she recorded, it impaled her back and threw her into the air before throwing her forward into a mesquite bush, she said.
In hindsight, she said, she should have turned back or waited further down the trail until the herd was cleaned up, especially when the bison started wagging their tails. She said she filmed other parts of the hike and didn’t try to capture the bison, which she advises against.
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After the attack, her phone service was too patchy to reach 911, which is not uncommon for many of the remote areas where she enjoys hiking, she said. By holding up her phone, she was able to text her family and friends, who contacted emergency services. Clark was carried out on foot and taken to a hospital by ambulance, then airlifted to the United Regional Hospital in Wichita Falls, Tex.
She said the incident will not diminish her love of hiking, but that she plans to take further steps to ensure her safety. Her kids will likely buy her a tracking device for Christmas this year, she said.
“I don’t want to stop doing what I’m doing,” Clark said. “But I just have to change something.”