By Clair McFarland, General Assignment Reporter
A three-vehicle collision near Yellowstone National Park on Wednesday night left 13 bison dead, according to authorities.
The West Yellowstone Police Department reported Friday to its Facebook page that a semitruck crashed into a herd of bison at about 6:30 Wednesday evening near mile marker 4 on U.S. Highway 191. The highway winds through southwest Montana and north of West Yellowstone, a town abutting the national park.
Two other vehicles were also involved, but did not cause the bison fatalities, the post states. The police department originally told media outlets the two other cars had collided with the bison.
Some bison were killed in the crash and others were euthanized, but no drivers or passengers were hurt, media outlets reported.
“We deal with wildlife being struck and killed on the roadways in our area on a regular basis due to the abundance of wildlife in our area and our close proximity to Yellowstone National Park,” the police department wrote.
Speed may not have been a factor in this incident, the post says, though “road conditions at the time would dictate traveling below the posted speed limit.”
The Montana Highway patrol is investigating the collision.
Snow Drives Bison Near Roads
Marty Zaluski, Montana State Veterinarian, told Cowboy State Daily he wasn’t on scene at the time but has since heard of the bison deaths and the magnitude of the crash. He said he’s never heard of such a deadly bison collision.
After heavy snowfall, bison often stick to the roads because the plowed pathways make for more efficient travel, said Zaluski.
“If they want to get from point A to point B, they recognize that the road is the most efficient,” he said. “With the recent snowfall, they haven’t got well established trails they’ve gotten beat in quite yet.”
Difficult To See
The brown coloration of the animals can make it difficult to see a blended herd of them while night driving, Zaluski added.
“I’ve been in Yellowstone in the past and those things are not obvious,” he said. “They just blend in.”
West Yellowstone Police Chief Mike Gavagan told media outlets bison eyes aren’t reflective.
A reader who wishes to remain anonymous sent Cowboy State Daily a photograph of the scene showing four dead bison slumped between a snowy bank and criss-crossed tire tracks, with a splotch of blood in the photograph’s foreground.