Phoenix man recounts terrifying goring of girlfriend by bison at Yellowstone National Park
Jul 20, 2023, 5:20 PM | Updated: Jul 21, 2023, 7:58 pm
PHOENIX — Days after his girlfriend was gored by a bison at Yellowstone National Park, Chris Whitehill of Phoenix recapped the incident Thursday on KTAR News 92.3 FM’s The Gaydos and Chad Show.
On Monday morning, Whitehill was walking with his girlfriend Amber in a field in front of the Lake Lodge when they saw two bison.
“We woke up Monday morning and got our coffee from the cafe there at the lodge, walked down the little steps and noticed about 15 to 20 elk just grazing doing their thing,” Whitehill said. “We stood back a good two 3– feet from them, let them do their thing. They went on their way.”
Walk to Yellowstone Lake takes a turn
He explained they noticed a well-traveled path Yellowstone visitors took that led down to the water line of Yellowstone Lake and decided to proceed in that direction.
“So we proceed down and, uh, encountered one bison who was grazing a good, I would say 30, 40 yards from us and he was just doing his thing and I yelled over to Amber and said, ‘hey, you know, there’s one up here, up, up our, our right, let’s just be aware and let’s start moving away,'” he said.
After seeing the animals, the couple turned to walk away from the bison.
“And that’s what we did. Slowly didn’t try to startle them, but mind you, we were good, you know, almost half a football field length away,” Whitehill said. “and we move, kept moving laterally away, creating, you know, creating more distance, more distance, more distance. Ok, cool. He trots off no big deal.”
Seconds later, he said another bull bison appeared about 60 yards from them.
“I would think, you know, we were respecting him and his territory and we were moving away laterally like parallel to the water line,” he said. “So we continue doing that, but he starts heading towards where we’re like the vicinity of where we’re at.”
Safety first and a road to recovery
Bison can become agitated quickly during this time of the year because mating season is from mid-July through mid-August. Yellowstone advises visitors to use extra caution and give animals space.
The couple continued to keep their distance but it wasn’t enough.
“He starts to charge and I start waving my arms screaming yelling to try and distract them,” Whitehill said.
Amber is struck in the abdomen and flips in the air about eight to 10 feet — somersaulting backward into the air several times and landing on her back.
“We dotted our, I’s crossed our T’s and it still happened and, and we’re here at a trauma center in Idaho Falls,” he said.
She has multiple fractures down her spinal column and two partially collapsed lungs, according to Whitehall.
He planned to propose to Amber on Wednesday at the park but the attack delayed his plans.
“Yeah, it was supposed to happen yesterday. Her daughter and I had picked out a spot and, uh, that the proposal was supposed to happen at and God had other plans,” he said.
Whitehill proposed to Amber by her bedside.
“I love that woman dearly and with the Lord’s guidance, we have come together and we definitely are gonna come out of this on the other end a heck of a lot stronger than we are today.”