Thirteen bison have died as a result of a road crash in the dark on a Montana highway near Yellowstone national park, authorities have announced.
In a statement released on Facebook, the West Yellowstone police department announced that around 6.30pm on Wednesday “multiple bison were struck by a semi-truck near mile marker 4 on Highway 191”, referring to a highway north of the town of West Yellowstone.
According to the police, thirteen bison were killed after the truck smashed into a herd, with some of the bison needing to be euthanized “due to severe injuries”. Authorities initially believed that two other passenger vehicles were also involved in the traffic incident but found, upon further investigation, that all the bison were hit but the semi-truck and that the two other vehicles were involved in secondary accidents.
The gory scene occurred amid a severe winter storm that swept across the nation earlier this week.
“In the winter months, [the bison] are most often found near paved roadways and snowmobile trails due to these areas being easier for them to travel. This often puts them near or on the highway and in the path of vehicles,” police said.
“Although speed may not necessarily have been a factor in this accident, road conditions at the time would dictate traveling below the posted speed limit,” the police continued, urging drivers to slow down and drive appropriately to road and weather conditions.
“Please do not drive faster than you can stop within the distance that your headlights project. Stopping distances on snow-covered and icy roads are dramatically reduced versus dry pavement,” they added.
According to the National Park Service, Yellowstone is the only place in the US where “bison have lived continuously since prehistoric times”.
Yellowstone bison currently comprise the country’s largest bison population on public land, thus making them the most important such herd in the US.
As of the summer of 2021, approximately 5,450 bison were counted in Yellowstone.
“Conservation of wild bison is one of the most complex of Yellowstone’s resource issues,” said the National Park Service.