ANTELOPE ISLAND (ABC4 News) – A local man and his dog escaped injury after getting chased by a herd of angry bison and the drama unfolded live on social media.
Ryan Cowley’s Sunday morning hike with his German Shepard puppy Kira suddenly turned into a harrowing ordeal on Antelope Island and he broadcast it all on Facebook live.
Cowley hit record on his phone as the herd started following him and Kira with their tails raised, a sign of aggression, according to Steve Bates, a wildlife biologist with Antelope Island State Park.
“If the tail goes up you’re in trouble but it’s not too late,” Bates told ABC4 News.”But if the head goes down you’re in trouble.”
“Their tails were all up and they were snarling,” Cowley said.
Cowley decided to climb up a small tree.
“You can’t out run a buffalo,” he said. “They can run about 40 miles an hour and I don’t feel like playing dead so I left the dog at the base of the tree and said ‘We’ll just wait ’em out’.”
And while he waited he went live on Facebook.
“It’s the day and age, modern media right?” Cowley said. “So if you’re about to die what else are you gonna do? You’re gonna pull out your phone.”
On the video he narrates his predicament.
“These guys are gruntin’. They’re all around me,” Cowley says. “I called the State Park. Nobody answered. I don’t know what to do. I’m stuck.”
Meanwhile the bison were getting closer.
“You could smell ’em you could hear ’em. They’re making this low grunting thing and coming close. You can tell they’re checking you out,” Cowley said. “In fact they charged a couple of times, probably 5 or 6 times. One of the bigger ones would charge the tree and they tried charging the dog. The dog would come out and charge at ’em and kind of push ’em back.”
Finally he called 911 which dispatched a park ranger who arrived in his pickup to save Ryan and Kira.
“He drove his truck between the buffalo and the tree we were in,” he said. “And we hopped down the tree and jumped in the truck and scooted out of there.”
Ryan says he’s embarrassed that his story is getting so much attention but he’s sharing it to keep other hikers safe.
Park rangers say people should stay 300 yards away from bison and if they approach, get behind a large boulder or do like Cowley did and climb a tree.
They believe in this case the bison probably mistook his dog for a predator.