The incident was captured on video and shows the colossal wild animal grazing on a hillside before seeing two adults and the child on a path ahead.
It then starts to charge with dust visibly rising from its haunches as it gallops towards the group.
The adults – who are the child’s parents, according to the woman who took the video – are seen sprinting away amid screams, leaving the 9-year-old in the path of the enormous animal.
The bison smashes into her at a high pace, effortlessly lofting the child high into the air. The girl involuntarily performs a complete flip before crashing to the ground.
Yellowstone officials confirmed the incident involving a bull bison and the nine-year-old had taken place on 22 July.
“According to witnesses, a group of approximately 50 people were within 5-10 feet of the bison for at least 20 minutes before eventually causing the bison to charge the group,” Yellowstone officials said in a statement.
They said the girl was from Odessa in Florida, and was taken to a clinic in the park from which she was later released. She reportedly had minor injuries.
The woman who apparently took the video, Hayley Dayton, posted it on Twitter with the words: “This is what happens when you f*** with wildlife and pay no mind to an animal’s personal space.
“This family was petting the buffalo before it charged. And as you can see the parents saved themselves over their daughter. I’m disgusted.”
She added: “I also just want to note that after the bison left the girl the family ran to her help.”
Speaking about the parents not appearing to help the child in the video, which cuts off as soon as the girl hits the ground, Ms Dayton added: “It’s cropped out I guess due to the fact I was holding my phone horizontally. But just so people are aware THEY DID COME BACK TO HELP THE GIRL.”
The incident is still under investigation, Yellowstone Park said.
The park’s guidelines warn people to stay at least 25 yards away from bison.
“Wildlife in Yellowstone National Park are wild,” the guidelines say. “When an animal is near a trail, boardwalk, parking lot, or in a developed area, give it space. Stay 25 yards (23 m) away from all large animals - bison, elk, bighorn sheep, deer, moose, and coyotes and at least 100 yards (91 m) away from bears and wolves. If need be, turn around and go the other way to avoid interacting with a wild animal in close proximity.”
There are 4,527 bison resident in Yellowstone, according to a 2018 estimate.
A bull weighs up to 2,000 pounds (900kg or 140 stone). The animals can be aggressive and can hit top charging speeds of 30 miles per hour.
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