ANTELOPE ISLAND — A bison rammed him into a fence at Antelope Island State Park.
But the man, saying he wanted to set the record straight, insisted Thursday he is not the “thrill-seeker” that witnesses and previously released photographs made him appear to be.
Ty Draper, of Colorado Springs, Colo., said he was simply trying to protect the runners in the Antelope Island Buffalo Run, which was just about to begin, when the bison attacked him. The bison, he said, had migrated into the direct path of the entrants.
“I figured I had a more gentle way of doing it (convincing the bison to move) because I wasn’t running straight at him in a herd,” Draper said.
So he said he simply stepped into what he believed was the bison’s territory. He said he didn’t rattle the fence — nor did he throw rocks, as other witnesses claimed.
The bison quickly reared around and charged at Draper, he said. He believes he first made contact with the bison’s skull.
“He launched me in the air,” Draper recalled. “I think he might have carried me for a while, looking at that photo, because I wasn’t close to the fence when he struck.”
Draper was referring to a photograph taken by spectator Wayne Ebenroth, which showed the bison smashing Draper against the fence.
“I looked up at this beast — I was waiting for him to do the final blow, just stepping on my head or something,” Draper recalled.
Luckily for him, the bison trotted away. He said he still had some “rib problems” after the attack, which was better than he expected prior to impact.
“I knew that I was probably going to get away from it, if I was lucky, with some severe injuries, if not death,” Draper said.
He is calling on event organizers to review what took place Saturday and see if there is anything that can be done to enhance safety. He said he didn’t want the race to go away, although he expressed concerns about his son running in it in the future because of bison on the island.
Antelope Island Buffalo Run organizer Jim Skaggs said Wednesday he has managed the races on the island for eight years, and he had never seen anything close to what happened this past weekend. More than 700 runners took part in the endurance races, and the only person who had a bad encounter with any wildlife was Draper.
“They were in and among the bison from Friday at noon until Saturday evening and nobody else had any violent encounters with the bison,” Skaggs said.
While he has “concern every year” about the potential for a brush with the bison, Skaggs on Thursday said runners are made aware of the inherent dangers of having wild animals along the course. Measures have been in place every year to mitigate the risk — including volunteer trail patrols who survey the course and try to get bison to move if they’re in the way.
“Most of the time, they’ll just move and get out of the way,” Skaggs said. “They’re pretty good about that as long as they have a path to leave.”
Skaggs said he would further investigate what happened, but didn’t anticipate any changes to protocols.