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Disturbing Trend: Bad Tourist Behavior on the Rise at Yellowstone

bison and tourist

Yellowstone National Park authorities continually emphasize the importance of maintaining a safe distance from the park’s wild animals. Despite these warnings, some tourists still insist on seeking out encounters with wildlife.


American Bison
American Bison and calf in Yellowstone National Park. Image via Arturo de Frias Marques, CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Since Yellowstone’s opening for the 2023 season, tourists have noticed a notable increase in lawbreaking. This has been captured on camera where visitors have attempted to interact with wildlife. Unfortunately, some of these interactions have resulted in the death of park animals.

National Park Service

bison calf
“Rescued” bison. Image by ABC News via YouTube

In a recent statement, the National Park Service (NPS) urged tourists to maintain a safe distance from the animals. This is following a tragic incident where a man attempted to “rescue” a bison calf, leading to the calf’s rejection by its herd and eventual euthanasia. Read about that story here.

Bison Encounters

Bison on the road in Yellowstone National Park. Image by ViralHog via YouTube

Bison interactions are the most documented because of the large number of bison spread throughout the park. Despite their fluffy appearance and seemingly calm demeanor, it’s crucial to remember that these animals are dangerous and unpredictable. In fact, bison are responsible for more injuries in Yellowstone than any other wildlife species.

Getting Too Close

elk at night
Roosevelt Elk. Image via Depositphotos

While bison encounters are frequently captured on camera, they are not the sole instances of wildlife interactions recorded in the park. Just recently, two park visitors had a harrowing experience with a mother elk and her calf. This is when they attempted to take a close-up photo of the duo. The female elk, protecting her baby, charged at the visitors in an effort to safeguard her young one.

Why is this a problem?

Yellowstone Hot Springs. Image by Lukas Kloeppel via Pexels

Such interactions between tourists and wildlife are hazardous for both the visitors and the animals. Let’s expand on this.

Visitor Safety

Never approach a Bison
Never leave your vehicle. Image by Viral Hog via YouTube

Approaching wild animals, whether it’s a bison, elk, or any other species, puts tourists at significant risk. Wild animals can be unpredictable, and their behavior can change rapidly. A seemingly calm animal may become agitated or defensive in an instant, leading to potentially life-threatening situations. Charging, biting, or kicking are some of the defensive responses that animals can employ when they feel threatened.

Animal Stress

Bison calf following cow
Bison calf following cow.NPS/Jim Peaco, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons

When tourists encroach upon the personal space of wild animals or try to get too close for photographs, it causes stress to the animals. Stress can have detrimental effects on their health and well-being. Mothers with young offspring, like the mama elk and her calf may become particularly aggressive when they perceive a threat to their young.

Violation of Park Regulations

Beautiful view
View from Chittenden Road Mt. Washburn, Yellowstone. Aaron Zhu, CC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Most national parks, including Yellowstone, have strict regulations in place to protect both visitors and wildlife. Approaching or attempting to interact with wildlife is typically prohibited for the safety of all involved. Visitors who ignore these rules not only jeopardize their safety but also face legal consequences, including fines and potential expulsion from the park.

Impact on Conservation Efforts

Grizzly bear in Yellowstone National Park, Wyoming, USA. Image by haveseen on depositphotos.
Grizzly bear in Yellowstone National Park, USA. Image via Depositphotos

Encounters with humans can disrupt the natural behaviors of animals, affecting their feeding, resting, and breeding patterns. This disruption can have long-term consequences for the health and conservation of wildlife populations within the park.

Educational Opportunities Lost

Yellowstone National Park. Image via Pixabay

National parks serve as valuable educational resources, offering insights into the natural world and the importance of preserving it. When tourists engage in reckless behavior around wildlife, it detracts from the park’s educational mission.

So What Now?

Mammoth Hot Springs in Yellowstone National Park
Mammoth Hot Springs in Yellowstone National Park. DXR, CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons

When tourists disregard park rules in national parks, several solutions can be implemented to address the issue. These include enhancing enforcement through increased ranger presence and fines, conducting educational campaigns to raise awareness about the importance of adhering to regulations and the dangers of wildlife interactions, providing mandatory visitor orientation or training, creating designated wildlife viewing areas with proper barriers, implementing reporting systems for visitors to report violations, engaging local communities and tour operators in promoting responsible tourism practices.

Peer Pressure for Good

Lower Falls of the Yellowstone River in the Grand Canyon of Yellowstone in Yellowstone National Park in Wyoming. Image via Depositphotos

Additionally, harnessing peer pressure and social media to encourage responsible behavior, temporarily closing high-risk areas when needed, collecting data to inform decision-making, and collaborating with conservation organizations for joint initiatives. A combination of these strategies, tailored to each park’s unique context, can help mitigate rule violations. This will ensure visitor safety and the preservation of wildlife and natural ecosystems.


YouTube video
Source: YouTube

Take a look at more tourist-wildlife encounters here:

Yellowstone grand prismatic spring
Yellowstone’s grand prismatic spring. Image via Depositphotos

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Thursday 21st of September 2023

People today are crazy they have no idea what a wild animal can do to them. If it attacks you then it's your incompetence on why so please let's not kill them because of that it's not the animals fault.

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