Sep 19

Enjoying Yellowstone Safely

Managing the coexistence of people and wildlife in Yellowstone is more important than ever before. The park has experienced a significant increase in visitation since 2015, leading to increased tragedies including bear-related fatalities and bison gorings. This is where the Visitor and Wildlife Safety Education comes in. This project, funded in part by Yellowstone Forever, provides support for seasonal park rangers and volunteers to conduct the following programs:

  • Wildlife and Visitor Safety Education Program, in which roving park rangers provide information at wildlife-related traffic jams and other locations where wildlife and visitors are in close proximity.
  • Wildlife Education and Safety Demonstrations conducted by rangers on topics like bear spray, safe hiking and camping practices, and proper food storage.
  • Elk Rut Volunteer Corps in Mammoth Hot Springs to reduce elk/human conflicts during the autumn rut.

Staying Safe Around Wildlife

The animals in Yellowstone are wild and their behavior can be unpredictable. Wildlife should never be approached, no matter how calm they appear to be. Always stay at least 100 yards (91 m) away from bears and wolves, and at least 25 yards (23 m) away from all other animals, including bison and elk. Never leave small children unattended near wild animals.

  • When taking photos, rely on your camera’s zoom function rather than stepping closer. And as for those selfies? Please leave the animals out of them.
  • Use pullouts to watch wildlife and let other cars pass; do not stop in the road or block traffic in any way. Stay with your vehicle if you encounter a bear jam or other wildlife-related traffic jam. If there is a ranger on site, be sure to follow their instructions.
  • Never feed wildlife, or leave food or garbage unattended. When camping, keep all food and garbage stored in bear-proof containers. Animals that become habituated to human food may display aggression toward people and have to be killed.
  • Follow the best practices for hiking in bear country: be alert, make noise, hike in groups, do not run, carry bear spray and know how to use it. These practices are just as important for short day hikes as they are for overnight hikes.

Thermal Area Safety

In addition to caution around wildlife, it is important to remember the dangers of hot springs and other thermal features. Pools may be near or above the boiling point of water and can cause severe or fatal burns. Even if the ground looks solid, scalding water underlies most of the thin, breakable crust in thermal areas. Always stay on boardwalks and trails in thermal areas. Keep children close at all times and make sure they understand the dangers. Also, remember that pets are prohibited in thermal areas, as well as all trails and boardwalks in Yellowstone.

Take the Yellowstone Pledge:

To help encourage and model positive and responsible behavior in the park, the National Park Service created the Yellowstone Pledge. It’s a personal promise you make to yourself and the park. It can be taken anywhere: it doesn’t need to be taken out loud or in front of anyone. Tag #YellowstonePledge on social media and encourage others to do the same.

“I pledge to protect Yellowstone National Park. I will act responsibly and safely, set a good example for others, and share my love of the park and all the things that make it special.”

Yellowstone Ranger Tip: Pack your patience. Plan extra time when traveling from place to place. Traffic congestion and delays should be expected, especially when wildlife is on or near the roadway.