If you’ve been following the news in recent months, you are aware of some unfortunate visitor behavior that has occurred in Yellowstone. Some individuals have taken alarming risks, like approaching and even touching large mammals. Spotting a bear, elk, or bison in Yellowstone is a fascinating and exhilarating experience—but we must still remember to treat these dangerous animals with respect and caution. With that in mind, here are some important reminders to help safeguard your family when visiting the Park.
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.
- Take the Pledge: Learn more and dedicate yourself to enjoying and protecting this national treasure by taking the Yellowstone Pledge.
Wildlife & Visitor Safety Project
Yellowstone’s seasonal Wildlife & Visitor Safety Project deploys teams of interpretive, law enforcement, and bear management rangers to more than 1,000 wildlife-related traffic jams each year. The rangers provide traffic control and education about wildlife behavior and safety, while making sure visitors do not feed wildlife or approach them too closely. This vital program takes a potentially frustrating or dangerous situation and turns it into a positive visitor experience that encourages greater understanding about Yellowstone’s wildlife.
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.
What if you see someone else violating the above safety guidelines?
Many people come to the park with limited exposure to wild animals and understanding of safety precautions that should be taken when viewing wildlife or visiting thermal features. If you see someone getting too close to wildlife, or stepping off of boardwalks in thermal areas, you should report it immediately to the nearest ranger or call 911, which will alert law-enforcement rangers in the area.
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.