Wildlife and Visitor Safety Education Programs

Visitor and Wildlife Safety Education

NPS / Jacob W. Frank

Why this work matters

There are millions of visitors that come to the park each year, each with a unique set of experiences. While have extensive histories hiking and camping in the backcountry, many have never stepped foot in such a wild place. Funding from Yellowstone Forever’s donors helps ensure vital education to park visitors that protects them and the wildlife they encounter.

What needs to be done

The Visitor and Wildlife Safety Education program, administered by the Resource Education and Youth Programs Division, strives to educate visitors about wildlife safety and natural history thereby reducing injuries, preventing fatalities, and helping to maintain wildlife in their natural habitat.

Hundreds of thousands of visitors would not get key safety and resource protection messages without the support of Yellowstone Forever donors. These programs continue to test a variety of techniques and messages, contributing to the body of knowledge about the effective management of people around wildlife.

Through this program Park Rangers:

  • Provide resource education information at critical locations where wildlife and visitors interact in close proximity.
  • Inform visitors about bear, wolf, elk, and other large mammal habituation, thus preserving the wild nature of these iconic animals and minimizing their loss from the ecosystem due to habituation.
  • Enhance visitor safety by providing programs on proper food storage, the carrying and safe and effective use of bear spray, hiking and camping in bear country, etiquette when viewing wildlife, wildlife safety “best practices”, and wildlife natural history and management.
  • Reduce and prevent visitor/wildlife injuries and property damage.
  • Reduce and prevent disturbance of normal wildlife foraging and other activities or natural patterns of behavior that may cause stress to individual animals or herds.
  • Preserve visitor opportunities to view wildlife parkwide in natural conditions.

What we’ve accomplished

What makes Yellowstone’s Visitor Safety and Education programs unique is that they don’t only occur at set times and locations (although that does happen). Years of meticulous data collection and experience have show that often education must happen at the site of a bison jam or a heavily trafficked wildlife spotting. Rangers provide the necessary information to ensure wildlife and visitors stay safe and learn from these interactions.

In 2018 Yellowstone’s rangers provided:

  • 1,338 or approximately 167 work days of assistance at animal jams.
  • At those animal jams rangers were in contact with 73,709 visitors
  • Contacted 23,156 visitors during rove duty
  • Presented 153 hours of formal ranger-led programs to 5,088 visitors
  • 25,238 Resource Warnings given for food storage, being too close to animals, disturbing wildlife, etc.

From a donor:

I am fascinated by all of the park’s beauty and wonders. I became a Yellowstone supporter on the first visit and will continue to be one. Yellowstone is a part of me now! — Arlean T., Texas