The National Parks Urge You to Keep Your Distance from Wildlife

A recent bear attack has prompted the NPS to remind visitors about its wildlife safety rules

Last year, a slew of TikToks showed visitors of Yellowstone National Park attempting to take selfies with, pet, and otherwise harass the bison in their natural habitat which prompted the National Park Service (NPS) to chime in in with a warning for all visitors thinking of getting cozy with wildlife in the parks:

Wildlife Petting Rules

1. Don’t

2. See rule number one

3. Brace for landing

Almost exactly one year later, the story isn’t much different—except now it is the relationship between bears and humans that we’re talking about. The NPS recently issued another warning after a man was seriously injured by a bear at Grand Teton National Park.

Bison © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

According to the NPS, investigation has led officials to believe the man was caught up in a surprise attack by two grizzly bears with one of the bears injuring the man. Reportedly, the man was rescued by helicopter and ambulance and despite the injury he is expected to make a full recovery. 

While this is undoubtedly wonderful news, nobody wants to risk witnessing such an encounter again—especially the NPS. In order to prevent such attacks from happening again, the NPS issued a news release with guidance on human-bear conflict prevention providing a list of tips and helpful advice. The complete alert and guidance can be found at the end of this post.

As the NPS advises, it is important that visitors never leave food unattended and that they try to keep a clean camp to the best of their abilities. That includes storing all attractants such as coolers, pet food, toiletries, and cooking gear inside proper bear boxes which are containers that are bear-proof. Eating or cooking inside your tent is also a no-no and garbage should always be disposed of in a bear-resistant dumpster.

Most importantly, you should stay away from bears as well as other dangerous wildlife. “If you see a bear, please give it space,” says the NPS advisory. “Always stay at least 100 yards away. If you choose to watch or photograph the bear, use a spotting scope, binoculars, or telephoto lens.” 

Rocky mountain goat © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

In case of close encounter, make sure to slowly walk away from the bear and definitely avoid running. You should also always carry bear spray—and don’t forget to learn how to use it properly. 

This definitely isn’t the first time the NPS has had to remind visitors about important wildlife rules. Last year, after the bison petting shenanigans, the NPS took to Instagram and via a cheeky post (See Wildlife Petting Rules above) the organization gave visitors a guide to petting the wildlife in national parks with the consensus being, DON’T

The caption goes into more detail reminding visitors that “wildlife in parks are wild and like your ex, can be unpredictable when they’re disturbed or surprised.” The page has even changed their Instagram bio to address the onslaught of visitors infiltrating the bison’s space at Yellowstone; it reads “Don’t pet the fluffy cows.”

While the NPS advice and posts might seem all fun and games, they actually come from very not-fun situations. Yellowstone has previously called on visitors to maintain distance from and respect the wildlife due to a number of recent incidents.

Elk © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

In mid-May, the NPS released another warning, this time urging visitors to be extra careful when in the presence of elk. Elk calving season has reportedly just begun and as the NPS explains, “Cow elk are much more aggressive towards people during the calving season and may run towards you or kick.”

Elk attacks are unprovoked and unpredictable and they may start running towards you for no apparent reason. In this case, if you see an elk running towards you, you should also be running away. To prevent this from happening, it’s good practice to always be keeping at least 25 yards of distance from them (roughly equivalent to the length of two full sized busses).

If a sassy Instagram post and ardent pleading from the National Park Service aren’t enough to get you to give their wildlife some well-deserved space, it might be time to revisit the golden rule, “treat others as you would like to be treated.” In this case, if you have no desire to be poked and prodded at, chances are wildlife feel the same.

Bison © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

NPS News Release

Visitor Injured in Incident with Bear

Visitors reminded to be bear aware when visiting Grand Teton National Park

On the afternoon of Sunday, May 19, Teton Interagency Dispatch received a report of a 35-year-old male visitor from Massachusetts who was seriously injured by a bear in the area of the Signal Mountain Summit Road. Grand Teton National Park rangers and Teton County Search and Rescue personnel responded to the scene to provide emergency medical care and air lifted the patient via helicopter to an awaiting ambulance where he was transported to St. John’s Hospital. The patient is in stable condition and is expected to fully recover.

Based on initial reports from the injured visitor and preliminary information conducted as part of an ongoing investigation of the site, law enforcement rangers and park biologists believe the incident was a surprise encounter with two grizzly bears with one of the bears contacting and injuring the visitor.
The Signal Mountain Summit Road and Signal Mountain Trail are currently closed to all public entry.

Rocky mountain sheep © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

To prevent human-bear conflicts, visitors are reminded to:

  • Never leave your food unattended unless it is properly secured.
  • Keep a clean camp and adhere to all food storage orders. Store all attractants including coolers, cooking gear, pet food, and toiletries inside a bear-resistant food locker (i.e. bear box) or a hard-sided vehicle with the windows rolled up.
  • Properly store garbage until you can deposit it into a bear-resistant dumpster.
  • Do not eat or cook in your tent and never keep food or other scented items in your tent.
  • Please respect all wildlife closure areas.
  • If you see a bear, please give it space. Always stay at least 100 yards away. If you choose to watch or photograph the bear use a spotting scope, binoculars, or telephoto lens. Park in designated areas, and never block travel lanes. Follow the directions of staff in places where bears are sighted.

If you are exploring the backcountry:

  • Be alert and aware of your surroundings.
  • Make noise, especially in areas with limited visibility or when sound is muffled (e.g., near streams or when it is windy).
  • Carry bear spray, know how to use it, and keep it readily accessible.
  • Hike in groups of three or more people.
  • Do not run. Back away slowly if you encounter a bear.
Elk © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Here are some posts to help you learn more about bear safety:

Looking for more travel tips?

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Also check our recent RV manufacturer’s recalls just in case your RV is on the list.

Worth Pondering…

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