Harry Yount knew Yellowstone at least as early as 1878, working as a
wrangler and packer for the Hayden Survey. What brings "Rocky Mountain
Harry" some prominence for early Yellowstone history was his position as
the park's first "gamekeeper," a job for which Superintendent Philetus
W. Norris hired him on June 21, 1880. From Yellowstone's establishment
until 1883, hunting was allowed in the park, but abuses had become
common. Market hunters slaughtered elk for their hides, and other
practices were drastically affecting wildlife populations. Norris'
solution was to preserve at least representative herds of ungulates in
the Lamar Valley of northeastern Yellowstone. It was Yount's job to
protect these animals from market hunters and from people traveling to
the mines at Cooke City. To do this, he took up residence in a cabin
near the confluence of the Lamar River and Soda Butte Creek.
Yount found his job frustrating and virtually impossible. It was too
big for one person, and legal sanctions were lacking. In the fall of
1881, he resigned leaving a brief report containing a vision which
commends him to our memory today.
"I do not think that any one man appointed by the honorable
Secretary, and specifically designated as a gamekeeper, is what is
needed . . . but a small and reliable police force of men, employed when
needed . . . is what is really the most practicable way of seeing that
the game is protected from wanton slaughter, the forests from careless
use of fire, and the enforcement of all the other laws, rules, and
regulations for the protection and improvement of the park."
Harry Yount's alternative for protecting wildlife envisioned the park
ranger, who decades later became emblematic of the national parks.