Park Reminds Visitors to Stay Safe Distance from Wildlife This Fall
Contact: Al Nash, 307-344-2015
National Park Service
Yellowstone National Park
Park Reminds Visitors To Stay Safe Distance From Wildlife This Fall
The onset of fall in Yellowstone, with its cooler temperatures and snow in the high country, prompts many animals to start moving to lower elevations. Yellowstone’s road corridors, campgrounds, and other developments were built primarily in lower elevation areas. This can result in great wildlife viewing opportunities for visitors. However, with these opportunities comes an increased risk of visitors being injured if they get too close to wildlife. It can be challenging to manage both wildlife behaving naturally and the people viewing them.
Nowhere is this a bigger challenge for the park staff than at Mammoth Hot Springs. Some elk stay in the area year ‘round. However, the number of animals tends to increase in the fall as elk begin to head toward their winter range and mating season begins.
Typically, several large bull elk venture into the Mammoth area in the fall to compete for the attention of cow elk. Bulls are much more aggressive toward both people and vehicles this time of year, and can be a threat to both people and property. Several vehicles are damaged by elk every year, and on occasion people are charged by elk and are injured.
A dedicated group of park staff and volunteers can be seen patrolling the Mammoth Hot Springs area when elk are present, attempting to keep elk and visitors a safe distance away from each other. Park regulations require visitors to stay at least 25 yards – five car lengths – away from most large animals.
Grizzly bears and black bears also move to lower elevations in the fall, seeking out berries, roots, elk, and deer, in order to store the calories they need to sustain themselves during winter hibernation. This means they may be encountered along road corridors or hiking trails.
Park regulations require people to stay 100 yards – the length of a football field – away from bears and wolves at all times. If you see a bear along the road, move off the road and park on the shoulder or in a pullout and stay in your vehicle to watch the bear. In any case, use your binoculars, telescope, or telephoto lens to get a closer look at the bear rather walking toward the bear.
Visitors are reminded they to keep food, garbage, barbecue grills and other attractants stored in hard-sided vehicles or bear-proof food storage boxes when not in immediate use. Bears that get human food or garbage usually become aggressive in their efforts to get it again. This can result in property damage and on rare occasion injury to people. When bears become a threat to human safety, they may have to be captured and euthanized.
Hikers and backpackers are encouraged to travel in groups of three or more, make noise on the trail, and keep an eye out for bears. Bear pepper spray has proven to be a good last line of defense if you keep it handy and use it according to directions when the bear is within 30 to 40 feet. Be extra vigilant if a sign on the trail says a bear has been frequenting an area, and if an area is posted closed due to bear activity, stay out!
Bear sightings should be reported to the nearest visitor center or ranger station as soon as possible.
- www.nps.gov/yell -
Did You Know?
The 1988 fires affected 793,880 acres or 36 percent of the park. Five fires burned into the park that year from adjacent public lands. The largest, the North Fork Fire, started from a discarded cigarette. It burned more than 410,000 acres.