Ranger Challenge of the Century: People and Animals in Parks

August 18, 2015 Posted by: Ranger Dawson

Hello dear readers! I initially had other intentions for this week’s blog, but in light of the recent human and bear death in Yellowstone I figured it was time to have this conversation (yet again). Call it a page ripped out of ranger confidential; I’m here to confess to you that one of the most challenging things that I, and many other rangers, deal with on a daily basis are human and wildlife interactions.

My first season as a ranger I made the mistake of assuming that all visitors come to parks and protected areas with the same understanding as me: parks are wild places full of wild creatures. That’s the reason why we come here in the first place, isn’t it? I was quickly proven wrong and shown, sometimes in dramatic ways, that not all park visitors are on the same page.

Any delusions I had surrounding this topic were shattered instantly the first time I had to stop a visitor from walking towards a bighorn sheep, one arm was outstretched in preparation to pet while the other arm cradled an infant. After that situation I found myself bewildered, and wondered what else the park could do to help educate visitors on this matter. I asked myself what Icould do to help people help themselves, so I wouldn’t find myself in that same situation again.

Four seasons later, I remain bewildered. I find people within spitting distance of mountain goats, coolers full of food left unattended in campgrounds, and help children (and sometimes adults) nurse bleeding hands from tame-turned-wild rodent bites. I think we need a new solution.

You know what we do in parks - hand out pamphlets at the entrance station, post signs at every trailhead and picnic table, and talk to people in the park every day. On top of that interpretive rangers are required to mention wildlife safety before the beginning of every single program, and I alone have given programs to over 3,000 people. How is the message not getting out? It’s online, in print, and in person. What are we missing?

Looking back on the 99 years of history since the National Park Service has started proves that impressive and positive changes can happen. On the eve of our Centennial anniversary, I think it’s time to find some answers to this hard question. So this is where you come in, readers! In the spirit of all finally being on the same page, I want to be clear why I’m writing this: I want to hear your ideas. Given the fact that we make the information accessible online, in print, and in person, what else can be done? How can we ensure that more visitors are knowledgeable about how to keep themselves and our wild animals safe?

Please mull this idea over and share your thoughts in the comments section of this post on the Glacier facebook page. I’m optimistic about the future of people and animals in parks and look forward to hearing your input.

Hey Ranger!

"Where can I find more information related to safety around other animals, not just bears?"

This is a question I hear frequently and am always happy to chat about. If you’re in the park, the Glacier Visitor Guide (aka the park newspaper) has tons of great information. We also have additional information in the park visitor centers.

If you’re prepping for a future visit, or are just generally curious, a great place to start would be our Wildlife Safety page.

Happy trails,

Ranger Dawson

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  7. May 29, 2016 at 10:28
     

    I was just now reading an article where 52,000+ warnings were handed out in Yellowstone in 2015. I would make those a citations. An ounce of prevention is in the pocket book....I will say this, I obviously don't mind foreigners visitor our beatiful country, but some of the biggest violators seems to be the foreigners. At least in the last 5 years I have visited Yellowstone and Yosemite. Maybe there is a language barrier issue.....You are only at the park entrance for a moment to pay and be given a park pamphlet of English only safety and trail information. At Hanauma Bay, in Oahu you must watch a 15 min video regarding safety and preservation of the park beach, then walk down from the top to the beach...in the 80's you could park at the beach...in roughly 2000ish you had to park at the top and watch the video....Logistically not sure how you could do this at such a large park like Yellowstone, but something needs to be done.....I am seriously fed up sitting off in a quiet spot watch animals from a distance with my camera when my view finder gets filled with a group of visitors too close for comfort and I have to yell at them.

     
  8. February 14, 2016 at 11:35
     

    I wish there was an easy fix for this. I have compasion on people but wildlife are at our mercy, and they depend on us as a human race to care for them and their habitiat. I too have seen the worst offenses in the park from foreign visitors. I love the video ideas and unfortunately, maybe we do need to fine people. I hate to do that because I worry it will sever a friendly relation with park rangers. Some humans are just not bright, or they don't take rules seriously and think they are an exception. You just can't fix stupid. However, I just want to point out a lot of the people that got hurt last summer in YNP knew better. They knew very well and still chose to take a risk and lost their life and then the bears. So is education going to fix this? I agree with the pepper spray rentals and education. I have a few cans but they are pricey and they expire!!! Not many people want to spend 30-40 dollars for a can. I personally want to thank you for all you do as a ranger and park employee, I know your passion and knoledge is more valuable than anything in protecting the wildness and animals of the park.

     
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  11. September 21, 2015 at 04:03
     

    We just visited both Glacier and Yellowstone NPs and also couldn't believe how close people were getting to the wild animals! Especially Yellowstone, I don't know how the Rangers keep their cool there. Probably a majority of the tourists not adhering to the guidelines were not speaking english, so signs and videos in different languages, especially Chinese, may help. Also if all hotels and lodges had a video on repeat in their lobby showing proper distance and the dangers of getting close to wild animals (something that could be understood no matter their language) it could help. A couple of the comments mentioned limiting the number of people let into the park at any given time... While I wish there were less people there and less traffic, I wouldn't want to prevent anyone from seeing national parks. Afterall they are for the benefit and enjoyment for the people... all of the people.

     
  12. August 26, 2015 at 07:32
     

    Last week's Glacier NP trip brought so many emotions. The last thing we witnessed was a dead baby bear after run down by a speeder one mile inside the park from the ranger shack on Many Glacier Road. Heart breaking indeed. We also witnessed people surrounding mountain goats at Logan Pass taking photos. They had no place to go. It is my opinion Glacier is over crowded. Even with that smoke last week! I posted a photo of the mama bear nudging her dead baby. It was the most horrific thing I've ever seen. We didn't understand what had happened at first. I wouldn't have taken the photo if I knew what had happened. It goes both ways. People killing or harassing animals, animals killing people. I'm glad I read your article and the intelligent comments others have expressed. At least people are aware of the situation.

     
  13. August 26, 2015 at 07:32
     

    Last week's Glacier NP trip brought so many emotions. The last thing we witnessed was a dead baby bear after run down by a speeder one mile inside the park from the ranger shack on Many Glacier Road. Heart breaking indeed. We also witnessed people surrounding mountain goats at Logan Pass taking photos. They had no place to go. It is my opinion Glacier is over crowded. Even with that smoke last week! I posted a photo of the mama bear nudging her dead baby. It was the most horrific thing I've ever seen. We didn't understand what had happened at first. I wouldn't have taken the photo if I knew what had happened. It goes both ways. People killing or harassing animals, animals killing people. I'm glad I read your article and the intelligent comments others have expressed. At least people are aware of the situation.

     
  14. August 22, 2015 at 09:10
     

    One more thought: people are so focused on tv and social media, why not have a large screen video running informational clips at the transportation center while visitors wait for the shuttles? It would be a way to pass some down time for many visitors. Stories on survivors of bear attacks, lessons learned, use of bear spray, faux pas while visiting GNP, and other current events (ie. fire closures). Keep it up to date, interesting, fun, fresh, and entertaining.

     
  15. August 22, 2015 at 05:20
     

    I think the only effective strategy would be fines and with repeat offense heavy fines. Zero tolerance. Rangers should be present at all times of the day in maximum visited areas and trails. I think too many people are allowed in the park and that should be limited on a day to day max quota basis as well. It is quite hard to keep animals and people safe when the crowds are overwhelming. Also, the other mentioned ideas of some people volunteering as park safety officers may be helpful due to the sheer number of visitors and the limited number of rangers. As you are well aware,something has to change as all in all the current situation is very bad for wildlife and bad for people too.

     
  16. August 22, 2015 at 03:20
     

    I recently attended an evening program. The interpretive ranger rattled off the usual spiel before the program. She was smart, charismatic, had adequate volume and enthusiasm. She was great! What was missing? There was a ton of information compressed into 3 minutes. It's hard for all but the most informed English speaking individuals to retain all of it. So, my advice? Pause before (during, and/or after?) the most important stuff. The life and death stuff. Physically wear a innate can of bear spray, and as you're talking demonstrate the use. Non verbal communication works for all languages and ages. Call out "HEY BEAR!" that'll wake 'em up. If it grabs their attention it's likely to make an impact. And finally, discretely use a long distance, low-moderate strength taser on the offenders. Yours is a tough job, but your efforts are SO worth it.

     
  17. August 20, 2015 at 08:58
     

    Graphic pictures of injuries would help.

     
  18. August 20, 2015 at 03:05
     

    I know this won't be a popular stance but I think we're coming to the point where the number of visitors to the park needs to be limited and fines imposed on those who are destructive to the park and disrespectful to the wildlife. Our family spends a lot of time in Yellowstone and Glacier each year. This summer was depressing - there were way too many people and numerous people completely disrespecting the wildlife. I applaud the parks providing bear spray for rent - this is a great idea! I also agree with other posters about signage - what we currently have isn't working and it might just take something more graphic. I can't help but think of how hard the Rangers' job is - policing the park - thank you for doing this!!!

     
  19. August 20, 2015 at 02:58
     

    We live in Montana for the summer and our family just loves Yellowdtone and Glacier. This year was pretty unsettling - the quantity of people was just staggering. It made me really reflect on whether we're protecting our beautiful parks for future generations. I witnessed so many close encounters with animals, it was depressing. There was no respect. People treated it like an amusement park. I think we're coming to a time when we'll need to limit the quantity of people into the park and impose fines on destructive behavior and violations of respect to the wildlife. I know this won't be a very popular stance but we need to protect these beautiful treasures and be the voice for the wildlife that dwell there.

     
  20. August 20, 2015 at 11:07
     

    As I read the rest of the comments, I must add a few things. I failed to mention fines or tickets. I believe, to make an impact, the Rangers must begin handing out more fines. Maybe take names, on first offense (depending on severity). Then, hand out tickets. Don't just warn to ban them from the park (many are visitors who never plan to return anyway). I know the Rangers want visitors to have a 'good experience.' But, the safety of the animals and they visitors must take priority. Have warnings printed up in advance (insert offense in blank), take names, and advise a fine will come next. Once word gets out that you will be FINED if you approach wildlife, I think it may become less frequent. Drones in the park MUST be a huge fine on the VERY FIRST offense! The article that just came out about the effect of drones on Grizzlies (possible heart attacks) means there must be NO TOLERANCE. Also, I just read about people getting video or photos of themselves in dangerous situations and then selling those. When we see people filming themselves approaching animals, those photos/videos must be destroyed. Is there a way to do that? Possibly tell the person they have a choice. Delete the images right there or face a very stiff fine. If people continue to profit from these stupid antics, this will put the animals at risk. Thanks for taking the time to ask for suggestions! Maybe, between all of us, we can find some viable solutions! I post things to Facebook so my friends from all over the world will understand how not to act when they visit a park.

     
  21. August 20, 2015 at 10:36
     

    First, I think people should be REQUIRED to carry bear spray on any trail. YNP has started the Bear Spray Rental program and I was told it will be expanded next year. I think the spray MUST be affordable! People won't spend $30+ to get the spray when they are only going on one hike. I understand education is necessary when someone carries bear spray. That is not easy. YNP's rental booth has people watch a short video before renting. Seems like a viable solution. As for keeping people away from animals, I know you cannot be everywhere. As a Glacier Citizen Scientist, I have been in the park a lot. When I see people crowding an animal, such as a sheet or goat, I ask them to give the animal space. People often don't listen and they do not take it well; but, I feel the animal getting anxious and feel I must say something (and I explain they can be injured seriously if they don't give the animal space). I am also a photographer and it drives me crazy when people try to get photos with cell phones/tablets. People see the signs, they hear the warnings. However, they think, if other people are getting close, it must be okay! (lady gored in YNP this season actually SAID that!). Is it time to start posting the photos of people being injured?? Will a visual of an 'attack' get through to visitors?? I know you Rangers walk a delicate balance between welcoming visitors to the park while trying to protect them and the wildlife. While those graphic photos may see like bad PR, it may be the only way visitors will understand they MUST NOT APPROACH WILDLIFE. Just a thought. I'm not sure how the parks are being promoted overseas. There are many Chinese, for example, who I've seen running out to photograph Grizzlies. When going to China (and elsewhere) to promote the Parks, I believe safety should absolutely be addressed. Not toned down. They must understand the seriousness. Their English may not be that great so, visuals may be the only way to convey the results of getting too close. I've worked with international students for over 30 years. They can say they did not understand the spoken word -- however, seeing it happen? ... They cannot say they did not understand that. Something to think about. A lot of the photographers/regular visitors have been giving this problem a lot of thought after losing three Grizzlies last week in YNP. Maybe getting photographers together for a discussion would provide more ideas and a viable solution to this problem that seems to be getting worse each year. It is crazy the things we've seen park visitors doing.

     
  22. August 20, 2015 at 05:42
     

    We just returned home from Glacier (August 2015). We had several small animals come close enough to eat from our hands so we knew people had been feeding them. I don't think there is a solution to this problem because some people think only of themselves but I think some well-placed signs that say something along the lines of, "Don't let animals become dependent on you. Don't feed them." might help. For the most part, I think people think they are doing these little animals a favor by feeding them. Of course, of greater concern are the bear, goats, etc. We ran across a family of four on the Sperry Trail. They had a four-year-old and a baby in a backpack. He said they were heading to Gunsight Pass (did I mention that the older kid was in pajamas?). I asked the man if he had bear spray. He didn't. We gave him a can of ours and explained that we had run in to a grizzly bear on this trail two days before. I guess he thought he was out for a "walk in the park" rather than a walk in the back-country of grizzly bear territory. If the guy in Yellowstone had had a can of bear spray, it MIGHT have saved his life and that of the bear's. I was heartbroken to read about that. The NPS should have signs posted throughout all parks to "donate your unused bear spray to ranger stations!" You could weigh it to ensure that it had not been used (just like those who rent the bear spray do). That's my rant. Unfortunately, I don't have any solutions for this major problem. Fines won't really help because rangers can't be everywhere at all times. Maybe they could enlist employees to help keep eyes open for offenders and report them immediately. Good luck with this. I hope someone has a solution for you!

     
  23. August 20, 2015 at 05:42
     

    We just returned home from Glacier (August 2015). We had several small animals come close enough to eat from our hands so we knew people had been feeding them. I don't think there is a solution to this problem because some people think only of themselves but I think some well-placed signs that say something along the lines of, "Don't let animals become dependent on you. Don't feed them." might help. For the most part, I think people think they are doing these little animals a favor by feeding them. Of course, of greater concern are the bear, goats, etc. We ran across a family of four on the Sperry Trail. They had a four-year-old and a baby in a backpack. He said they were heading to Gunsight Pass (did I mention that the older kid was in pajamas?). I asked the man if he had bear spray. He didn't. We gave him a can of ours and explained that we had run in to a grizzly bear on this trail two days before. I guess he thought he was out for a "walk in the park" rather than a walk in the back-country of grizzly bear territory. If the guy in Yellowstone had had a can of bear spray, it MIGHT have saved his life and that of the bear's. I was heartbroken to read about that. The NPS should have signs posted throughout all parks to "donate your unused bear spray to ranger stations!" You could weigh it to ensure that it had not been used (just like those who rent the bear spray do). That's my rant. Unfortunately, I don't have any solutions for this major problem. Fines won't really help because rangers can't be everywhere at all times. Maybe they could enlist employees to help keep eyes open for offenders and report them immediately. Good luck with this. I hope someone has a solution for you!

     
  24. August 20, 2015 at 12:38
     

    Maybe we should establish a fine for getting too close to wildlife. That might get their attention. It would be loosely enforced

     
  25. August 19, 2015 at 09:53
     

    We visited Grand Tetons, Yellowstone and the last 2 days, Glacier. Today was a horror show for me. We stopped just after the Logan Pass Visitor Centre to photograph the scenery and then noticed a bear coming down the hillside. Of course many people started stopping and photographing. A ranger quickly appeared, jumped over the wall and proceeded to approach the bear, who showed no signs of aggression. Once he was a few yards from it, he shouted which caused the bear to turn and start running. He then opened fire on it with what I presume (or hope) are rubber bullets ??, but at very close range I could see fur and what looked like blood flying off the animal. He fired again and again. The crowd were HORRIFIED ! I understand the need to scare the bear off but to potentially injure it ? Would that not create an even more aggressive bear ? I'm not surprised that they very quickly want to kill humans, like what happened in Yellowstone recently, after what I witnessed today. If we had to shoot every lion that came near a road at our National Parks in South Africa, it would be disasterous ! You either have parks for animals where humans can observe them from the safety of their vehicles as we do in Africa or you have fun parks for humans where they can hike and feel safe, but you can't have both. Where else, but in the National Parks can these animals be free ? But here, they are not. They are taught to fear and hate humans. I am devastated and disgusted.

     
  26. August 19, 2015 at 09:41
     

    My first thought was, I wish they would explain how to get a picture without getting closer. For example, if I ever saw a bear I would be really excited. I know they are dangerous and I wouldn't get closer, but I'd be super tempted to do something silly to get a picture. Also, a sign that said "you don't need to pet to enjoy". How to appreciate the animal without touching it. When I went on a dolphin swim they were careful to explain not to touch... but they said if you showed your belly it was a sign of affection and the dolphin might do it back. And the dolphin did! When I met my first sea turtle it scared me to death because it was so big and so close, but I did what the book said and moved away. When we both settled down it just drifted away and I was able to do what the book said and simply watch and enjoy it.

     
  27. August 19, 2015 at 09:40
     

    My first thought was, I wish they would explain how to get a picture without getting closer. For example, if I ever saw a bear I would be really excited. I know they are dangerous and I wouldn't get closer, but I'd be super tempted to do something silly to get a picture. Also, a sign that said "you don't need to pet to enjoy". How to appreciate the animal without touching it. When I went on a dolphin swim they were careful to explain not to touch... but they said if you showed your belly it was a sign of affection and the dolphin might do it back. And the dolphin did! When I met my first sea turtle it scared me to death because it was so big and so close, but I did what the book said and moved away. When we both settled down it just drifted away and I was able to do what the book said and simply watch and enjoy it.

     
  28. August 19, 2015 at 09:39
     

    My first thought was, I wish they would explain how to get a picture without getting closer. For example, if I ever saw a bear I would be really excited. I know they are dangerous and I wouldn't get closer, but I'd be super tempted to do something silly to get a picture. Also, a sign that said "you don't need to pet to enjoy". How to appreciate the animal without touching it. When I went on a dolphin swim they were careful to explain not to touch... but they said if you showed your belly it was a sign of affection and the dolphin might do it back. And the dolphin did! When I met my first sea turtle it scared me to death because it was so big and so close, but I did what the book said and moved away. When we both settled down it just drifted away and I was able to do what the book said and simply watch and enjoy it.

     
  29. August 19, 2015 at 09:39
     

    My first thought was, I wish they would explain how to get a picture without getting closer. For example, if I ever saw a bear I would be really excited. I know they are dangerous and I wouldn't get closer, but I'd be super tempted to do something silly to get a picture. Also, a sign that said "you don't need to pet to enjoy". How to appreciate the animal without touching it. When I went on a dolphin swim they were careful to explain not to touch... but they said if you showed your belly it was a sign of affection and the dolphin might do it back. And the dolphin did! When I met my first sea turtle it scared me to death because it was so big and so close, but I did what the book said and moved away. When we both settled down it just drifted away and I was able to do what the book said and simply watch and enjoy it.

     
  30. August 19, 2015 at 09:04
     

    I have to agree with others who hsve commented, that for some people, no number of warnings will make a difference. However, I do think that graphic photos or videos of animal attacks and/or survivor stories may make an impression on some. Charts or graphs showing the locations of, number and kind of animal encounters causing human injury and also showing the number of animals who have had to be killed due to an attack on a human may help. Reminders about animals carrying rabies, plague and other diseases never hurts. Photos or videos of euthanasia of wildlife probably goes a bit too far, but would certainly drive the point home that if you attempt to interact with wild animals, your actions may not only get you injured or killed, but will result in the death of the animal as well. Having bear spray for sale or rent at the visitor centers would also be helpful if you expect people to carry it on trails. Maybe staffing trails with rangers or volunteers where bears have been sighted to warn people and keep tabs on wildlife? Targeting safety programs to kids is also a good idea. They do often listen better than adults! A more novel idea would be to have life sized photo cutouts placed near visitor centers or trailheads with some sort of cute signs saying "Keep Wildlife Wild! Snag your photo next to this grizzly bear and capture the real bears only with your telephoto lens." (Something better-You get the idea). Perhaps that would satisfy people's photo lust to some degree. I think park rangers are doing the best they can with the resources thay have. I wish more people would listen, use common sense and follow park rules.

     
  31. August 19, 2015 at 08:12
     

    Unfortunately, in this day and age, I think the only way to get people to successfully change their behavior is through their pocketbook. Many individuals not used to being a PART of something bigger than themselves (wilderness, a.k.a. the wild animals HOME) may focus solely on themselves... the almighty "I" and, thus arrive wanting the best experience, the best photo, etc and take it to a dangerous level that they possibly don't comprehend in the moment, or truly don't believe exists. If rules are broken (unattended food/coolers left out, hiking off the designated trail, being in an area clearly closed off to protect wildlife or habitat, walking up to a wild animal for a closer look, for a selfie, and/or with hand outstretched to pet the critter, etc.) STIFF fines should be given and given at the first offense with no warning issue; AND be issued every single time! An unhappy or disgruntled visitor is much better than a wild animal killed due to human interaction, or a campground meaning "FOOD AVAILABLE, come one, come all" ... Being disgruntled is also much better than bring dead! I am opposed to closing sections of the parks because I believe there are valuable lessons available all over observing habitat, animal behaviors amongst wild animal from afar with binoculars, but perhaps park-wide closure after "an incident" would open people's eyes given the expenditure of their time and effort to get there... I don't know the answer, but am afraid that if we're not careful we will ALL lose if this major problem is not fixed and fixed soon! I know that I am tired of seeing posts on FB of people disrespecting the animals to get their almighty close up picture with the animal. Why can't online searches be done to identify the individuals with large fines imposed for their actions after the fact! Perhaps that process would have an impact to help reduce the behavior if the fines are large enough! I don't know if the "shaming" of these individuals posted makes any impact in their lives, I just know that I get angry every single time I see one. I think that refusing future entrance to people who have violated the rules (rules that are there to protect them as well as the area they are VISITING) would be very fair. I do believe that there will ALWAYS be conflicts... wild animals are just that, wild. But as visitors, we owe it to the animals to respect them in THEIR environment and look at their lives as much more valuable than a trivial picture or petting experience! R.E.S.P.E.C.T.

     
  32. August 19, 2015 at 06:57
     

    My husband and I first visited Glacier National Park in 2009 and we became smitten. Our son lives in East Glacier Park, and we have the uptmost respect for all who work for all the National Parks, whether paid or volunteer. If we learned anything; it is to obey the rules. We are independent hikers and we respect the parks for the beauty and all that they offer the visitors. Our son told us from our first hike in Glacier 2009-Grinnell Glacier-never leave your trail and respect all things-flowers, animals, and other hikers. We have had the opportunity to vist three other national parks this summer and another bucket list is for me to hit them all. 58 national parks in all-6 down and 52 to go and I hope I can make it. It upsets me when I see the rules being broken, but I move on and lead by example and don't reprimand; that's what our rangers are there for; and they are GREAT at what they do. They love their jobs. If I was 20+ years younger, I might go for it. I love the outdoors and all that our GREAT country has to offer. Happy 100th Birthday to the National Park Service next year and thank you to Theodore Roosevelt, who saw what our country had to offer to it's citizens for generations to come. I just hope and pray it is around for many more generations to come.

     
  33. August 19, 2015 at 06:57
     

    My wife and I recently completed at 52 week hiking tour of all 59 National parks and saw many of the same stupid actions pretty much everywhere. Even in Alaska parks where you must attend a "bear safety lecture" before hiking, you see people doing stupid things. We have a lot of stories about tourists trying to get a picture with a wild animal. I think the park service does a great job. BUT, this is Darwinism at work, you can't prevent stupid!

     
  34. August 19, 2015 at 06:57
     

    My wife and I recently completed at 52 week hiking tour of all 59 National parks and saw many of the same stupid actions pretty much everywhere. Even in Alaska parks where you must attend a "bear safety lecture" before hiking, you see people doing stupid things. We have a lot of stories about tourists trying to get a picture with a wild animal. I think the park service does a great job. BUT, this is Darwinism at work, you can't prevent stupid!

     
  35. August 19, 2015 at 05:32
     

    I'd love to be a "educational" volunteer in either YNP, GNP, GTNP, or RMNP. I would be more than happy to talk to people who are breaking the rules or endangering themselves and wildlife. Can't say I would do it with a smile, though. I would be the "Ranger from Hell."

     
  36. August 19, 2015 at 05:26
     

    I run a hiking website in another part of the country. About a million visitors each year. We have a section about animals and all the information they need to hike safely around them. If there is one thing I have learned, it is that when it comes to wild animals and people, everyone stayed in a Holiday Inn Express last night. You can break people out into a couple categories. (1) The paranoid hiker who thinks that the wild animals are out to get them; (2) The hikers who think that wild animals are like pets; (3) Hikers who are in love with a certain species; (4) Hikers who think they know the best way to handle wild animals, and your way is wrong; (5) Hikers who educate themselves and have few problems. I wish everyone was in category #5. But, it will never be that way. GNP does a pretty good job educating people. I think most of the problems that you encounter are in the high population areas, like Logan Pass. Having volunteer rangers (with NPS clothing) along the walkway to Hidden Lake to educate and helping manage people would be helpful. You could also put in TV screen on the shuttle buses that continuously run safety videos to help educate people. The safety videos could also be put in the hotels. But, it is important to remember that no matter what you do, someone is going to get too close. Or, be harmed or killed. Statistically, it is going to happen. Don't let their poor decision get you upset. Every hiker is responsible for themselves.

     
  37. Kim
    August 19, 2015 at 05:10
     

    In Yosemite as you are checking into your campsite or lodging, they run a video on loop that most people watch because you're standing in line waiting. The loop shows demolished cars caused by food or toiletries being left in cars...it shows other things. It makes quite an impression. Since our world is more in tune with media than human to human contact, I think it's a great way to educate everyone. You could set up a television in at the shuttle stops that plays a warning on a loop. However, you and I both know that people are idiots and we don't always get the message even when it's forced fed down our throats.

     
  38. August 19, 2015 at 04:18
     

    Rangers and other park staff do a great job. I always join ranger-led programs and hikes, and have never been disappointed. There is an abundance of information available, and it is not hard to find. Unfortunately, many people simply do not look at the information that is provided at entrance gates, posted at trail heads or visitor centers, posted on line, or even presented to them personally by a ranger. And, the number of visitors is huge! Like you Ranger Dawson, I am sometimes stunned that visitors do not seem to have absorbed basic common-sense information or even tried to inform themselves. I have seen and photographed people in Yellowstone, Glacier, Grand Canyon and other parks doing all of the things that you are advised not to do, including hiking without water or in flip flops, cutting across switchbacks, and approaching or feeding animals. People die all too frequently in National Parks and other public lands because of these sorts of incidents (not including wildlife encounters). I witnessed visitors simply ignore rangers at Logan Pass and on a guided hike to Iceberg Lake to gave them directives about safety and wildlife issues. Sometimes, visitors even coached their kids how to defy a rule, caution sign, or advice when the ranger was not looking, or told their kids to stand next to a canyon edge or an animal. This is simply arrogance, selfishness, disrespect, or some other act driven by emotions rather than logic. No amount of education, outreach, or probably even enforcement can fix it, because it is irrational. I once spoke sternly (I did not yell) to a giggling boy who had pushed his little sister (maybe ages 7 and 5 respectively) during horseplay off a boardwalk in a thermal area at Yellowstone. I grabbed the girl by the arm and pulled her back up on the walk. It was a reflex on my part, not something I thought about before I reacted. The parents, who were about 25 yards behind their running kids, actually yelled at me to mind my own business. I don't think volunteer enforcement would be possible, unless the volunteers are fully trained rangers in uniform, partly due to liability issues or difficulty of confrontations with angry people, but perhaps volunteer education would be helpful in some situations where visitors truly are open to learning something and may not know the most basic safety guidance. Perhaps information could be posted, distributed, or played through a speaker on Glacier shuttles or other tour vehicles. If it isn't already, maybe some kind of intense caution and a photo could be tweeted every day, though only followers would get it. I suspect there would be complaints about graphic images of injured visitors or rescues, but that may be necessary including for the Park newspaper, above the fold. I do not claim to be above stupidity myself, since I almost stepped into the road in front of a truck at Yellowstone while trying to photograph some bison in the distance. I was thinking about staying away from the animals, and almost had my head taken off by the truck's rear view mirror.

     
  39. August 19, 2015 at 04:05
     

    I'm sorry to say, there is no hope. We have the ice caves here close by. Several times, people have been killed going inside, and the thing partially collapses. Although they are signs everywhere, (some) humans are stupid creatures and ignore the signs, knowing full well people have died in the past. You just have to accept that some people do stupid stuff and will die in the process. In my view the real preventable problem comes afterwards, when we try to regulate everything down to the common lowest common denominator = close the ice caves trail, kill the bear, put up a fence... You cannot save (some) of us from ourselves. Just let it go and let the rest of us enjoy it in peace.

     
  40. August 19, 2015 at 03:51
     

    I have been to many National Parks, Glacier, Isle Royale, Grand Teton, Yellowstone, Zion, Rocky Mt., to name a few. In every park I have seen people do dumb things around the wild animals. Most people are used to zoos that keep their animals penned up and I guess seeing the animals walking around along side roads and trails, they must imagine that since there are not in cages they must not be dangerous, despite the warnings. Some of the comments made on the Yellowstone site regarding the man recently killed by a bear showed the naivete of some people regarding how a Park with wild animals should be managed. I don't think there is any way to educate these bleeding-heart types. The Park Rangers I have seen are excellent. They work long hours for little pay. The top management have studied for years before they are allowed to manage the parks and the wildlife. Please let them do their jobs, for without them we would not be able to see all of these majestic animals up close and personal. Each and every one of us has a responsibility to behave properly in our parks, follow the directions given upon entry and enjoy the experience. If you cause an incident with a wild animal you may be responsible for the need to remove that animal from the population. If you don't like what I'm saying, TAKE A HIKE!

     
  41. August 19, 2015 at 03:35
     

    It is sad the number of people today that have no common sense. I know enough to watch wild animals from a safe distance why doesn't everyone. I think we need to give a basic common sense test to every person entering a National Park!! I like the idea of having volunteers being authorized to monitor the activity of other visitors. They would need some basic authority but be there more as educators. Perhaps they carry some pictures of someone after a goring or animal attack. They say a picture is woth a thousand words. We are never going to be able to 100% educate and prevent all interaction. There are always those that simply need to pee on the electric fence!!!

     
  42. August 19, 2015 at 02:53
     

    A few bad apples are beginning to spoil the bunch for a large number of park visitors. The complaints posted here are similar to others I've read in other park-related places. It is becoming less and less enjoyable to go to the parks because some very simple rules aren't being followed or enforced. I think the idea of "deputizing" ordinary citizens is a fantastic idea. Give us a simple training class, an official id, and a ticket book -- perhaps even create a special shirt that we can buy to wear while we're hiking. Then when we see people cutting off switchbacks (Twin Sisters, RMNP) or harassing marmots (again, RMNP) or tossing plastic water bottles into an inaccessible wash (Badlands) or getting 10 feet away from a bull moose (Tetons), we can actually DO something. Rangers cannot be everywhere and there is no way that the NPS is going to get more money to hire more people, so enlist the visitors who want the parks to remain pristine places and don't want to see wild animals pay with their lives for human stupidity. Beyond that, no warnings. Tickets that are at least $500 and if they are not paid they are treated as traffic tickets (ie - you could lose your driver's license or get jail time). If they wish to fight it, let them go to court. I think in general the parks need to emphasize the dangers of ALL of the animals, not just the predators. I personally know people who would never dream of going near a bear but think nothing of letting their child pet a wild horse or feed a squirrel. Emphasize that the rodents carry disease (the plague signs at the Badlands seemed quite effective). Show how much damage a moose or a bison can do to a person. Another commenter made a good point -- the brochures should give a better idea of what a "safe" distance is from an animal. I honestly don't know what 100 feet really is, and when you factor in foreign visitors who may be on a different measuring system there is a lot of room for error. Install "bear boxes" in all campgrounds in all of the parks, even those that do not have bear activity. Make it an ironclad requirement that all food must be kept in the bear box and make sure that the campground hosts enforce that. I've been to campgrounds that do (had the host visit us literally 10 minutes after setting up to make sure we were putting the cooler in the bear box) and I've been to campgrounds where there was no monitoring at all. If food is found left out and the campsite is unattended, fine the campers and/or make them leave. If trash is found lying around, fine the campers or make them leave. This would help protect both wildlife and humans.

     
  43. August 19, 2015 at 02:47
     

    I visit Glacier every year. People who don't get to explore the outdoors other than on vacation just don't get it. These animals are wild. Showing graphic picutres of people having been bitten by ground squirrels and bear attacks could be on the park flyers that are given out when entering the park. We visited Zion this year and they had some graphic pictures. It makes you stop and think. I also like the idea of fines for trying to get too close to animals. Maybe at the entrance gates the rangers can ask the visitors," Do you realize that ALL the animals are wild and can harm you?" Then smile nicely and say HAve a good visit. :)

     
  44. August 19, 2015 at 02:31
     

    This is a difficult topic, we have been in several NP's, and visit Glacier multiple times a year, I think that the park service does almost all they can do to "educate" the public with what should be common sense, and I have seen first hand visitors being told by other visitors that they are breaking the rules. Unfortunately, short of the potential for language barriers, I think that most people who are too close to animals or acting inappropriately in the parks (or everywhere for that matter) are not doing so out of ignorance, but simply a disregard for the rules/recommendations. Fees may be an answer and in severe cases that are caught by authorities or with proof/evidence by anyone else, they should be assessed, the same as speeding vehicles are treated in and out of the parks. From my experiences in the park there can be a fine line with the animal interactions, some are obviously inappropriate (feeding animals, going off trail to follow an animal, chasing an animal and going out of the way to get closer etc), but other times these interactions can be accidental or unavoidable because of the terrain and animal behavior. I also think that more information/images about the encounters that go wrong, would cause some people to think twice about their actions. I recently read a document/spreadsheet on all the bear (grizzly, black, and polar) attacks both in the wild and in captivity in the US in recorded history, it detailed the location, the age/number/details of the bear(s) and people involved, what caused the interaction and what the outcome was. There were no pictures or graphic words, but even the simplest description of the interaction made it very "real". The only other suggestion I have is that people love the animals, that is why they get too close to take photos, attempt to pet them etc. Maybe focus more on the effect it has on the animal itself (forced to abandon it's home, fear, stress, separation from offspring, being killed because of it's perceived danger/habits caused by humans) maybe they will care about the animal more than themselves. In the end the warnings are there, and people have to take responsibility for their own actions. I think a person should be just as liable for causing an animal in the park to be put down for their bad choices as they would for the result of any other wreckless behavior anywhere else in the world.

     
  45. CC
    August 19, 2015 at 02:19
     

    I think it's important to note that the man killed in Yellowstone was an experienced back trails hiker. There is only so much that can be done especially when budgets are shrinking. Some things that might help: 1. Ask people if they have bear spray when they enter the park. Lines may be longer but it opens dialogue about safety with all wild animals. It might also help that bear spray and other safety items be prominently displayed in gift shops and train the seasonal employes on the safety lectures. 2. Have a sign in/out sheet for trails, especially longer ones that may take several hours. Hikers can then see how many people are on the trail and plan accordingly and rangers might be able to find people faster. 3. Have the danger signs in more languages. No, I don't want to blame all the trouble on foreigners but I have witnessed several stupid acts where people tried to warn others and it was obvious they didn't understand. 4. Make it easier to report incidents. I know the rangers like to keep track of many of the bigger animals and you are supposed to report sightings but it's hard to do when ranger stations are closed by the time you get to them and the cell service is limited. Two years ago when I was in Glacier my family was warned about two bear cubs just off the trail with no sign of the mother. Hikers were warning each other but I don't know if anyone ever found a ranger to determine if the trail should be closed. I just wish we had been told before we started the trail.

     
  46. August 19, 2015 at 02:18
     

    I agree with prior comments that possibly the only way to get folks to follow rules may be to show graphic photos of the damage caused by human-wildlife interactions. An example of a graphic and uncompromising campaign which has been highly successful with this method is the Montana Meth Project (www.montanameth.org/), whose campaigns have won many awards. The images are tough to look at, but that's the idea. People need a wake up call, as as another user mentioned, society today seems to relate well to the "reality TV" idea. All the other efforts the NPS is making sadly aren't being taken seriously, so it seems time to take drastic measures - for the safety and preservation of wildlife as well as safety of park visitors.

     
  47. August 19, 2015 at 02:00
     

    Hmmm....I've seen plenty of this unthinking type of behaviour in most of the parks I've been to. I don't know what the answer is. Immediate ejection from park if high-risk behaviours are noted? Graphic pictures of attacks posted everywhere? Signing a *short*, easy-read statement upon entry, agreeing to not feed or get close to wildlife? Really, it's amazing there are not more bad encounters. I've seen people standing around photographing a mother bear and cubs eating berries in Banff. Feeding the rodents in Grand Canyon. Following a bear around the campground in Waterton. One couple letting three large dogs run 100 meters ahead of them, off-leash, in Revelstoke, in an area and time of high bear activity. Leaving food out on tables. All these behaviours have very obvious signage saying NOT to do these things, as you mentioned. Ironically, in Glacier itself, we've never come across any of the crazy things, thank goodness! I expect, if there were enough park attendants available, and they were able to ensure offending parties were penalized for bad behaviour, eventually this type of thing would become a bit less common. Otherwise, a few years down the road, who's to say the parks will not feel forced to severely restrict access. And that would be a great tragedy.

     
  48. August 19, 2015 at 01:55
     

    People are just plain stupid and don't seem to care when encountering wild life. I've been a photographer for 20 years and have seen some of the craziest incidents with tourists like trying to touch an endangered monk seal sleeping on the beach or sitting on green sea turtles hauled up on the sand. Signs mean nothing to these people and the only way to get them to respect wildlife is to have an official park representative on site to physically stop these idiots. I photograph in GNP a lot and having Rangers on the trails and informative staff in the camp sites makes a big difference. All you can do is keep putting out the message, "Please respect the animal's space."

     
  49. August 19, 2015 at 01:45
     

    My suggestion: Make it illegal to 1) hike/jog by yourself; and 2) hike without bear spray in grizzly bear parks. Then enforce the rule by writing tickets and letting people know it is a federal offense. How much did it cost (dollar wise) to track down the bear that killed in YNP (not to mention the emotional impact)? Make that the fine. I know everyone should have the right to be by themselves, until that right infringes upon others' rights (like our right to see that bear - who was not an aggressive bear until this one time) - including animals. If you choose to hike in a grizzly bear park such as GNP or YNP, then you have to abide by that rule. Having worked in YNP I know that people think they will always get off with warnings from the rangers. I believe the rangers have to start getting tough and enforcing the rules. Humans have a belief that "it will never happen to me," it is impossible to get people with no common sense to respect the animals and their buffer zone. When they have to pay $$ out of their own pockets they start to learn. You can't "educate" stupid! Another pet peeve in the park is people speeding. My idea is to paint an outline of the animal killed (even humans) on the road where an animal is killed. Perhaps then they will learn how many animals (and humans) are killed by cars and slow down.

     
  50. August 19, 2015 at 01:44
     

    My suggestion: Make it illegal to 1) hike/jog by yourself; and 2) hike without bear spray in grizzly bear parks. Then enforce the rule by writing tickets and letting people know it is a federal offense. How much did it cost (dollar wise) to track down the bear that killed in YNP (not to mention the emotional impact)? Make that the fine. I know everyone should have the right to be by themselves, until that right infringes upon others' rights (like our right to see that bear - who was not an aggressive bear until this one time) - including animals. If you choose to hike in a grizzly bear park such as GNP or YNP, then you have to abide by that rule. Having worked in YNP I know that people think they will always get off with warnings from the rangers. I believe the rangers have to start getting tough and enforcing the rules. Humans have a belief that "it will never happen to me," it is impossible to get people with no common sense to respect the animals and their buffer zone. When they have to pay $$ out of their own pockets they start to learn. You can't "educate" stupid! Another pet peeve in the park is people speeding. My idea is to paint an outline of the animal killed (even humans) on the road where an animal is killed. Perhaps then they will learn how many animals (and humans) are killed by cars and slow down.

     
  51. Lea
    August 19, 2015 at 01:36
     

    Encourage visitors to take pictures of people who break rules or endanger wildlife. Then have a centrally located bulletin board or Facebook page where people can be publicly shamed for their idiocy. People who approach wildlife or otherwise violate park guidelines do so in part because they think they can get away with it (in addition to not fully understanding the consequences). Maybe if they see people commenting on how dumb they are they'll think twice next time. Unfortunately, I know this is not a realistic suggestion as if the park sanctioned this idea they'd probably get sued for taking people's picture without permission. But sadly, as other commenters have said, I don't have any good ideas. There is such a tenuous balance between allowing people to experience the beauty of the parks while still keeping our wildlife wild. It saddens me greatly because part of me says the more people we get outside and into the parks the better, but it really doesn't seem that way. I would say having every visitor watch a short film and/or lecture by a ranger on safety in the park similar to when backcountry permits are issued, but with how many visitors the parks are getting I doubt that's feasible. I wish you guys all the best. You have one of the best but most difficult jobs around, and every ranger and park worker I've ever met has been genuinely kind and dedicated to their job. Keep up the good work!

     
  52. August 19, 2015 at 01:31
     

    Ranger Dawson, I like Nick's idea of additional VIP staffing in the parks. There is no good substitute for human presence. I just retired after a 42-year career as a high school science teacher. I can attest to the fact that people don't read, they believe that rules are for others, and more and more they feel entitled. My wife and I recently returned home from Glacier and we witnessed plenty of ignorant, stupid, and willfully illegal behavior. It is very challenging, as merely a visitor, to attempt to intervene in such situations. My style has always been to approach people calmly and with questions, as was my educational methodology. Now that if often met with disdain, anger, or aggression. Perhaps someone wearing an official shirt or hat would be more accepted. As much of the park is without cell phone coverage, maybe having emergency 'phones' at popular pull-outs along the GTS road would enable quicker reporting of situations. After the experience of this summer, my wife and I will plan future visits outside of the heavy tourist season--something I can do now as I am retired. But that does not solve your problem.

     
  53. August 19, 2015 at 01:30
     

    Ranger Dawson, I like Nick's idea of additional VIP staffing in the parks. There is no good substitute for human presence. I just retired after a 42-year career as a high school science teacher. I can attest to the fact that people don't read, they believe that rules are for others, and more and more they feel entitled. My wife and I recently returned home from Glacier and we witnessed plenty of ignorant, stupid, and willfully illegal behavior. It is very challenging, as merely a visitor, to attempt to intervene in such situations. My style has always been to approach people calmly and with questions, as was my educational methodology. Now that if often met with disdain, anger, or aggression. Perhaps someone wearing an official shirt or hat would be more accepted. As much of the park is without cell phone coverage, maybe having emergency 'phones' at popular pull-outs along the GTS road would enable quicker reporting of situations. After the experience of this summer, my wife and I will plan future visits outside of the heavy tourist season--something I can do now as I am retired. But that does not solve your problem.

     
  54. August 19, 2015 at 01:25
     

    I'm sure many wouldn't approve of my suggestion but it might actually "get through" to people ignorant of what "Wild" in Wild Animals means. Post pictures, graphic pictures, of the consequences of getting too close to wild animals. A visual "smack in the head" for people that don't regularly encounter and understand what wild animals are capable of, this might wake them up. Wild animals can be cute, adorable, majestic and photogenic. When they are portrayed this way, I think some people think that is their nature, while ignoring the verbal warning of potential danger in getting too close. Their ignorance to the potential dangerous side of wildlife needs to be overcome. Maybe brutal honestly will work.

     
  55. August 19, 2015 at 01:23
     

    Ranger Dawson I returned from a Glacier trip with a buddy not too long ago and was truly appalled at some of the behavior in the park. I spoke to two people about getting too close to bears, one about feeding a ground squirrel and another on the boardwalk going up to Logan Pass about being of the path. None of these interactions were well received by the people or person I was talking to. I know it's impossible for rangers to be everywhere at once, nor should they have to be to enforce the laws and regulations of the park. There are signs and pamphlets everywhere telling visitors what they can and cannot do. However, as you point out there are still people completely oblivious to what the rules are. That being said there are people all around the park who feel the need to take care of it so others can enjoy. I was one of those people who decided to voice my displeasure with someone who was not following the rules. However for every person who does there are probably another ten who see what's happening, know it's wrong but don't say anything. I believe it is the lack of repercussions that results in people not following the rules. One of the ways in which you could expand the reach of park ranger enforcement is to let ordinary citizens become ambassadors/deputies. There of course would have to be a class or two in order to figure out who just wants the power trip and who wants to actual effect some change in the park system. How enforcement would work, I do not know. But I bet if people knew that there was a way for them to get in trouble/ be fined/ have their pass revoked they would have changed their behavior when I spoke with them about what they were doing. Another less tactful change that could be made is to display photos of what happens to humans when there are encounters with animals. Similar in the way in which there is packing for cigarettes that shows the affects of smoking and cancer. Also, I would say that I think it would be a good move to start tracking where people are from when a ranger enforces some type of rule violation. Are they mostly foreigners? Are they people from the city? Are they from Florida? Are they locals? If there is one group of people who are consistently breaking rules in the park it might be worth giving them extra information that is more explicit about the rules and consequences of breaking them. Lastly, how are rules enforced now? I think that you could increase the penalty for breaking those rules and let people know that there is a very low tolerance for breaking them. Fines? Passes revoked? Bans? I know parks are here for people to enjoy them and you want visitors to not have to worry about being fined but it really is not that difficult to follow simple rules that are explicitly outlined in many places throughout the park.

     
  56. August 19, 2015 at 01:17
     

    Being an avid GNP visitor averaging multiple visits a year I’m not sure what would be the most effective way to improve human and wildlife interactions. I do find it amazing that vintage photos, PBS documentary’s and so forth continue to show people feeding bears in YNP and GNP. People watch and view photos from the past and it gives them an idea interactions are “really not so bad”. I know there is nothing that can be done about GNP & YNP photos of the early years so maybe a new approach to visitors would be some photos of people that had a “not so good” interaction with wildlife and let that visual picture be recorded in their brain. I know there would be the issue of being too graphic especially for children but there seems that a happy medium could be reached. I have not viewed all the info that GNP hands out so I don’t know what is already out there. On August 28th 5 or 6 years ago my wife and I had an encounter with a sow grizzly and her two sub-adult cubs on the trail about midway on Lake Josephine. One of the bears came within 12 feet of us. For the life of me I do not know why anyone would want to be that close on purpose. The photos should also include bad interactions with sheep, goats and 80lb cute whitetail deer. Another idea, find a encounter survivor and let them share their story at the outdoor theaters you have at the campgrounds. Or at least a video that could be played at the visitor centers. (Maybe you already do that) Bottom line you do what you can to improve on educating visitors but free agency is given at birth in this country and people will still do as they please. Good Luck

     
  57. August 19, 2015 at 01:17
     

    Here's my pet peeve...all the brochures warn that you should stay back a certain distance from wildlife. But how far away is 75 feet? 300 feet? Four full-size cars bumper to bumper? The length of one of your tour boats? Three of the red buses? A city block? Some sort of visual comparison would be helpful.

     
  58. August 19, 2015 at 01:17
     

    We are so blessed in this great country to be able to visit and see so much of the wild beauty contained within our borders. It is each person's responsibility to be good stewards of these parks but some do not see it that way. My husband and I have visited quite a few national parks in our travels and have see time and time again how people disrespect nature, the rules and regulations and the wildlife. We were in Yellowstone several years ago near Mammoth and there was a large harem of elk cows and a huge bull. There were two Park Rangers outside the headquarters building and they were continually warning people to get away from the animals. We couldn't believe how stupid people were, walking up to these elk, with their kids in tow, trying to get pictures! My ideas would probably put undue financial burden on the park system and rangers, but there needs to be some kind of punishment for those who blatantly disobey park regulations. Making it mandatory for visitors to watch actual videos or pictures of attacks or the injuries incurred by acting stupidly may help but there are those who think those things don't apply to them, hence fines or some other punishment is needed, along with banishment from all parks. Those are huge programs to enact and enforce and I fear the rest of the public will be required to pay for the actions of the few again.

     
  59. August 19, 2015 at 01:08
     

    Fines. Every single time. No warnings.

     
  60. August 19, 2015 at 01:00
     

    unfortunately we may need to put all the tourists on buses and not let them off while they view the parks from the windows. The Wild Animal Park in San Diego has everyone on a train and there is no possible interaction. I can't explain the loss of common sense in people today but it has to be addressed for the sake of all. I also want the Park Service to stop saying the animal was ' euthanized'. Say instead it was 'executed' because that is more accurate a term for why they were killed . The previous comments are all accurate . It is a societal change that is not for the better. no sense of personal responsibility.

     
  61. August 19, 2015 at 12:57
     

    Here are a few: 1) Start writing tickets on the first offense, no warnings. As you noted, there are plenty of places where the guidelines are provided. If someone is caught purposefully getting too close to wildlife, give them a ticket. 2) Tell visitors to "say something" to the violater if they see an unsafe act. Not everyone will speak out when they see someone getting to close to a mountain goat or a grizzly, but some people will and this could help. Rangers can't be everywhere and visitors should be expected to police one another, at least a little bit. Same goes if you see someone littering along the trail. 3) Put the yearly statistics in front of people. Maybe something as easy as a marker board in the visitor center showing the number of encounters/deaths with bears/bison (for Yellowstone). 4) Tell the kids...... Sometimes they pay more attention than the adults. 5) Accept the fact that the number of close encounters will continue to go up as long as entrance numbers go up. You're always going to have a certain percentage of visitors who think it's a petting zoo no matter what you try.

     
  62. August 19, 2015 at 12:56
     

    After a trip out to Glacier this summer with a buddy, we were incredibly frustrated by how many instances of poor choices we saw in a short time when it came to wildlife. We got to the point where we couldn't keep our mouths shut and tried to educate people about the choices that could ultimately lead to that animal's death, but it often fell on deaf ears. Some even asked if we were rangers, and then disregarded when we said no. The problem is that the park service had a limited staff and people don't read. We talked about this and I'm glad it's a concern to the park service. We thought maybe an idea could be to seek and interview people to be something like a "Park Ambassador." These could be people who visit parks occasionally and are not permanent to a certain area, but are wise enough to speak up in a situation that could compromise nature. And they happen to be around. Interviews would be necessary to keep it to reasonable, qualified people (read: avoid power trips). Some sort of identification/shirt/hat could perhaps provide park visitors with the credentials to believe the ambassadors. There are plenty of good people who want to help and would do it for nothing but to see the animals flourish. I'd be more than glad to discuss this idea further if you have interest. Thanks for all that you do, Nick Wetzel Nicholas.Wetzel@gmail.com

     
  63. August 19, 2015 at 12:56
     

    People just don't get it! Short of "showing" examples of the consequences as a result of poor decisions, I don't have an answer. I'm baffled by folks who risk their wellbeing as well as their children's on a daily basis. You can't MAKE people respect nature; as an example while at Yellowstone in July I witnessed a grandmother allowing her 2 grandchildren to pull down and swing on a young tree along a hiking path. When another hiker told her it wasn't a good idea and to preserve the tree for others, her reply was that it was people like him that ruin the park experience for her and her family! How do you deal with such ignorance, short of physical altercation?????? I'm sorry I don't have any ideas to share!

     
  64. August 19, 2015 at 12:42
     

    I think the Park Service has done a very good job of educating the public of the potential dangers. The problem isn't strictly limited to our parks, littering and lack of respect for nature seems universally rampant. The previous post from Sue, has some good ideas. An entrance video showing explicitly the real dangers of breaking the rules regarding animal/human interactions and the legal ramifications of defacing, littering, etc. might help some - at least the ones who care. Unfortunately, like the saying goes, "You can't fix stupid" and there will always be some of those out there.

     
  65. August 19, 2015 at 12:39
     

    I think that people are much too willing to forgo their own safety for the personal gratification of a close up with wildlife. Maybe pictures of injuries (graphic pictures) that happened to others would help get the point across. Or pictures of " harmless" wildlife animals being not so harmless... I also think fines for breaking the rules would be a deterrent.

     
  66. August 19, 2015 at 12:36
     

    People seem to relate to "reality" TV a lot so maybe the pamphlets need to be updated to include gruesome photos and testimonials by people who made bad choice encounters with wildlife and lived to tell about it.

     
  67. August 19, 2015 at 12:15
     

    I've thought about this issue for a while now. It's very frustrating to watch people disrespecting wildlife and endangering themselves and the wildlife (who always seems to pay with their lives) for a quick picture and 3 seconds of instant gratification. Not only do I witness bad wildlife interactions, I've witnessed people changing baby diapers on picnic benches and tossing them in the woods, etc. I always report these incidents, try to get license plates, and will try to educate if it doesn't look like I will risk my life to do so. This makes me not want to visit the parks I love and cherish, so I occasionally visit only during off-peak times and only in the more isolated areas. The only idea I've come up with is having people take an entrance exam after watching a video that covers wildlife interactions, littering, defacing/carving trees/rocks, taking things/animals, why you need to respect the speed limits, not let your kids wander off cliffs, etc. I know, not practical. But, I feel that if people really wanted to go to the parks, they should be willing to watch a couple videos and answer some questions. Granted, they will unfortunately lie and still throw trash out the window. But at that point, if somebody could get it on video and turn them in, I'd be ok with huge fines, mandatory litter patrol, and jail time. And if the offense was serious enough, life time ban from all national parks. I hope you get some good ideas, /sue

     
 
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Last updated: August 18, 2015

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