Last updated: August 18, 2015
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.
"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