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Contact: Jackie Skaggs, 307.739.3393
July 27, 2011
Grand Teton National Park Superintendent Mary Gibson Scott today authorized a clarification of the 2011 Superintendent's Compendium to more clearly describe regulations for safe wildlife viewing and allowable distances between visitors and wildlife. The clarification was prompted by the increased size and complexity of "wildlife jams" associated with the presence of grizzly bears near park roadways.
A long-standing provision of the compendium required that visitors keep a specified distance from wildlife. This historic provision was based upon determinations by previous superintendents that such limitations were necessary for the protection of wildlife and the safety of visitors. The allowable distance between visitors and wildlife has been defined as 100 yards from bears and wolves, and 25 yards from other animals, including nesting birds. The current compendium maintains those distances, but provides improved clarity to the rule by eliminating language that was ambiguous or unclear. The compendium now states, "The following activities are prohibited:
a) Willfully approaching, remaining, viewing, or engaging in any activity within 100 yards of bears or wolves, or within 25 yards of any other wildlife including nesting birds; or within any distance that disturbs, displaces or otherwise interferes with the free unimpeded movement of wildlife, or creates or contributes to a potentially hazardous condition or situation.
b) Failure to remove one's self to prescribed distances during inadvertent, accidental, casual or surprise encounters with wildlife.
c) Failure to comply as directed by NPS staff (employees, volunteers, or agents) engaged in administering wildlife management operations or managing wildlife viewing opportunities."
The appearance this year of grizzly bears #399 and #610 and their collective five cubs creates unprecedented opportunities for park visitors to view superb wildlife; these opportunities also increase appreciation for animals and national park values. At the same time, the tremendous interest in viewing these bears and other wildlife has resulted in large wildlife jams and caused situations where the well being of both visitors and animals may be in jeopardy. Wildlife viewing opportunities-and wildlife jams in particular-can be very fluid situations due to the unpredictable behavior and movement of animals, the ebb and flow of traffic, and other factors. After a bear charged two different vehicles on two separate occasions while people stood on their car roof, park managers recognized the need to more strictly enforce the established regulations for wildlife viewing to better secure the protection of animals and ensure visitor safety.
While Grand Teton provides remarkable opportunities for visitors to experience and enjoy wildlife and other resources, park managers must also establish conditions that allow sufficient and appropriate space in which individual animals can move unencumbered as they search for food and other critical needs.