National Park Service: The First 75 Years
Biographical Vignettes

Harry Yount

                                          by Timothy Manns

Harry Yount

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.

From National Park Service: The First 75 Years


Last Modified: March 27 2017 04:00:00 pm EDT

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