Researcher Safety


Yellowstone research permits may sometimes allow researchers to conduct their work in places that are off limits to or not often used by other visitors. Important safety information follows.

Safety First: Personal safety and preservation of park resources must take priority over your research project. Never work alone in the backcountry and do not take chances. Remember, in remote areas such as Yellowstone, a small mishap can potentially lead to serious consequences.

  • Yellowstone is a wilderness filled with natural wonders that are also potential hazards. There is no guarantee of your safety.

Notify the correct local Ranger several days in advance of your fieldwork. Rangers are the first to respond if you are in any trouble. They will be able to react more efficiently if they are well informed about your research plans. The presence of an unknown vehicle at a trailhead for many consecutive days is cause for concern to Rangers; please always place your dashboard display card in you car window when you leave your car parked at trailheads.

Wildlife and You: Encounters with bears in Yellowstone have resulted in injury or death to both people and bears. You must follow the Bear Management Area guidelines. Yellowstone recommends that you carry bear spray at all times in the backcountry, travel in groups of at least four, and make noise to warn bear of your presence. Other dangerous wildlife include bison, moose, and elk, all of which may aggressively protect themselves or their young if you get too close. A minimum of 100 yards must be maintained from bears (a minimum of 25 yards for other wildlife). If you cause an animal to change its behavior, no matter how far away you are, you are in violation of park regulations.

Hypothermia: This condition is a leading safety hazard often brought about by chilly or cold wet conditions. It results in the loss of coherence, shivering, loss of judgment, and unconsciousness. Stay dry to stay warm. Be prepared for the worst weather conditions. Hypothermia can strike during any time of the year in Yellowstone.

Avalanches kill people in the mountains every year. Even a small snowslide could prove deadly if you are knocked unconscious. People have died when buried under less than a foot of snow. A companion could save your life- never work alone. If you are working during the winter, an avalanche safety course is recommended.

Geothermal burns: Thermal pools are as deadly as they are beautiful. At least 18 people have died from falling into hot water in Yellowstone. Thin crust areas, especially in acid sulfate areas that are subject to erosion and collapse, are especially hazardous.

Driving Conditions: Driving conditions in Yellowstone can be extremely variable. Wildlife in roadways, changing weather conditions, and visitors who are not paying close attention to their driving are common hazards. “Animal jams” commonly lead to delays in travel of up to 30 minutes or more. Please remember to be patient and drive defensively.

Last updated: June 15, 2016

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PO Box 168
Yellowstone National Park, WY 82190-0168



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