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Bear Watching Mayhem In Yellowstone and Grand Teton National Parks


Judging from this photo (yes, that's a grizzly), and the accompanying video, is it any wonder there are bear-human conflicts in the national parks?

Editor's note: Bears in Yellowstone and Grand Teton national parks have been in the news a bit this summer, both because of their behavior and the behavior of tourists watching the bears. The following column, which Todd Wilkinson posted on his Wildlife Art Journal site the other day, will have you scratching your head over how there haven't been more bear-human incidents this summer.

There has been a debate raging this summer in the northern Rockies over restrictions placed on how people should be allowed to observe wildlife in national parks.  Given the enormous popularity of two mother grizzly bears and cubs in Grand Teton National Park—and huge crowds gathered along the roadside—stipulations were put in place that require people to stay at least 100 yards away from bruins at all times.

What it means is that if a bear indicates that it wishes to approach the roadside or cross to the other side, people need to move.  This has caused a backlash from professional wildlife photographers.

While the vast, vast majority of park visitors are well behaved, there are always defiant individuals who venture too close, throw food to wildlife or simply behave cluelessly.

Fortunately, grizzlies exhibit a high level of tolerance.  In this video, passed along by Yellowstone officials, one doesn't need an active imagination to recognize what could go wrong were a bruin to suddenly act aggressively.  NOTE:  After you watch this video, click on the corresponding 24-second footage titled "man photographing grizzly bear mother and two cubs."  The level of  stupidity will take your breath away.

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This is not an uncommon event in Yellowstone.  It just shows how stupid some people can be.

It happens all the time, see my photo of a similar situation with a black bear (also taken in Yellowstone):
Absolutely terrifying!

We travel to Yellowstone aproximently every other year since 1988.  People interfering with bear and other wildlife normal activity has been on the rise.  Many tourists especially those from Europe believe that this is one big petting  zoo and that nothing will hurt them.  Note early this year when aproximently 30 tourists walked right up to Old Faithful's cone and took pictures (only the bus driver and tour guide received a fine) . It was very scarey for those few of us watching the live feed.  I don't know what can be done to convince fools to follow the rules.  Possibly inforcing the fines already on the books would help, but that costs money and man power.  In the current economy the additional funds are not available.

Knowing how in an instant primal behavior exhibits itself, the learning curve for many looking to touch the wild things and something extremely real is both transformational and in some cases, deadly.  I don't begrudge the effort and especially the breakthroughs (If you survive) but people starting out with the distortions of the Bambi or dot com culture have a bit farther way to go.  I love to see the breakthroughs while dropping a respectful word here and there to help them get an idea  of what it is to be "natural!" :):):)  

I've been to Yellowstone and other National Parks and have
seen humans acting stupidly.  I’ve seen
people in Bryce Canyon standing on a less than 1’ wide rock pinnacle several
100 feet above a canyon to get a picture, an individual heading down the Bright
Angel Trail in the Grand Canyon from the rim at sunset during a ice/storm, and in
Yellowstone several people not obeying Park Rangers to head back to the road
during a dangerous situation with a bear to where the Rangers had their guns
drawn the people still would not listen.

Photographers have telephoto lenses.  They can get photos just fine. Rangers should
have restrictions or people are going to get hurt cause their own stupidity.

I have also witnessed stupid people doing stupid things in Yellowstone - a woman approaching a bull elk with camera drawn, followed by two other stupid people.  This was in the rutting season.  Another incident involved a woman jumping out of her car, approaching a herd of bison with calves, and as a calve approached this woman, so did the herd.  Unbelievable people that think National Parks are nothing more than a big Zoo, and animals are friendly.

The absolute worst tourist striving for a Darwin Award that I have seen at Yellowstone was 2 foreign speaking tourists that wanted to take photos with the pet buffolo outside of Lake Lodge. It was a good thing that the buff was in an exceptionally good mood because they went right up and scratched it behind the ears.  Don't know which gods were on their side that day.  They sure ignored the lodge manager telling them to get away.

 My feelings are expressed in all the comments. What is the fine for molesting the animals?

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