You guys, I don’t love writing about sad things on this blog. And I hate telling you about sad things, especially when they happen in the place that I love and adore: the West. But the fact of the matter is this: it’s only mid-June and we’ve already had several negative wildlife encounters and an unfortunate, heart-breaking experience in Montana and Yellowstone National Park.
To date this year, we’ve had visitors approach wildlife and get way too close (examples include selfies with bison, a tourist picking up a baby bison and placing it in his car and a woman being charged and hit by an elk) as they invaded the animal’s space. In addition, Yellowstone National Park had a group of adventure travelers walk off the boardwalk (and film it, for pete’s sake) and most recently, a visitor tragically lost his life when he went off the boardwalk and fell into one of the boiling geysers.
Meanwhile, in my neck of the woods, I was in Glacier National Park earlier this month sitting at The Loop eating lunch when a black bear meandered across the Going-to-the-Sun Road. He was a nice bear who literally paid the 10 of us no mind as he crossed the road, even when a lady started running after him. Yep, you read that right. We were all sitting there marveling at the chance to see a wild bear in Glacier National Park and she ran after him to take a photo. This, my friends, is one of my worst nightmares and we actually had to say these words, “Ma’am, don’t chase the bear. Ma’am! Don’t chase him.” Honestly, I never thought I’d have to tell someone to not chase a WILD ANIMAL in the WILD.
All of these stories are not meant to cast shame or embarrass anyone; instead they’re meant to educate.
Perhaps the worst part about the examples listed above is that they could be have been avoided by following the rules and regulations that are in place to not only protect us as visitors to these special places, but to protect wildlife, their habitat and the ecosystem in which we all live.
The fact of the matter is that the West is still wild. One of the best things about visiting the wild places that still exist in Montana and Wyoming is that we’re able to experience raw, true, genuine nature. To do that, it’s important that we follow the rules, guidelines and regulations that are put in place to help everyone have a wonderful time in Montana, Glacier National Park and Yellowstone National Park.
Here are some rules to remember when visiting the West…
Stay on designated trails, pathways and boardwalks. Always.
View wildlife from your car or from a safe distance. For bears, you should stay at least 100 yards (the length of a football field) away, while you should stay at least 25 yards away from other large animals, including bison, elk, bighorn sheep, deer, moose and coyotes.
Do not approach wildlife. Even for a selfie. Truth time: Yellowstone and Glacier are not zoos. The animals who live here are wild and there are no barriers between you and them. Never, under any circumstances, approach wildlife. Also, don’t touch or pet them. Ever. Deal?
Let wildlife know you’re nearby. When hiking, be sure to hike in a group, carry bear spray, stay on designated trails and make noise at regular intervals. This messy-haired girl likes to sing (you’re welcome bears and humans) and say “hey bear” loudly at regular intervals or clap my hands as I walk along. PS: Do us all a favor and don’t rely on bear bells as your noisemaker. Most of them are not loud enough.
Wishing you all safe travels this summer,
June 22, 2016