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.

Always give bears plenty of room and never approach. Photos: GlacierNPS Flickr (Tim Rains)
Always give bears plenty of room and never approach. Photos: GlacierNPS Flickr (Tim Rains)

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.

Boadwalks are put in place to give us safe access to viewing geysers, hot springs and rushing waterways.
Boadwalks are put in place to give us safe access to viewing geysers, hot springs and rushing waterways. Photo: YellowstoneNP Flickr

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.

This visitor is WAY TOO CLOSE to the bears. Photo: YNP Flickr
This visitor is WAY TOO CLOSE to the bears. Photo: Yellowstone NPS Flickr

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.

For more information, you can read more safe wildlife viewing tips here and here.

Wishing you all safe travels this summer,

June 22, 2016

Related: Montana, Wildlife


Where are peoples brains and sadly it is usually the animals that suffer?
Lynn, it is sad and unfortunate when these negative encounters occur.
Mike Sims
Thank you for writing this blog. I find it appalling the number of folks who just do not get that all the animals in the wild are just that, Wild animals. Thank you for all you do!
Lisa Kiser
Love to visit Montana, it looks breathtaking!!
Ardyth Neville Welch
Bear bells in Montana, are called "Dinner Bells " by the bear.
I once forgot my noise makers so resorted to singing Justin Bieber songs on a trail. Sorry not sorry fellow hikers. Hooray for fellow wildlife-announcement-singers :)
Heading to Montana and Wyoming in a couple weeks. Love seeing all these tips but have found most of it is common sense which seems to be lacking in today's world...Can't wait to see the beauty of it all...
Teresa Carr
I've been following all the incidents you mentioned but also everything that happened last year in Yellowstone. Carry Bear Spray and stay on designated trails. I can only surmise the name "PARK" gives people this warm fuzzy feeling, like it's a controlled area like a zoo. 2016 is starting the season unfortunately with alot of sad incidents in place es we love.
barbara carpenter
Never turn your back on elk or moo see. That's when they will charge. Saw it at Mammoth
Jacki Clancy
We will be in our beautiful home state next week and cannot WAIT to be back. Be travelling with 2 grandgirls who will be taught by example how to respect the bear and other wildlife in THEIR environment.
Janet, I hope you have a great trip!
In my opinion, bear bells are just not loud enough to scare anything away.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *