Wildlife Safety & Protection

Keeping the "Wild" in Wildlife
Unpredictable Wildlife—Keep Your Distance
Hiking & Camping in Bear Country

Keeping the Wild in Wildlife:
Animals in Yellowstone are wild; they are not like animals in zoos or on ranches and farms. Respect their need for undisturbed space, and you will be rewarded by seeing more of their natural activities and discovering how they live in the wild. You’ll also expand your opportunities and have a safer, more rewarding visit.

When an animal is disturbed:

  • It may move from a good feeding area to a less desirable area, thereby losing vital nourishment.
  • Its heart rate increases due to stress, costing the animal vital energy.
  • Through time and large numbers of human contacts, it becomes habituated to humans and is less likely to run from a potential poacher.
  • It may become annoyed and charge the photographer, sometimes causing serious injury

Minimize your impact:

  • Consider your impact before you approach.
  • Use an appropriate telephoto lens to take photos of an animal acting naturally in its own environment.
  • Do not approach animals closely. In Yellowstone, you are required to stay 100 yards (91 m) from a bear and 25 yards (23 m) from all other animals-including the ?friendly? elk around Mammoth Hot Springs.
  • Pull off the road and use your vehicle as a photo blind.
  • Do not bait animals or tempt them with handouts, It’s against the law and harms the animals.

Back to Top

Unpredictable Wildlife—Keep Your Distance:
You will see more of an animal’s natural behavior and activity if you are sensitive to its need for space. Do not approach any wildlife, especially those with young. View them from the safety of your vehicle. If an animal reacts to your presence, you are too close.

Each year a number of park visitors are injured by wildlife when they approach animals too closely. You must stay at least 100 yards (91 m) away from bears and at least 25 yards (23 m) away from all other large animals—bison, elk, bighorn sheep, deer, moose, wolves, and coyotes.

Bison may appear tame and slow but they are unpredictable and dangerous. They weigh up to 2,000 pounds (900 kg) and sprint at 30 miles per hour (48 kph)—three times faster than you can run! Every year visitors are gored, and some have been killed.

Coyotes quickly learn bad habits like roadside begging. This may lead to aggressive behavior toward humans.

Bears—be alert for tracks and sign. The best way to avoid being injured by a bear is to take all necessary precautions to avoid surprise encounters.

If precautionary measures fail and you are charged by a bear, you can usually defuse the situation. Pepper spray is a good last line of defense, it has been effective in more than 90% of the reported cases where it has been used. Become familiar with your pepper spray, read all instructions, and know its limitations. Pepper spray must be instantly available, not in your pack. Remember, carrying pepper spray is not a substitute for vigilance and good safety precautions.

If you are injured by a bear (regardless of how minor), or if you observe a bear or bear sign, report it to a park ranger as soon as possible. Someone’s safety may depend on it.

Back to Top

Hiking & Camping in Bear Country:
Although the risk of an encounter with a bear is low, there are no guarantees of your safety. Minimize your risks by following the guidelines below.

A Fed Bear is a Dead Bear
Do not leave packs containing food unattended, even for a few minutes. Allowing a bear to obtain human food even once often results in the bear becoming aggressive about obtaining such food in the future. Aggressive bears present a threat to human safety and eventually may be destroyed or removed from the park.

While Hiking
Make bears aware of your presence on trails by making loud noises, shouting, or singing. This lessens the chance of sudden encounters, which are the cause of most bear-caused human injuries in the park. Hike in groups and use caution where vision is obstructed. Do not hike after dark. Avoid carcasses; bears often defend this source of food.

If You Encounter a Bear
Do not run. Bears can run 30 mph (48 kph), or 44 feet/second (13 m/second), which is faster than Olympic sprinters. Running may elicit an attack from an otherwise nonaggressive bear. If the bear is unaware of you, keep out of sight and detour behind and downwind of the bear. If the bear is aware of you and nearby, but has not acted aggressively, slowly back away.

Tree climbing to avoid bears is popular advice, but not very practical in many circumstances. All black bears, all grizzly cubs, and some adult grizzlies can climb trees. Plus, running to a tree may provoke an otherwise uncertain bear to chase you.

If A Bear Charges or Approaches You
Do not run. Some bears will bluff their way out of a threatening situation by charging, then veering off or stopping abruptly at the last second. Bear experts generally recommend standing still until the bear stops and then slowly backing away. If you are attacked, lie on the ground completely flat. Spread your legs and clasp your hands over the back of your neck. Another alternative is to play dead: drop to the ground, lift your legs up to your chest, and clasp your hands over the back of your neck.

When Camping
Never camp in an area that has obvious evidence of bear activity such as digging, tracks, scat, or where animal carcasses are present.

Odors attract bears. Avoid carrying or cooking odorous foods or other products. Keep a clean camp; do not cook or store food in your tent. All food, garbage, or other odorous items used for preparing or cooking food must be secured from bears. Hang all such items at least 10 feet (3 m) above the ground and at least 4 feet (1.2 m) out from tree trunks. Treat all odorous products such as soap, deodorant, or toiletries in the same manner as food.

Sleep a minimum of 100 yards (91m) from where you hang, cook, and eat your food. Keep your sleeping gear clean and free of food odor. Don’t sleep in the same clothes worn while cooking and eating; hang those clothes in plastic bags.

Back to Top

Information provided by the National Park Service

Home | Free Brochures | Bookstore | Vacation / Relocation Planner | Yellowstone National Park Tour | Search Our Site
Copyright © 2011 • New Times Media Corporation • All Rights Reserved