Yellowstone Forever

By the Numbers:

Wildlife & Visitor Safety More Important Now Than Ever

Tourist Too Close to BisonYellowstone National Park visitation numbers are increasing to record levels. At the same time, previously dwindling animal populations like grizzly bears have made a remarkable recovery and are now thought to be near their ecological carrying capacity inside the Yellowstone ecosystem. Lots of people, and animals aplenty. It’s a combination that offers many opportunities, but also presents a growing safety concern – for wildlife and visitors – and the Park staff entrusted to protect them both.

In past years, the Yellowstone Park Foundation (YPF) has funded several successful seasonal programs to make more rangers available to respond to “wildlife jams” and provide information about safe wildlife viewing. Then in 2011, with YPF’s continued support, the Park launched an enhanced effort, the Wildlife & Visitor Safety Project.

Goals of the project include improving visitor interactions with wildlife in Yellowstone’s front country, enhancing visitor understanding of wildlife and other natural resources, and keeping traffic moving – all done with the end goal of keeping visitors and animals safe.


Summer 2012 project data used by Park staff to inform this year’s Wildlife & Visitor Safety program needs:

216: Rove assignments by interpretive rangers at campgrounds, picnic sites and parking areas reaching 9,451 visitors.

700: Bear-specific traffic jams that required bear management specialists and law enforcement rangers to monitor traffic and visitor behavior. Interpretive rangers were also on hand for many of these jams, providing education to 24,586 visitors.

1,607: Wildlife Safety Demonstrations for 14,257 visitors, covering safe food storage, hiking in bear country, and correct use of bear spray.

3,219: Verbal warnings – most of them for being too close to wildlife or for food storage issues.

3,325: Wolf and bear lapel pins awarded to visitors for practicing good etiquette and safety at animal traffic jams or viewing areas.

81,700: Bear and wolf safety cards distributed.

If you are in the Park this summer, please play a role in wildlife and visitor safety by staying at least 100 yards away from bears and wolves, and 25 yards away from other wildlife. In the case of a wildlife jam, avoid blocking the road and, if the response team has arrived, follow the signals of the ranger directing traffic.

Summer 2012 Field Notes By Park Rangers Bison Warning SignHighlight Appreciation of Park Visitors for the Wildlife & Visitor Safety Project...

  • Visitors were able to see a bison cow give birth.
  • Visitors appreciated having a scope to see moose and the information on moose that I provided. They also enjoyed being told good places to view animals in the Park.
  • Visitors from Switzerland were amazed by our bison. “We have never seen such majestic animals.” We talked for an extended period of time. They were thrilled when I presented them with wildlife pins. It was a lifetime experience for them.
  • Several families of visitors enjoyed me pulling out the coyote and wolf pelt while watching the wolves and enjoyed me “pledging in” their kids to be wolf ambassadors.
  • A group of motorcyclists enjoyed my talk about bison and were glad that YPF funded me to be out in the Lamar.
  • Distributed several wildlife pins to children watching wildlife who were thrilled to receive the pins. Parents told me that this was something they had never seen before and were very impressed that Yellowstone had such items for children.


Photos by Matt Ludin, YPF


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