What NOT to do in Yellowstone National Park (Animal Safety)

Yellowstone Park Animal Safety | Rocky Mountain Expeditions | Bozeman Jeep Car Rentals

Late summer in Yellowstone fantastic.  Things are winding down for the fall, there is no snow on the ground and the temperature is just right for all the wildlife.  They are everywhere.

When vacationing in Yellowstone, it’s important to remember that in this park, the animals roam completely free.  Humans are just visiting.  Traffic jams caused by bison, bears or other animails is a regular occurrence. The bison in this video had no worries about the literally mile long traffic jam they had created behind them.

Because animal jams are so frequent in the park it’s important to plan your day accordingly. Don’t rush. Give yourself plenty of time to visit each of the natural wonders Yellowstone has to offer.

Also, don’t be “that person” who is responsible for causing a jam. If you happen to be lucky enough to have a good view of an animal from the road. Don’t just stop and think the people behind you will be ok with it. If there is room to pull over, do so. Or if you have your camera ready (which you should), get a quick picture and proceed. NEVER, get out and approach the animal.

From the National Park Service Website: Wild animals are unpredictable and dangerous. Every year people are injured when they approach animals too closely. Animals that attack people may need to be relocated or killed. To protect yourself and the animals you come to watch, always remain at least 100 yards (91 meters) from bears or wolves, and at least 25 yards (23 meters) from all other wildlife. The following tips will keep you and park animals safe:

  • Never approach or pursue an animal to take its picture: use binoculars or telephoto lenses to get a better view.
  • If an animal moves closer to you, back away to maintain a safe distance.
  • If you cause an animal to move, you’re too close. It’s illegal to willfully remain near or approach wildlife, including birds, within any distance that disturbs or displaces the animal.
  • Park in roadside pullouts when watching/photographing animals: do not block traffic.
  • Stay in or next to your car when watching bears. If a bear approaches or touches your car, honk your horn and drive away to discourage this behavior.

This video is a good example of what you should do if you encounter wildlife while driving through Yellowstone. In slowing down, not stopping and staying in the car, our family was able to get a great view of a Black Bear and also let the others behind us have a similar experience.

The fact that animals can roam free is what makes the park special. But every year there are always people who get injured by animals because they chose not to follow the park rules. Bison, bears and other animals can be dangerous. They are, after all, unpredictable. Like the elk in this recent incident.

On this particular day, we stumbled upon two very large elk grazing in a grove. Huge.  The picture does no justice to the actual size of these animals.

Elk in Yellowstone National Park

The picture below is the perfect example of what NOT to do.  By the time I decided to take a picture, this person had moved back.  He was actually standing at the tree just in front of the elk. Definitely less than 25 yards!

Tourist in Yellowstone National Park
Remember, wild animals can be unpredictable and dangerous. Just because they look nice, or seem unagitated, doesn’t mean it’s ok to approach them. Have fun, stay safe and enjoy the beauty these animals have to offer.