Yellowstone Reminds Visitors: Keep Away From and No Touching Wildlife
Written by Andrew-Rossi on May 21, 2023
Every year, Yellowstone National Park issues a warning at the beginning of elk calving season. It’s another annual sign of summer – the perfect time to remind this summer’s visitors that they’ll be taking their safety into their own hands when it comes to any wildlife.
Female elk typically begin giving birth to calves at this time of year. Cow elk are much more aggressive towards people in their area and often run toward tourists who get too close – some might even attempt a kick.
This is particularly dangerous at Mammoth Hot Springs, a popular spot for elk sightings and always dense with tourists. Awareness is essential in Yellowstone, but it’s especially important at this time of year in a seemingly innocuous place like Mammoth.
Visitors should look around corners before exiting buildings or walking around blind spots. Furthermore, cow elk sometimes bed their calves near buildings and under cars. In that case, there isn’t anything one can do except wait for the cow to collect her calf from “makeshift daycare.”
If any elk charges, park officials advise finding shelter in a vehicle or behind a tall, sturdy barrier as quickly as possible.
Attacks can be unprovoked and unpredictable – people have inadvertently found themselves closer to wildlife than they’d like. But more often, an attack comes after someone has disregarded the necessary distance and, by proxy, their own safety.
The park’s rules are simple – stay 25 yards away from bison, elk, and all large herbivores. More importantly, at least 100 yards should be between tourists and any of the park’s carnivores.
But even with the most urgent reminders, there is no guarantee people will listen. There are already videos of people trying their luck with Yellowstone’s resident wildlife.
“Tourons of Yellowstone,” a popular social media group on many platforms, collects the most egregious (and occasionally amusing) instances of reckless tourists. Within a few weeks of the season, there are already two videos of tourists getting too close to bison.
Ultimately, park visitors are responsible for their own safety. But some will probably realize the importance of that responsibility when they’ve already suffered the consequences.