We’re Just Visitors
Recently, there have been a few tragic incidents in the national parks in which visitors have been hurt by the local wildlife. It’s important to remember that many, many species inhabit our public lands. And while we may love to visit, these places are also these species’ homes. So it’s important to know how to interact with, and when to avoid the animals in the national parks. Here’s some guidelines that we’ve found to be helpful.
The number one rule of wildlife safety is to keep your distance. Most animals aren’t too found of human intrusion, and can become agitated or aggressive if they feel threatened. Even relatively docile animals, like the deer in Capitol Reef, can still be dangerous if they are overwhelmed. So please, for the sake of your self and the animals, don’t get too close. You can still enjoy and photograph the wildlife from a sensible distance! Most of the unfortunate injuries from bison, moose, elk and deer could have been avoided if people maintained a greater distance from the animals. Yellowstone National Park advises that visitors keep, at minimum, 25 yards (23 meters) away from bison.
Don’t Feed Animals
On a similar note, please don’t feed the animals. Not only does this break the first rule of not approaching, but it also encourages the wildlife to approach humans. And this will only increase the likelihood of someone getting hurt in the fut class=”pb-3 h3 text-muted”ure. Plus, and this is equally important, human food is not good for animals.
When to Wait
Occasionally, in some of the parks, on some of the trails, you might accidentally find yourself in an animal’s personal space. Species like snakes, scorpions, coyotes, or porcupines are probably just passing by. The best course of action is to wait until they leave. Again, the golden rule is don’t approach. But you shouldn’t feel like you need to drive them off either. Usually, these animals have no interest in messing with humans. So just give them the right-of-way, and you should both be fine!
When to Stand Your Ground
In some parks there are prey animals like bears, or more likely in Southern Utah, cougars. If you just see prey animals in the distance, again, do your best to avoid them. But in the unlikely circumstance that they start stalking you, do NOT run. That just makes you look vulnerable. So stand your ground, face the animal, make lots of aggressive noise, and waive your arms. The goal is to look like a big problem for the prey animal to tackle, and not like an easy lunch.
Know Your Park
Every national park has different sets of wildlife species. So it pays to plan ahead. Find the park’s website and look for its pages on wildlife and animal safety. For example, here is Capitol Reef’s species list page for mammals and Yellowstone’s page on animal safety. You can also find helpful information on all sorts of wildlife at these pages on NPS.gov: Wildlife Health and Safety and Animal-Transmitted Diseases.
Also, if you are taking children with you on your next national park adventure, here is a NPS video that is helpful for explaining wildlife safety.
Enjoy Your Visit!
The wildlife that can be observed is one of the things that make the national parks so special. Just remember to give them plenty of space and enjoy them from a distance. That way everyone is happy!