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Reader Participation Day: Do National Parks Provide Ample Wildlife Warnings to Visitors?


Among the brochures you often receive when you enter national parks are park newspapers and, in some cases, leaflets that address specific issues, such as wildlife concerns.

At Yellowstone National Park, for instance, among the handouts are flyers on keeping your distance from bison, which, while looking docile, don't like you getting too close to them.

But in the wake of last week's fatal grizzly bear attack in Yellowstone, and last fall's fatal goring by a mountain goat of a hiker in Olympic National Park, are park officials doing enough to educate visitors on wildlife?

If you plan an overnight backcountry trip in Yellowstone, you have to sit through a briefing that includes a video touching on traveling in bear country. The video instructs you on how to keep clean campsites and how to hike -- in groups, and making noise -- to avoid sudden confrontations with bears.

Should this sort of introduction to backcountry travel be standard for all park visitors? After all, in parks such as Yellowstone, Glacier, Grand Teton and others, the "backcountry" boundary can be just feet from your parked car.

Granted, sitting each and every park visitor down to a safety video would be impossible. But is there some other way that parks could better inform visitors about wildlife issues, or should visitors be expected to educate themselves?


My opinion is that people need to take responsiblity for themselves.  The parks have enough funding issues without having to figure out how to tell everyone that you are in the middle of a forest with wild animals and to be careful.

I agree that we do have a personal responsibility when in the parks. I know the Parks do the very best to remind us about wildlife. For example, when they had a car break-in by bears at a park I was visiting, they put a flyer in every room of the lodge reminding people to empty their cars. I have watched Rangers chase people away from Elk at Yellowstone and doing a good job establishing perimeters around bears up in trees at Great Smokey Mountain.  Of course every fatality is a tragedy, but the very fact that they are relatively rare is what makes them newsworthy in the first place. I am sure a lot people die in auto accidents on the way to a national park then die inside of one, especially due to wildlife.

I agree with Erik. If I were to travel to Europe for example, I would do thorough research and gather information that would be important to know. Even if the current travel information that visitors get when entering parks were revised and "amped up", I'm certain that most people would continue to leave it, unopened on their dash.

I wonder if better signs at trails would help.? Of course there will always be people who believe that they are above rules and regulations and that it only applies to everyone else...

Craig makes a good point; the very low number of these fatalities in and of itself show that more people are informed and that the parks take this seriously.

I completely agree with all the previous comments. And even when you do go out of your way to educate, some people just will not listen. My own sister got in trouble at Shenandoah. She had come up to visit me and showed up for my "bear talk" where I talked about bear safety for 20min. She then left with a bag of marshmallows in hand and fed some bears, with my 4 year old niece in tow!

I think Craig said it very well. Let's not have a knee-jerk reaction to a rare event, despite that seeming to be exactly what the media wants. Yellowstone is crawling with Grizzlies (comparatively) and innundated with people, yet this is the first person to die by bear in a quarter century. I think that says that the parks are doing a very good job. Accidents happen and some people will always be idiots despite the warnings. (No offense to your sister, Ranger Lady!)

HAHA! No offense taken Kirby, I have to agree that she was an idiot in this case. And it gave me a chance to get revenge for all she did to me in childhood...I turned her in!

Other examples Ranger lady are the residents of bizillion dollar houses at the base of the San Gabriel Mts. (Near Pasadena) thinking it cute to feed the Black Bears there BEAR CLAWS (pastry).  Contractors there hired to remove fire fuel with goats had no end to problems with bears, with no fear and a welfare mentality, lol!

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