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Enjoying The Wildlife Of Yellowstone National Park Safely

Updated on August 09, 2013
Bison in Yellowstone National Park
Bison in Yellowstone National Park | Source

Wild, Not Tame!

A visit to Yellowstone National Park will not only treat you to it's famous geysers, rivers, lakes and the sweeping vistas of the Grand Canyon of Yellowstone. Wildlife abounds in Yellowstone National Park, making it a dream come true for those wanting to see eagles, elk, deer, bison, cyotes, lynx, mountain lions, moose, grizzly bears, black bears, wolves, mountain goats and even big horn sheep in their natural habitat. The thousands of visitors that pour into this amazing park are so thrilled by the wildlife that they often forget that these are wild, not tame animals that they are viewing. Too often common sense flies out the window, and foolishness prevails while trying to get that perfect camera shot, or showing the wild animals to the kids. By just following a few simple rules, you can make your wildlife viewing safe.

Do Not Disturb!

Did you know that's it's illegal in Yellowstone to remain near or approach ANY wildlife within ANY distance that disturbs or displaces the animal? You can get fined for doing so!

Safely View Bison From 25 Yards Away

A bison, the largest land mammal, can be as large as 6 feet tall and weigh up to 2,000 pounds. When you see these huge animals grazing contentedly, they seem slow and easy going. But beware – they can quickly gain a speed of 30 miles an hour. Every year more people are injured by bison than any other animal - and most of it is due to sheer stupidity. They get too close or, even more stupidly, taunt the bison. On June 25th of this year, a man failed to yield to an oncoming bison, and was gored and thrown 10 feet into the air. In 2010 a video captured a woman being charged by a bison. It ended up that someone she knew threw a stick at the bison so that it would look at the camera. Guess they got more than they bargained for!

So give these giants the respect that they deserve. There is such an abundance of these magnificent creatures wandering through the park, that you can get plenty of great shots without putting yourself in harms way. If you are at the prescribed 25 yards away and you see them moving towards you, take cover if possible. My husband and I never get far away from our truck when getting pictures, so that we can make a quick entry to safety if need be.

I took this video of a bison herd coming out of the water. Notice the red truck and the guy making a dash for it as the bison approach? That's my husband running for safety. I personally think that he should have made the move a little sooner, and that the other spectators that remained standing there as the herd passed were foolish. I was taking the video while hiding behind another truck.

Safely View Bears From 100 Yards Away

During our trip to Yellowstone in 2007 we noticed two adorable brown bear cubs along the side of the highway. We also noticed a group of young girls getting out of their car and approaching the cubs. My husband frantically yelled to them “Get back into the car”, knowing that where there were cubs, there would be a mother bear right behind them. They looked at my husband as if he were insane, but he just yelled at them again - even more emphatically. Fortunately they got back into their car just in time as the mother bear came charging across the highway after her cubs.

Two important lessons to be learned from this story. Never view a bear from less than 100 yards away, and be extra careful around a mother bear with cubs. That maternal instinct takes over, and watch out when it does!

In 2010 we returned to Yellowstone, and I was fortunate enough to get this video of a mother grizzly and her two cubs foraging on Mount Washburn. I was close to the truck, and a comfortable distance away from the bear family while filming this. The zoom on the camera makes it look much closer than it really was.

Be Extra Careful During Mating Season

Visitors have been attacked by other wildlife in Yellowstone, including elk and moose. Bull moose and elk can get very aggressive during mating season, which is in the early fall. However, you should be cautious at all times, and follow the 25 yards away rule with all animals. Remember that they are in their natural habitat and that you are the visitor. Be smart, stay safe, and you'll thoroughly enjoy the incredible wildlife of Yellowstone.

Pronghorn Antelope, Yellowstone National Park
Pronghorn Antelope, Yellowstone National Park | Source

© 2012 Margaret Perrottet

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    • Stephanie Henkel profile image

      Stephanie Henkel 4 years ago from USA

      Excellent advice about safety around wildlife! People become complacent and ignore safety warnings because animals in National Parks and other tourist areas seem unafraid of humans, but they aren't harmless, by any means!

      Your story of the bison reminds me of our experience while at Yellowstone. We were in the middle of a line of vehicles that stopped because bison were crossing the road. I was rather nervous because we were in a rag top Jeep, but the man next to us was on a motorcycle! One huge bison decided to walk across the road in front of us...we all just sat very still and hoped he didn't take a dislike to either our vehicle or the motorcycle! Luckily, he didn't even take notice of us.

      In our travels, we've seen people do so many idiotic things around wildlife. Getting too close to bears or other wild animals, especially the ones with young is just plain foolish!

    • mperrottet profile image
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      Margaret Perrottet 4 years ago from Pennsauken, NJ

      We've seen some really stupid things as well, Stephanie. I have a very healthy respect for anything wild - they're unpredictable, so you really need to be careful. Watching some of the videos of people getting hurt is pretty frightening. Thanks for reading!

    • billybuc profile image

      Bill Holland 4 years ago from Olympia, WA

      My favorite spot on Earth and you captured it beautifully. Hopefully some will read this and take warning. I don't know how many times I have been there and always I see people who have no clue how dangerous these animals are....wonderful hub my friend.

    • mperrottet profile image
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      Margaret Perrottet 4 years ago from Pennsauken, NJ

      @billybuc - It's one of my very favorite places also. I could return again and again, and never tire of the place. It's got a magic all it's own. Thanks for reading!

    • carol7777 profile image

      carol stanley 4 years ago from Arizona

      Your photos are gorgeous and for people traveling to the parks this is a must-read hub. Voted up.

    • mperrottet profile image
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      Margaret Perrottet 4 years ago from Pennsauken, NJ

      Thanks so much for commenting and voting, carol7777!

    • Gamerelated profile image

      Gamerelated 4 years ago from California

      Hi mperrottet, I really enjoyed your Hub. I like those videos they were awesome. I wish I could go to Yellowstone one day. My family took a trip and drove from California to Minnesota and got to visit Yellowstone, unfortunately I was in the Marine Corps at the time and I didn't get to go with them.

    • mperrottet profile image
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      Margaret Perrottet 4 years ago from Pennsauken, NJ

      Semper Fi - my son is a retired marine colonel - he just got out last month, and my grandson just graduated from officers candidate school and will be commissioned after he graduates from college next year. Anyhow, so glad you enjoyed the hub and the videos. Hope you get to go there - it's awesome.

    • Seeker7 profile image

      Helen Murphy Howell 4 years ago from Fife, Scotland

      This is a beautiful hub mixed in with some excellent advice. Wolves, Bison and bears are two that I would love to see most in the wild. However, and to my knowledge, Scotland never had bison. We did have wolves and bears, but they were wiped out - again by stupid people. Luckily the wolf and the bear is being re-introduced albeit in wildlife parks.

      I never do get over the stupidity of some people when out in nature - that incident with the bear cubs was jaw dropping! Do these folks think they are in a Disney movie? They were very lucky that your husband was there to shout them back into the car. I'd hate to think what would have happened if he hadn't been.

      An awesome and excellent hub + voted up + shared

    • mperrottet profile image
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      Margaret Perrottet 4 years ago from Pennsauken, NJ

      Thanks so much for taking the time to read, comment and vote Seeker7 - it's greatly appreciated. It's wonderful seeing these animals in the wild - I hope you get the chance someday.

    • radhikasree profile image

      Radhika Sreekanth 4 years ago from Mumbai,India

      This Yellowstone National Park is not only filled with amusing wild, but also anchors some cool captivating scenery. The lake on which bison drinks water is really splendid !

      Voted up as awesome. Sharing across.

    • mperrottet profile image
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      Margaret Perrottet 4 years ago from Pennsauken, NJ

      Glad you enjoyed the hub, and thanks so much for the vote up, radhikasree!

    • Melch-i-zedek profile image

      Darth Vader 4 years ago from the Outer Rim

      Thanks for this great Hub, mperrottet. One of my biggest dreams is to one day go to Yellowstone and safely return. :)

    • mperrottet profile image
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      Margaret Perrottet 4 years ago from Pennsauken, NJ

      @Melch-i-zedek - I hope you get to go - it's a wonderful experience. I'd like to get back there for a third visit. It's the kind of place that you can go back to and never tire of. Thanks for reading and commenting!

    • mary615 profile image

      Mary Hyatt 4 years ago from Florida

      One of my daughters just returned from a trip out west and went to Yellowstone. She just raved about the place. I've never been. I have a Hubber friend, Peggy W who also has written a great Hub about Yellowstone. I am sending her the link to this one for her to read. She has some wonderful Hubs about her travels. I have not travelled as much as I would like.

      Enjoyed your videos: they were great. Here in S. Fl. we have alligators, and people don't realize how fast these guys are. Tourists will get very close to them, too.

      Voted this UP, etc. and will share your informative Hub.

    • mperrottet profile image
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      Margaret Perrottet 4 years ago from Pennsauken, NJ

      Thanks so much for reading, voting and especially sharing, mary615. I'll have to check out PeggyW's Yellowstone hub as well as her other travel articles, and check out some of yours as well. Glad you liked the videos. I know what you mean about people getting too close to alligators in Florida - they are much faster that you would think.

    • Peggy W profile image

      Peggy Woods 4 years ago from Houston, Texas

      What fantastic videos you got of the bison and bears in Yellowstone. People do need to be cautious when in the presence of any type of wild animal. So glad that Mary615 sent me your link. As your video shows, the bears get used to seeing motorized vehicles. When we were staying in Sequoia visiting that national park as well as Kings Canyon...we were warned not to leave any food or even things like toothpaste...anything with a smell to it...in our cars overnight. They had photos of smashed windows where the bears helped themselves to the contents inside of the cars. We took heed and left nothing in our car that would attract them. All the up votes except funny and will share.

    • mperrottet profile image
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      Margaret Perrottet 4 years ago from Pennsauken, NJ

      Peggy W - thanks so much for reading and sharing. My husband and I also visited Sequoia National Park and saw the warnings about bears. I'm so glad you found this hub - always good to connect to a fellow traveler. I'll be checking out your hubs later on today.

    • sgbrown profile image

      Sheila Brown 4 years ago from Southern Oklahoma

      Great hub and I loved your videos! A trip to Yellowstone has been on my bucket list for years. I am going to have to go very soon! It is crazy how some people take such chances around wild animals. Do they think they are at Disney Land, OMG! Voting this up and awesome! :)

    • mperrottet profile image
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      Margaret Perrottet 4 years ago from Pennsauken, NJ

      sgbrown - you should absolutely try to get to Yellowstone. It's the most amazing place. Glad you enjoyed the video, and hope that you get to take some Yellowstone videos of your own soon. Thanks so much for commenting and voting.

    • profile image

      SandCastles 4 years ago

      The bison crossing; that's amazing! They are so close. I'm impressed that everyone let them pass. Wow.

    • mperrottet profile image
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      Margaret Perrottet 4 years ago from Pennsauken, NJ

      SandCastles, I was standing behind someone else's truck while I was taking the video. They really were close! Thanks so much for reading and commenting.

    • TIMETRAVELER2 profile image

      TIMETRAVELER2 4 years ago

      Loved the article and the pix! Great info, for sure. When I was volunteering at Custer State Park in SD, I saw so many visitors get too close to the Buffalo...they thought it was cute to whistle at them, use flash cameras, etc...and some wound up getting gored. People really need info like this. Good job and voted up!

    • mperrottet profile image
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      Margaret Perrottet 4 years ago from Pennsauken, NJ

      Timetraveler2 - Yes, it's amazing how people put themselves and those around them in danger. So glad you stopped by - thanks for reading and voting.

    • rajan jolly profile image

      Rajan Singh Jolly 4 years ago from From Mumbai, presently in Jalandhar,INDIA.

      That video of the bison is lovely but I'm those ladies who were in the way of the Bison remained safe.

      Lovely hub and beautiful videos. Thanks for emphasizing the importance of keeping a safe distance so that these animals can be watched without them causing any harm.

      Voted up, beautiful and shared.

    • mperrottet profile image
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      Margaret Perrottet 4 years ago from Pennsauken, NJ

      Rajan jolly - those women were right out there in the open, and if the bison had decided to charge, they had nowhere to take cover. Thanks so much for reading, voting and especially for sharing!

    • beingwell profile image

      beingwell 4 years ago from Bangkok

      Wow! Tense-y stuff you've got there. I would probably stay in the car. Although... they do look calm and peaceful... but still, for safety... Stay-in-the-car. Voted up! :)

    • mperrottet profile image
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      Margaret Perrottet 4 years ago from Pennsauken, NJ

      beingwell - The car is the safest place for sure. I was hiding behind a car while I was taking the pictures. Thanks so much for reading and voting.

    • Au fait profile image

      C E Clark 3 years ago from North Texas

      Very good advice here and great videos! I heard about a couple who were taking a picture of a bison in WY and the man went over to put his arm around the bison while his wife aimed the camera. He was gored to death.

      The last thing anyone should ever do is mess with bear cubs. Even the cubs themselves can do you a lot of damage even before Momma Bear comes running to help. Animal babies can be so cute and adorable, but they're still wild and that should be remembered lest one get a bad bite, deep scratches, or worse. Even ferrel kittens should be left alone.

      Great hub. Voted up and IU. Will share.

    • mperrottet profile image
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      Margaret Perrottet 3 years ago from Pennsauken, NJ

      Au fait - You're absolutely right about feral kittens. When my kids were little, they came across four baby feral kittens. One of them scratched my son, and it seemed sick, so we took it to the vets to be tested for rabies. The kitten didn't have rabies, thank goodness. My son would have had to go through the series of painful shots. Thanks so much for your support!

    • mperrottet profile image
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      Margaret Perrottet 3 years ago from Pennsauken, NJ

      Au fait - You're absolutely right about feral kittens. When my kids were little, they came across four baby feral kittens. One of them scratvd my son, and it seemed sick, so we took it to the vets to be tested for rabies. The kitten didn't have rabies, thank goodness. My son would have had to go through the series of painful shots. Thanks so much for your support!

    • Paul Kuehn profile image

      Paul Richard Kuehn 3 years ago from Udorn City, Thailand

      Margaret,

      This is a great hub and your videos are awesome. I've been to Yellowstone once, entering from the south. When I did enter the park, I saw a number of elk and bison next to the road. It was great seeing these animals in their natural habitat. Voted up and sharing with followers and on Facebook. Also Pinning.

    • mperrottet profile image
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      Margaret Perrottet 3 years ago from Pennsauken, NJ

      Paul - So glad you enjoyed the hub and the videos. We've been to Yellowstone twice, and would love to return. I love the wildlife there. Thanks so much for voting and sharing - I'm grateful for your support.

    • Writer Fox profile image

      Writer Fox 3 years ago from the wadi near the little river

      I was in Yellowstone with children and we were attacked by an angry mother Elk. Scary!

    • mperrottet profile image
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      Margaret Perrottet 3 years ago from Pennsauken, NJ

      Writer Fox - Yeah, elk can be really dangerous, especially during mating season or when protecting their young. I'm taking it that nobody was hurt - I certainly hope not! Thanks for stopping by.

    • Au fait profile image

      C E Clark 3 years ago from North Texas

      Coming back to this excellent article. This is vacation season and people heading to the National Parks and other places where wild animals live should read this hub before they go and all the comments too. Pinning this hub to my 'Wild Animals' hub and share it again with my followers.

    • mperrottet profile image
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      Margaret Perrottet 3 years ago from Pennsauken, NJ

      Au fait - thanks so much for returning to this article - your support it really appreciated!

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