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Wildlife Safety Tips

Updated: Nov 22, 2020

This is a subject that really gets the locals around here going. We love our National Parks, Forests, and other public lands. We want them to be around for many generations more for everyone to enjoy, but every year we watch the headlines and scratch our heads. There are so many people gored, tossed, or mauled by wild animals on our public lands every year you would think people would be too afraid to visit much less continue their absurd and dangerous behavior! So here are a few of my own Wildlife Safety Tips for the next time you adventure into the great outdoors.


The American Bison is an amazing mammal that is one of the few animals I can actually almost guarantee you will see in Yellowstone! Once upon a time not so very long ago the bison were almost extinct from overhunting. Another fun fact is that Bison is our National mammal. Now these North American cows, for lack of a better description, may look cute, fluffy, and a little bit dumb, but they are quite large and quick on their feet. According to National Geographic, Bison can be as tall as 6.5 feet and weigh more than a ton. They can also run at speeds up to 40 mph when the need arises.

American Bison, American Buffalo, Bison, Buffalo
American Bison by lilmissbearpaw

Yellowstone National Park advises that you stay at least 25 yards away from wildlife such as Bison at all times and even then the safest place to appreciate these magnificent creatures is from within your vehicle. This is not a petting zoo! No, your child cannot get their picture taken on top of the Bison!


Another magnificent creature in Yellowstone is the Elk. Elk are larger than deer and have horns instead of antlers. They're amazing to observe year-round, but arguably the most fun in the fall when the Bull Elk bugle to attract their mates. You're most likely to see them around Mammoth, Wyoming.

Cow Elk
Cow Elk by lilmissbearpaw

Be especially careful in the spring and early summer when cow Elk have their babies. They are very protective and will injure if not kill you, should you be unfortunate enough to surprise them coming around the corner of a building or even getting back to your car after exploring the town and hot springs all day.

Yellowstone National Park advises that you also stay at least 25 yards away from the Elk. No you cannot pet one!


These amazing animals are probably the ones that give visitors the most concern before and during their stay in the park. They would love to see one from a distance but live in terror of meeting one up close and personal. What you need to know is that generally, bears are more scared of humans than you are of them and they will mind their business if you don't antagonize them.

Four Grizzly Bears
Four Grizzlies by Tim Bowers of Bear Paw Outfitters

You may feel like you're doing all the right things, but antagonizing a bear also means coming between a sow and her cubs, this is a very bad place to be!

However, if you keep a clean camp, don't feed the wildlife, maintain at least 100 yards of distance, and carry protection you will most likely not have a negative encounter with a bear.

Protection most often comes in the form of bear spray, it won't help you if you don't know how to use it... don't wait to learn how when the bear is already trying to have you for lunch!


I hate to disappoint you but this is the one animal you will be very lucky to see on a casual drive through the park. I've actually never seen one! These are one animal that if you really want to see them, it might be beneficial to get a guide and dedicate a day of your trip to waiting in a relatively small location to see if they will turn up. When they do remember that they aren't dogs and they are the only mammals next to humans known to kill for fun.

It is absolutely alright to love these stunning creatures, but have some compassion on any ranchers you may meet along the way. They aren't just ignorant red necks and many have had their livelihoods decimated by wolves. So passions will always run high between locals, their neighbors, and visitors in how they respond to the subject of wolves.

The main thing to remember is that all the creatures you will encounter on public lands are wild, except free-range cows (which you shouldn't be approaching either). This is their home and you're a guest, so be a respectful one! The Yellowstone National Park website has a lot more information for you to explore while planning your adventure into this great place. I highly recommend you use it!

The answer to yesterday's Tourist Tuesday question is:

No, there are not Woolly Mammoths in Mammoth Hot Springs. The Hot Springs got their name because of their enormous size.

What animals have you encountered in the wild? How do you remain a respectful guest in the wild? What is the most dangerous thing you've ever seen a tourist do?

Thank you, fellow adventurers! You can follow the lilmissbearpaw blog page on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter @lilmissbearpaw for sneak peeks into upcoming posts and my adventures. This will also be a great place to share your own adventures!


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