Posted: Sep 12, 2012 3:11 PM by Chet Layman - MTN News
Updated: Sep 12, 2012 4:09 PM
BOZEMAN - Autumn is a great time to visit Yellowstone National Park, but visitors always need to be mindful of the fact that it is home to large - and sometimes dangerous - animals.
The danger isn't just from the obvious carnivores, such as wolves and grizzly bears.
Doug Kehl, a wildlife education ranger at Yellowstone National Park, said of elk: "They have become somewhat acclimated to people over the years, they see them all the time, they see cars all the time, so they've kind of lost their fear so they don't run away when they see people, but that doesn't mean they're tame."
And tourists turned wildlife photographers often get so caught up in the reality of Yellowstone wildlife that they sometimes lose sight of the world outside the camera lens, until it's too late.
Kehl noted, "I think it's interesting in my daily work when I contact (tourists) and I remind them they're getting a little close...most folks didn't even realize they were getting close. They were so interested in getting that perfect picture that they kind of just forgot about distance and just kind of looked through the viewfinder until the animal filled the viewfinder and, 'Oh my goodness, I'm too close!'"
Recently Yellowstone National Park put up signs with recommended "stay this far away from" distances when observing the wild animals in the park.
Kehl says those are just guidelines, and they're not hard and fast rules.
He says the best thing you can do to avoid a negative interaction with one of the animals in the park is to pay attention to how the animal is reacting to you.
Kehl explained, "If the animal changes its demeanor, changes what it's been doing, it's eating and all of a sudden stops and stares you in the face, you're provoking that animal, and you need to immediately back up. it doesn't matter if you're 25 yards or more you still need to give the animal room because you're affecting that animal in a way that he's not tolerating."
The recommended distance is 25 yards for all Yellowstone wildlife - unless you come across a wolf or bear, in which case Yellowstone says give them a full 100 yards of room.
Those recommended distances are minimums - common sense and attention will tell you the true safe distance.