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ETIQUETTE FOR WOLF AND WILDLIFE VIEWING IN YELLOWSTONE

Yellowstone is a treasure, full of wildlife diversity arguably unmatched in the lower 48 states.  How well it thrives and how much you can learn and absorb its special qualities is largely based on the behavior of the visitor.   Attitudes toward the habitat and wildlife and toward other visitors are critical to the outcome of one’s wildlife viewing experiences.

If you are planning to be in Yellowstone to view wildlife and take in the sights, review the two lists of guidelines provided here.  It can make your visit less intrusive for the wildlife and a better experience for you and your fellow visitors.

The first list, Respect for Wildlife, is based upon the premise that Yellowstone is home for wildlife and we are visitors to their home.  Animals are due the respect you would accord anyone while visiting their home.  Yellowstone is not a zoo where animals are placed for our enjoyment; rather, it is a place where we are privileged to be able to see wildlife behaving naturally, surviving and raising their young, provided we allow them this opportunity.  It is one of few places where some species are allowed to exist as such.

The rationale for the second list, Respect for Visitors, is simple.  Respectful and considerate behavior while among other visitors is warranted and improves everyone’s chances of sharing and enjoying the qualities of Yellowstone.   Practice and teach good wildlife watching etiquette while you are in the field.   Help others to understand the regulations and practice good etiquette.   Politely challenge those who are violating good etiquette guidelines.  You are encouraged to print out these lists and refer to them while in the park.

Thank you for observing these guidelines, and remember to enjoy yourself!

 

RESPECT FOR WILDLIFE

bulletDo not pursue or chase wildlife, whether by foot or in a vehicle. This includes moving your vehicle into a position that effectively "blocks" wolves that are trying to cross a roadway. The regulars are seeing this more often than you might expect. Wolves approaching the road are almost always looking to cross. Allow it to happen. Forcing an animal to move off or change their behavior is forbidden. Try to anticipate the movement of animals and stay out of their way!
bulletDo not feed or touch wild animals. Feeding wildlife can lead to habituation of the animal to humans which in turn can result in the animal's injury or death. A habituated animal can also pose a threat to human safety. If you encounter an animal on the road, stay in your car. Often animals are afraid of people outside their car, but tolerate vehicles. Park regulations stipulate that wildlife may not be approached closer than a distance of 25 yards. For bears, the distance is 100 yards.
bulletHonor area closures. Do not walk into areas posted as closed. Most closures are temporary and created to allow wildlife to successfully breed and/or forage. Closed areas are small relative to the areas left open, so it is the least we can do to help the wildlife in question survive.
bulletDo not disturb nests or dens. If you are aware of a sensitive location that is not closed, refrain from going there. Closures are not used in all cases where they may be needed to protect wildlife. Use your own good sense in avoiding disturbance in these situations.
bulletHowling, hooting, or other attempts to get wildlife to respond is illegal. Do not howl at the wolves. Invariably, someone has the urge to try but never hear the wolves answer. These activities can disrupt the natural flow of wildlife habits. It can also be annoying to other visitors.
bulletDrive slowly. Yellowstone Park speed limit is 45 mph or less, but frankly, 35 mph is fast enough if you want to spot wildlife. Plus, the chance of hitting an animal and causing its injury or death is reduced as you reduce your speed.  This is particularly true at night, or near dusk and dawn. However, if you are traveling slower than those behind you, please pull over and let them pass.
bulletDo not remove anything from the park (rocks, flowers, antlers, etc.). With close to 3 million visitors per year, removal of objects would damage habitat. It is illegal and can lead to significant fines.

 

RESPECT FOR VISITORS

bulletAvoid rude behavior. Stopping by other visitors, lowering your window and yelling, "What are you looking at?" is the regular’s Number 1 pet-peeve. It rarely is acknowledged, so instead, if you are genuinely interested, pull off the road, cut off your engine, and walk over and politely ask them in a quiet, respectful tone what they are viewing. Or simply look where they are looking to discover for yourself what is being viewed.
bulletUse pull-outs. When viewing wildlife from or near your car, pull off of the road so you do not block traffic. Use pull-outs when available, but avoid creating new pull-outs by parking on vegetation or in wet or otherwise sensitive areas. If a place to pull off is not available, move on and use the next available spot.
bulletTurn off your lights and engine. Engine noise interferes with everyone’s ability to hear and enjoy wolf howls, coyote howls, birdcalls, bison grunts, and other sounds of nature. Plus, the exhaust can be unmerciful!
bulletClose doors quietly and infrequently. The regulars use a trick: close your doors softly, but leave them unlatched until you depart.
bulletTalk quietly. This can be one of the most respectful things you can do.
bulletAsk before using someone else’s scope, and do not adjust it unless given permission by the owner. It is OK and even encouraged to get yourself a peek through someone’s spotting scope. Many regulars enjoy turning people on to the benefits of high magnification. Just be considerate, and don’t assume a scope is there for you to use.
bulletBe conscious of where you stand and walk. Do not block others’ view. Be careful not to bump tripods legs. You do not want to knock over someone’s scope.
bulletTurn off car alarm systems. When you come to Yellowstone, disable the type of alarm that will go off like a siren when someone brushes your car. It is inevitable that your car will be bumped at some point in your Yellowstone visit, leading to the overwhelmingly irritating siren. The park is not the urban jungle, this level of precaution is unnecessary.

 

Contributors to the guidelines listed above include Jason Wilson, Debbie Lineweaver, Bill Wengeler, and Nathan Varley

 

 

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