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Respecting Wildlife in National Parks

Nature and Wildlife An example of a Coyote that is simply too tame due to park visitors feeding them. Please don't feed the wildlife!

Respecting Nature, Leave No Trace, Don't Feed the Wildlife

Traveling to National Parks is fun and exciting for kids of all ages, including us "big" kids. Sometimes we get so wrapped up in the beauty and the nature that we stop thinking about what is "right" for the wildlife that lives in these gorgeous destinations.

This is to everyone that has gotten a little too close to get that perfect photograph, those who think it's cute to lure a Chipmunk up close by feeding it, or those that also think it is ok to leave food behind because the wildlife will clean up after you. We know it's fun, we know you want that amazing photo to share with your friends and we agree, Chipmunks are adorable. However, think about how startled an animal is when you are approaching it with a camera or just approach it to get a closer look. Or think about how that Chipmunk is now searching the abandoned picnic areas looking for food but no scraps have been left because we typically don't picnic in the winter.

Behaviors of animals change because of our actions. When you visit a National Park, enjoy them, treasure them - but leave them be. This is their home, we are the visitors. Don't feed them as they need to fend for themselves at all times. They will be healthier, stronger animals to survive those grueling winters.

We hear stories of kids or adults being attacked by wild animals in National Parks. Some people believe it's not safe to go hiking in National Parks. This is not the case. There are many things we can all do to avoid tragedies or accidents:

American Pika

How to Avoid Accidents with Wildlife

  • Don't approach - Keep a safe distance from ALL wildlife
  • Don't feed - Feeding is bad for the wildlife and you risk a bite!
 Not to mention, Cheetos really aren't a healthy food choice for animals.
  • Don't leave trash - Animals can hurt themselves with trash left behind. Not only does it make a beautiful place look bad, it's dangerous for those that live there.
  • Don't leave food unattended.
  • If pets are allowed, always keep them on a leash!
  • If an animal looks at you, you are likely too close.
  • If going to hike in bear country, wear a bell to make your presence known.
  • Don't block the roads - if we crowd up the roads so the animals cannot pass, this can put them in danger.

There are so many more things that can be done to protect yourself and the wildlife. Below are a list of links that are helpful advice and tips to ensure a safe and fun adventure.

Helpful Links:

Yellowstone and Bison

They may look slow, but they aren't! When a bison becomes frustrated with you moving in too close, it will move quickly to defend its space. A bison's temperament, to put bluntly, is unpredictable! They can move at speeds up to 35 miles per hour and their hind legs can kill or maim. They are the heaviest land mammal in North America. This isn't to say that going to Yellowstone is a dangerous place. Quite the opposite! It's a point that needs to be made that if you do the wrong thing while observing wildlife, usually the simple act of getting too close, they will sometimes respond. How do you avoid this? Don't get close. Plain and simple.

Respecting Wildlife

Chipmunks, Ground Squirrels and Other Small Mammals

Many of us are completely captivated by these little critters that run along the ground and come up for a visit while we are snapping pictures of grand sceneries. Some of us completely forget about the scenery and become very focused on these little guys! They are... adorable.

Why are they coming so close? We feed them. We have changed their behaviors so much that we can see them swarming along ledges of viewpoints just to get a crumb or two from us. We think it is cute when we are there, watching them sun themselves, nibble on our food that we share with them but what about in those cold, difficult winters when we aren't there. Not all small animals hibernate so they are looking around for food. Many will probably visit those areas where they expect humans to be and wondering where their scraps are. We've changed their patterns where they would normally look for food. They don't get the luxury of having it easy during the winters so why train them to expect it when they need to be strong during their toughest months?

Grey Squirrel

Let's Learn to Respect Them

In all our travels to National Parks, it is the one thing that we see the most. The love of nature and wildlife and a lack of respect for them at the same time. We know it's not an intentional thing by most, but the fun that we have by giving them food for our own benefits, is an issue for the wildlife in the long run.

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