I wasn’t going to say anything about what I witnessed a few days ago in Yellowstone, but after thinking about it, I thought it was something you should hear. I was driving along very early in the morning and saw a young grizzly walking in the grass along the side of the roadway. A few cars had pulled over to look at the bear and I was one of them. After watching her for a short time, the bear made her way into the trees and disappeared.
A little while later, I saw two people in a pullout, one of whom was crouching down photographing something. From the person’s posture, I thought they were photographing a weasel or other small animal, but then I realized within 15-20 feet from them was the same grizzly I had seen earlier. I immediately opened my car window and told them they were too close to the bear. The photographer ignored me, but his companion looked over and then looked away. The bear wasn’t paying much attention to either of them and continued foraging in the grass.
After a few moments, the bear moved on and walked along the edge of the pullout heading towards the road. I was thankful that the bear was finally leaving the area and figured that would be the end of it, but I was wrong. The two people then began following the bear down the roadway and continued photographing her. I wasn’t sure what to do at this point but was still in my car so I pulled into the road between the people and the bear. The bear was spooked by the sound of my car and ran across the road, into the thick trees. After the bear disappeared, I got quite an earful from the photographer who was following the bear, but that didn’t surprise me, especially after what I had just witnessed. I was so angry that any response I would have given would have made a bad situation worse, so I drove off, parked in another pullout and fumed.
All I can say about seeing something like that is that it upset me for the rest of the day. I don’t like to see people getting too close to wildlife to take photos, but that’s what many of us see day after day. And it’s not just bears; it’s bison, elk, moose and just about anything else out there. When I stop to think about it, I really don’t know why people are doing this. I don’t know if people don’t understand that these animals are wild; if they don’t care; if they like the adrenaline rush of being close to something "wild" or if they just want to post a cool photo on Instagram. The reason doesn’t really matter because these actions are stressing our wildlife.
When people get too close, it will always be the animal that pays the price. If that animal is a bear, he will be cracker-bombed or hazed or relocated from the area where he wants to be because people can’t control themselves. Bears frequent particular areas because they know that’s where they can find food, but if people disrupt that, the bear will miss out on a much needed food source when they need it most. I feel for the rangers in Yellowstone who have to manage bear/animal jams, but they don’t have the resources to be every place at once, so situations like this persist.
So next time you feel the need to approach a bear or any other animal in Yellowstone, ask yourself if the photo you’re about to take is worth disrupting the life of an animal who is trying his best to survive in a world that is so much tougher than we will ever know. Remember we are only visitors to their home, and we can make a choice to put the animal first because it's the right thing to do.
Thanks for listening,
Please note: This photo was not taken during the bear incident I witnessed this week, but is just an example of how our actions can stress the wildlife in Yellowstone.
- Reclaiming the NightFilmmaker, 2014 - presentA documentary film about one person's goal to make his town and neighboring national park Dark Sky Certified.
- Free Roaming PhotographyWildlife and Nature Photography, 2007 - presentNature and night photography. Currently working on a documentary film about making Jackson, WY and Grand Teton National Park Dark Sky Certified.
- Jackson Hole Wildlife SafarisWildlife Guide, 2012 - 2016Educate groups of people on the wildlife, geology, and history of the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem, while scouring the landscapes for ideal wildlife viewing opportunities.
- Elevation ImagingAssitant Manager, 2008 - 2010Oversaw daily workflow and completion of projects and image processing. Adjusted images for print-production.
- FireDrum Internet MarketingLead Designer, 2005 - 2007Oversaw development of websites and email newsletters. Double-checked and corrected grammatical, technical, and syntax errors. Created new designs for websites and email newsletters.
- Stephen F. Austin State UniversityMaster of Fine Arts, 2002 - 2004Digital Media, Painting, Drawing
- Stephen F. Austin State UniversityBachelor of Fine Arts, 1996 - 2002Computer science, Digital media, Drawing, Painting
- St. Martin's Episcopal SchoolHigh School Diploma, 1992 - 1996Apathy, boredom, etc.
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