Yellowstone has been kind of rough these days with record numbers of visitors, numerous vehicle/bison collisions and the occasional bison dying far enough away from the road that gives the visitor the possibility of really seeing nature and the food chain at work. Except that then there are the visitors who are so excited to see the animals, particularly the predators, that they just go running out to greet them.
Most of the visitors have no clue, though many know that there are no consequences and so will do whatever they want. For some odd reason, people seem to think that the wildlife are going to run right up to them and say hi and they don’t realize that by running closer and blocking their path, they are ruining a viewing opportunity for themselves and everyone else, not to mention keeping the animal from getting food, returning to its family or going about its business.
As a result, or maybe it is just because, we have grouchy rangers and other park personnel who are tired of trying to keep people from walking up to a grizzly bear, parking in the road and numerous other offenses. Like one told me last night, every day is a new group of people to educate and so there are no long-term relationships of learning and building trust.
And, so wildlife viewing and life in general is dependent on the mood of the different rangers and what was one minute is not the next. There is no consistency.
After days of trying to get photos of the Canyon Pack and grizzlies coming into a carcass, sitting in a location about 300 yards from the carcass, where other rangers told me that I could be, I made the 80 mile trip back to the location last night, got set up and a ranger came out to greet me. Or so I thought. This guy has not even been on the scene, dealing with the crowds until last night and so has no excuse for already being fed up. He informed me that they were expanding the closure area and that I would have to move.
Other rangers had told me that the area would remain open unless people got out of control but no one had even been wandering out there so, out of curiosity I asked him if people were causing trouble. He snapped and told me that he did not care what any other rangers had told me because he was in charge now. I sort of just looked at him because his reaction was over the top for my innocent question. There was no challenge and of course I would do what I was told but he went right to hostility. And then because I asked a question first, instead of hopping right to my old feet (up off of the ground) he demanded to know if I was going to obey him. Well, geez, give me a chance to get up and gather myself.
And so it goes that hours of time investment, along with fuel expenses, all went out the window without a single usable image. I nearly got the moment yesterday morning when the Canyons tried to return to the carcass but people not only blocked them but ran out to greet them, from what I was told. One person said that the rangers did absolutely nothing to control the crowd but maybe it was just because there was too much to deal with at one time and too little help
So, rangers, location, visitors, weather, light, opportunity, often conspire to waste time and money investment. And, at the moment there are more no win situations than the type where one can actually enjoy themselves while viewing and/or photographing wildlife. Myself and the very few other photographers still in the park have been run off of numerous wildlife sightings while doing everything right – being the only ones legally parked and the legal distance – and after hours of waiting for the right situation. In the meantime, the visitors are walking right up to the animals with their point and shoots and getting better shots than us – and they are getting away with it every time.
And, so I have given up on the carcass near Alum Creek, where the 5 Canyon pack wolves and 755, all by himself, have been feeding, along with at least 3 different grizzlies. The rangers closed down the areas that were safe for viewing and standing, and that did not impede the animals, and are allowing them to stand right in the path that the bears and wolves take when coming and going. Right after he shut everything down last night, a grizzly bear went right past a large crowd standing in the path of his corridor. Like I have mentioned before, some of these guys need more training. They also need a little less power. The seasonal rangers are here for only a few short months and in that time they have an opportunity to impact many park visitors in a positive and educational way, but instead we have a number of them whose only contact with people is via the loud speaker and air horn, disrupting everyone’s time in nature, and through traffic stops for broken headlights, etc. Not all, mind you – there are many excellent rangers in Yellowstone, many who have been quite kind to me. And then there are those who will not even allow a visitor to ask a question. One ranger has yelled at me three times over the past 9 months, for pulling over, legally, to ask him a question or report people getting too close to animal. I do believe that they have lost track of the mission of the national park. And then others, who are normally mild-mannered and quite easy to get along with, are fed up and exhausted due to manpower shortages and the increased number of visitors. And, other employees, doing other jobs in the park, are stressed also. I know that it is a tough job but come October they will be wishing that they were still in the park, getting the pay check and thinking that they should have enjoyed themselves more. Or, added more to the enjoyment of the visitors. I am sure that the young man who was rude to the old lady, sitting out in the sagebrush, in a legal location 300 yards or more from the carcass, quietly minding her own business and not bothering anyone, could have been friendlier. Especially since about 100 people were standing inside of the closure area just down the street – he allowed them to stay there for quite some time before finally moving them. Not sure what it is that makes these young men target older women in such a mean way – kind of curious if you ask me.
This image of Schwabacher’s Landing was taken during a very quiet morning in Grand Teton National Park, when I was able to listen to the birds sing without loud speakers and air horns. I think that the rangers need to get out of their vehicles and interact with the visitors more, after all this is not crowd control in a riot situation.
Despite the challenges and not getting any decent shots of the animals I did have some moments that I will always cherish. More coming up next.