BEHIND THE SCENES IN YELLOWSTONE – ONE PHOTOGRAPHER’S TRUE STORY ABOUT HER EXPERIENCE WITH WOLF WATCHERS AND PARK RANGERS
One day a fox slept on top of some rocks in Lamar Canyon and numerous photographers stopped and set up their gear in hopes of getting photos when the fox got up from its nap.
I am telling this story now because I fear that something will happen to me and it will never be told. This is a true story about the way the rangers in the Tower district of Yellowstone conduct business – they ignore most who break the laws but in an absolute act of revenge, retaliation for my big mouth and for turning Rick McIntyre in when he treated me unfairly, come after one person and one person only – ME. I base these statements on what I’ve seen and experienced. I believe records or citations, in addition to my videos, will corroborate my claims.
Some of us locals worked hard to get legal parking spaces and to make sure all tires were right of the fog line, while others just parked in the road. Just beyond that park ranger vehicle is a blind curve and people hauling snowmobiles come blasting along this stretch of road all of the time. Luckily, that eastbound lane remained clear, EXCEPT when people had to pass to continue on. So, we hoped, when seeing a ranger come along, that he would, at the very least, enforce the parking in the road/federal highway, law and ask these people to move their vehicles. But, despite slowing down/stopping and looking back over his shoulder to see what we were watching, the ranger kept going and did nothing.
A short time later another ranger – in fact, the head ranger of the Lamar/Tower ranger district, Thomas Schwartz, comes through the mess with numerous vehicles parked in the east bound lane. I hear his truck begin to slow as if he was going to stop and without looking assumed it was a ranger. And, then I heard the truck accelerate right before the ranger goes right on by, driving eastbound in the westbound lane. He kept going.
Not long after the second ranger went by, the fox had gotten up and disappeared over the back of the rock and I decided to leave. I had to wiggle out of my legal parking spot, in between two vehicles parked in the road, and drive in the wrong lane in order to go east. Cars were lined in the road, all along the pullout and past it, where a truck was parked along the rock wall. As I was passing the truck, a gas truck came around the curve. I had no place else to go and so continued to try and get around the truck as the gas truck continued towards me, without slowing down a bit. In fact, he never slowed down and we nearly had a head on collision before I was able to get into the proper lane. If the ranger had done his job and remedied this dangerous situation, my life would not have been at risk. Though, I also blame the asshole gas driver as he had no business being a jerk. My video shows this near collision.
Well, imagine my surprise when stopping at Trash Can pullout, trying to squeeze into a small space and getting mostly off the road, and getting out to see if the van in front of me could pull forward, which he could not, and returning to my vehicle just in time to have the first ranger give me a hard time for my tire being over the line. Not my whole vehicle, as the beige van was when he went by, but my tire. I work hard every day to obsessively get parked legally, often to my own detriment, and the one time I leave the car for a second to try and make parking provisions, a ranger comes along. Yeah, I am one of those who always gets caught and so can’t afford to take chances.
I headed west and when I passed the ranch, that ranger came down the drive and followed me for many, many miles, scaring me so badly that I chose to leave the park. Actually, I went to Mammoth for something to eat and went back out after calming down some. I had been shaking.
Guess this is where I tell you that my PTSD has worsened in recent months and I’ve developed a severe fear of law enforcement. I shake every time they get behind me and always have to pull over and let them pass. Here I am, a retired law officer, afraid of cops. Well, I’m afraid of crooked cops who have publicly stated that they are after me. A small town cop recently had good reason to stop me and I nearly cried because he was so nice. Last fall in Yellowstone, a ranger stopped me down south, for good reason, and I shook terribly and couldn’t think straight. And, again, nearly cried when he acknowledged how often I am in the park and how every one makes a mistake now and then. He had seen me behaving myself for years and knew I’d just lost my head for a second. I was so grateful to that ranger.
So, this is also where I tell you that head ranger, Thomas Schwartz investigated me for a crime one year ago. Some of those oh so honest wolf watchers claimed that I had chased some wolves. Except that I wasn’t there then and only arrived later, after the alleged incident. In fact, those wolf watchers were complaining about the wolves being run off, over the radio, when I arrived, and they looked right at me, still in my car, as they talked. And, when I went to see what was going on, a man was walking back from way beyond, where the wolves had gone, and no one seemed to have any problems with the fact that he had chased the wolves. He told me that he had followed the wolves when they left and let me know where they were. (Sure would like to know if Thomas Schwartz, in all of integrity and concern for the treatment of the wolves, went after the woman who really supposedly chased the wolves?)
Apparently, a woman in a white SUV chased the wolves and Thomas Schwartz was led to believe it was me. So, some time later, I was parked along the side of the road, just watching for the wolves from my car and was shocked to see Schwartz go past and then turn around and park. Surprised because Schwartz had gone out of his way to avoid me for a year and not parked anywhere near me during that time. Schwartz went to the pullout, talked to folks for a minute and then turned to face me. This further shocked me, that he was looking at me. And, then, to the crowd, announced loudly, “THERE IS DEBY DIXON.” Well, I don’t have to tell you how strange this was but I resisted the urge to get out and ask him if he wanted something, knowing full well that I had done nothing wrong. I did not have a clue that he was investigating yet another wolf watcher complaint against me.
Well, the next day, Thomas Schwartz met with people who supposedly had a video of me chasing the wolves. A person that I’d barely met – in fact had only talked with him for a while because he’d had a bizarre run in with Melba Coleman when she was yelling at him for stopping in the road to photograph a fox and then stopped in the road and blocked traffic so she could photo the fox. Apparently, she had scared him enough that he nearly left the park. But, that is another story and just another day in Yellowstone with wolf freaks.
This person was talking to the two people who supposedly had a video of me when Thomas Schwartz walked up to get the video. This person, who, after hearing a conversation about me, was so frightened to talk to me in public that he walked by, handed me his card and said, “call me.” That I barely knew, said that Schwartz was excited to be getting a video of me doing something wrong because, as he told the people, he had been trying to get me for 8 years (I’d only been in the park 6.5) and now he finally had me on video.
Well, believe me when I tell you, that a person does not hear about a law enforcement saying such a thing and blow if off with no worry. This scared me to death – what was I supposed to do? The person who told me about this had arrived on that same scene about the same time as I and had known that I hadn’t done anything wrong. I was terrified, angry and dumbfounded by this revelation about a man/LE ranger that I thought could be trusted. But, at the same time, I’d been so careful for so long and wasn’t about to start breaking the rules any time soon, and so believed that my careful actions would keep me safe. I mean, to find out that a ranger had been after me every day of my time in the park and knowing that I’d never gotten a ticket, was comforting. I’d learned how to follow the rules and had followed them well above and beyond what was required, despite years of watching other locals breaking the rules every single day. Yes, this fact made me angry and wasn’t one bit fair, but I had to keep myself safe.
Only a few months later, I heard from another ranger, in another district, that Thomas Schwartz had warned him that I filed a lot of complaints. He hadn’t warned him about the mess of wolf watchers and all of their false complaints, or about the hundreds of complaints that had been filed against me – in fact, this ranger didn’t know of any problems in Lamar, despite having worked in the park extensively for years. In fact, he had worked in a district where I spent much of the year and had never heard of me until Thomas Schwartz warned him about me. And, the truth about me and complaints was that I only filed complaints about rangers that treated me unfairly, like holding me to a different letter of the law, or who refused to talk to me, or who purposefully blocked me from getting shots, or who took pictures of me every time I walked up to a wildlife scene – bullshit harassment type stuff, or people who had actively made false complaints against me, in order to defend myself and show that it was them breaking the rules, not me. My complaints had witnesses and visual evidence. And, I’d only filed those complaints when Thomas Schwartz refused to speak to me and refused to lift one finger to stop the harassment by guides and wolf watchers. I wanted evidence that he was ignoring the real problems and so put them in writing.
But, when I heard that Thomas Schwartz was tainting other rangers against me by forewarning them, I knew that any chance there could have been for me to ever get a fair break in the park would never happen. There are a few rangers who love to create problems for people that they don’t like, by sharing confidential information and letting visitors know their version of events. Totally unprofessional activity. Doug Smith is very guilty of this, from day one, and actually believed the stories about me threatening wolf watchers, having a gun and being mentally ill and dangerous. But, though Smith is very much a part of all of this due to his day one belief in the lies that were told, further being exacerbated by my complaint against Rick McIntyre – my very justified complaint – that bypassed him and went to Dan Wenk, he isn’t in this story either.
I expressed my concern about Thomas Schwartz’ statements regarding me to our new superintendent. At the time I really didn’t think things could get worse and truly hoped that by sharing this information, they would get better. But, they got worse. Doug Smith has been against my having a guide permit and has tried with both superintendents to have it taken away from me. Why he doesn’t think I should have a permit is a mystery that I would like an answer to, but will probably never know. Smith also publicly accused me of criminal activity at the wolf project office when I merely stopped by to ask wolf questions, and no one will tell me what he accused me of doing. Meaning that it was a bullshit made up story. But, the second time he went to the new superintendent about me last year, that I know of. A memo went out to everyone in the YCR building stating that because of Deby Dixon, everyone was required to lock their offices when leaving and not leave them open. The building is now on lock down due to another lie by Doug Smith. Boy would I like to know why that man hates me – what I ever did to deserve such wrath. All he had to do was treat me fairly and stop Rick from owning the wolves. All he had to do was to quit catering to the watchers and Rick and make Lamar Valley ours, but, for some reason Doug won’t do that. All I ever did was ask to be treated fairly. And, every time they made false accusations against me, defended myself by revealing their true actions, with evidence. When I sent much of this evidence to Smith, he claimed that I was harassing him and so he doesn’t want to talk to me. He didn’t like seeing the truth about who was actually breaking the rules out there. Yellowstone does not like the truth! To the credit of Cam Sholly, and Dan Wenk, both of them refused the request to have my guiding permit taken away.
BTW, Doug Smith actually expressed to me his disgust that I had a guiding permit and how I’d be held to a higher standard. As if I had not been held to a higher standard every day of my time in the park. As if I had not been standing back, watching all of the locals do whatever they wanted, staying close to the wolves, parking in the road, chasing wolves down the road, standing and watching wolves 5 feet from a bull bison, filing false complaints, and on and on, missing out on everything that they could get. As if he doesn’t break the rules and park in the road, or stop and watch moose for more than 5 minutes while I have to struggle for legal parking so my client can enjoy the moose. As if my client isn’t left wondering why that park service guy can sit there and film and enjoy the moose while we had to work so hard and were freezing our butts off. So, evidently, national park rangers are not held to the same standards of behavior as I am. Something is wrong with that scenario. Like I have to pull over (LE ranger told me so) and let people pass when going slow, but the fire guy can purposefully drive 10 to 15 miles under the speed limit from Blacktail to Tower and then complain that I was following him too closely when he wouldn’t pull over. Visitors have to obey the rules but rangers don’t? I think that something about that is terribly wrong.
Okay, I have to settle down and finish telling this story. As you can see, it has many facets and I’ve been through a lot in Yellowstone. Amazing that I care about the place so much that I’ve been able to stay despite all of this retaliation and discrimination by park rangers.
But, I guess that the part about the guiding permit does belong in this story because when they failed to have my permit taken away again last year, there was only one thing left to do – give me tickets. But, again, I wasn’t worried (too much) because I’d learned the rules and sweated hard every day to follow them and be courteous of the rangers. The rangers in the Tower/Lamar area all refused to talk to me, except one, Donna, she talked to me. But, the guys, they refused. If ever I tried to walk up to one, they would roll up their window and take off – none would even look at me. I could only surmise, after hearing about the way Schwartz was talking about me, that they had been advised on what an awful person I was. But, I really have no clue what the justification for any of this has been. Yes, I was difficult and wanted to be treated fairly, but I never harmed any wildlife and was always careful to follow the rules. Maybe I made minor mistakes in the very beginning, but very minor. I was known for checking in with rangers on what behavior was acceptable, just to make sure that I did the right things. They act like I’ve committed some horrendous act towards wolves, or other animals, and I know that the wolf watchers have made many false claims, but also know that those rangers have never seen me do anything wrong. But, then, I’ve had watchers and rangers single me out of a crowd and pretend I was the only person there, many times. I’ve been taking photos right beside their friends and been accused of doing something wrong while their friends were perfectly fine. Bottom line, I could do everything right and everything would be wrong.
So, I was very sick last summer and spent much time in bed. And, wasn’t able to enjoy the park very much. Eventually, on Sept. 4, I had surgery – a tumor and my right thyroid were removed. I was released from the hospital on September 6, during the afternoon, and on the morning of September 7, walked out in the sage, away from the road, to view wolves I’d seen on the other side of the valley. I’d been scared that my time watching the wolves was over and wanted to enjoy some quiet time with them, figuring that even if they came to the river, I’d never be closer than 300 yards. But, they were a mile away, or so I though. I stood out there for ten minutes, not seeing a single wolf. One was howling near some wolf watchers on the hill on the other side of the road, and a bison carcass lay below those wolf watchers, but that was all.
Apparently, some watchers complained about me being out there, saying I was too close to the wolves. A ranger, Donna, came out and looked but didn’t see any wolves either. She was about to leave me out there when a wolf came up the steep hill and poked its head over. I am thinking that the wolf heard our voices and came to investigate, not knowing at the time that humans spent the summer with the pups at their den area. That guides had taken their clients near the wolves all summer long and they had become used to being around people.
Donna said, “there’s a wolf.” I turned and without even looking, went straight to my tripod and tightened everything down, while looking over the top of my camera as several wolf faces appeared. They were beautiful faces and I couldn’t believe my eyes. But, I knew getting shots wasn’t an option and quickly scooped up my tripod, camera tightened down on top, and took a step back. Then Donna told me to get a shot real quick. I tried to set back up and get a shot but was too nervous and couldn’t. So, I gathered up again and started to move back, when she told me to take a shot real quick and then we needed to move. I sort of tried, quickly saw that it was of no use, and gathered my gear to move back while Donna clapped her hands and told the wolves to go away. Apparently, the wolves were coming closer to us. I can’t imagine what must have happened with those wolves over the summer but do know that some people got shots.
I remember Donna offering to help me with my equipment and me telling her I’d just had surgery and was having a difficult time. But, we continued on until we were far enough away and I couldn’t catch my breath. She again told me to take a shot, which I did. By this time, the wolves were 250 yards away, down at the river, playing, wagging tails and slowly moving away. There was absolutely no disturbance or fear being shown by the wolves, they were merely moving on. Donna and I talked about things and she assured me that I hadn’t done anything wrong and wouldn’t be getting a warning or ticket. We walked back to the car and when I thanked her for trying to let me get a shot, she shut me up. So, I promised that no one would ever hear that she had tried to let me get a shot. And, they didn’t, until….
Apparently, to onlookers back at the road, 400 yards and more away, it looked like Donna told me to move and I started to and then stopped to try and take a shot. That I was not doing as the ranger told me, even though that was exactly what I was doing. Naturally, they would not have been able to hear her tell me to get a shot. Naturally, they would not know what we could or couldn’t see, or hear what we said. Apparently, some of them had been able to see the wolves heading up towards us but the hill was so steep we couldn’t see. Apparently, they must have been hidden below that hill but I was standing too far back and couldn’t see quite a large area. And, after being out there for ten minutes did not expect any wolves to appear – figuring they went the other way.
But, six weeks later, I had hiked out to watch the wolves as they hunted several hundred yards away, across the Lamar River, when two rangers came out to find me in order to give me two tickets for the September 7 incident. That was the first I’d heard about the incident since that day and the shock was overwhelming. They made me return to the parking lot, where all of the watchers knew about my tickets, so I could prove who I was. As if they didn’t know. But, they told me I could go back out because it was perfectly legal for me to be out there watching wolves. But, boy did the wolf watchers yell when I went back out. Just mentioning this to show the distance between the rules and what law enforcement thinks is acceptable and what the watchers think is unacceptable. As Donna had said that day, why do these people stand at the road and watch the wolves at such great distances? BTW, everything between Donna and I was on video.
I never spoke to Donna again but never believed that giving me those tickets was her idea. She had promised to call me if there was an issue and she never mentioned a thing. My gut immediately told me that there had been pressure to give me those tickets and due to what Schwartz had said, he was my first suspect. I later learned that it went higher than that but mostly likely was due to his and Smith’s claims about me, which had all come from people that they both knew were very dishonest. That came from people that Schwartz had repeatedly told me that he didn’t trust and that he would never take seriously if they claimed someone had done something wrong.
What my gut told me was that Donna had been hung out to dry on these charges – used to get me. I’ll never be able to prove that because she is dead now. I didn’t see any way out for Donna – either she would have to perjure herself or reveal the pressure she had been under. I have no proof but this is what I believed then and believe now, in my heart and soul. She was the one ranger who really went out of her way to assess a situation and to listen. I trusted her and thought that she would do really well.
For some reason, despite her death, those two tickets are still pending and a lawyer has cost thousands of dollars.
But, the Lamar rangers weren’t done with me. Aren’t done with me, which is why I’m writing this now. I’m scared. After a few incidents towards the end of February, it became clear to me that the rangers would soon be giving me another ticket. Because, the one they gave me in the first two days of January wasn’t enough for them.
Let me say here, that I truly believed that the rangers would be ethical and never blatantly just go after someone the way that they have with me. Let me also say, that actual park rangers participated in me losing my job with Yellowstone Association back in 2013 and actual park rangers have tried to prevent me from working as a guide in Yellowstone. They are violating my constitutional rights, the same ones that they are charged with protecting – my right to enjoy myself and to do my work, in our national park. They have taken so much away from me in their discrimination – trying to prevent a disabled person from working is illegal. Retaliation is illegal. Denying me my right to free speech is illegal. I have a right to truthfully tell what is happening in our national park, and I have a right to do so without retaliation. They have a complaint system so that we can hold rangers accountable for their actions. When Rick McIntyre turned me in for stopping in the road, but refused to tell the LE ranger who else was parked in the road in front of and behind me, and when he allowed his friends to park in the road for the next two days and lied to law enforcement, he deserved to be reported. I had to protect myself but there was no good way out for me – I had to trust that the park service would be ethical. And, I do believe that someone was ethical. I should have reported Rick the first time seeing him pee in public, or the first time seeing him dump his soda onto the ground. He humiliated me and angered me with these actions – he made me wonder what I worked so hard to follow the rules when he showed such disregard for the rules and the park. Dumping his pop out? It is illegal to spit toothpaste on the ground. My God! How arrogant. Not to mention telling people that they couldn’t go hike when it was perfectly legal, or making up his own rules, not allowing us to drive down the public road because he was worried that we might disturb his view of the wolves, completely unconcerned with us, the visitors, getting to see them. I’m getting angry again and need to settle back down.
So, one morning, when the Wapiti wolves had been hanging in the Elk Creek area, I went to the pullout and with the way folks were parked, could barely get in. In fact, I’d asked them to back up but not before I got stuck. I was trying so hard to park legally, to get my tire over the white line, that my car nearly rolled down the hill. I was stuck bad – that is what happens when I try so hard to follow the rules. I do so because the rangers scare me. But, also, because, if someone saw me breaking them, they would make a deal out of it, even though it was okay for them to do the same.
Well, someone was kind enough to pull me out and I’d just gotten unstuck when a coyote came up the steep hill, right behind Melba Coleman’s SUV and trotted past her tripod and up the hill in our direction. Coleman and a group of people with a guide company were all standing there, just a few feet from her vehicle and the coyote, waiting for it to get there and they moved on after the coyote left. Coleman took about 2.5 steps and returned to her tripod. This is all verified by video.
I wasn’t paying much attention, wanting to park so no one else would get stuck and needing to get out and check on exactly where the hole was. The coyote continued towards us and I stopped and watched for a second. A car parked in the road to watch and I decided to grab my camera when the animal was at least 50 yards away, and squat down behind my car to take a couple of shots because I like to capture them coming up the road. But, a van stopped to watch the coyote and it crossed the road in front of them and disappeared. And, then it came back out and looked to be heading to the side of the road, to go over. I waited a second to see what the coyote would do – it hesitated, looked down beyond the road, and then turned to cross to the other side. I tried to take a couple of shots but the coyote was moving too fast and I just got up to move away from it, and put my camera in the back of my car. And, then I retreated, huffing and puffing because my lung is still giving me fits and it is still hard to move quickly, to stand behind the rear of my car. I activated my GoPro but really don’t know why. The coyote went in front of another vehicle parked in the road, up the hill on the other side of the road to get past the vehicle and continued on. Of the four people in the pullout, I was the only one to put my camera down and move back.
Follow the link above to view the video.
The dash cam video that I captured of the entire event, right up until the coyote crossed the road to go up on that bank, reveals that the coyote never came to our pullout or anywhere near my car. It also reveals that up until the coyote left the road, no one had approached it, blocked its way or disturbed it, unless you want to count the guides that stopped so their clients could watch.
I stayed at the pullout, waiting for law enforcement to come along and put up some cones, so no one else would get stuck. I wanted to go on but just couldn’t take the chance of someone having a mishap because of me. Thomas Schwartz went on by and then a little while later, came back and started to go on by, did go on by, until I flagged him down. Once he stopped (he wasn’t stopping, I am sure, because of me being at the pullout) I felt free to leave and never thought another thing about anything. The other three people were still at the pullout.
Later, I did see Melba Coleman talking to a ranger, showing them something on her phone. I searched my memory trying to remember if I’d done anything but couldn’t think of a thing.
The next morning, the wolves were out but I couldn’t see them. I was walking up the road, where some others had gone, and where guides were driving back and forth, hoping to get a view, when LE went by. I never saw the wolves but was glad to get out for a walk. At one point, Cara called over the radio to 52B (Melba’s number is 52), one of the people who had been at the pullout the day before, to say that the wolves were right above him. She was on the other side of the gully and the wolves were probably way further away than she thought. 52B would have been given permission by Melba to use her number and it wouldn’t surprise me if he had been loaned a radio, as well.
When I returned to the pullout, the ranger wanted to talk to me. I told him I didn’t want to talk to him. This man had been so ugly to me and recently when I attempted to report a videographer remaining out of his vehicle and filming as wolves approached very close, he became angry and told me not to talk about that. He tried to shut me up and said I couldn’t mention anything that had happened in the past. Well, unless I talked about how unfairly I’d been treated, then he was happy to record all that. But, let me talk about this regular doing what I wasn’t allowed to do and no way. I seriously don’t think that it is out of line to ask why he can but I can’t.
I asked him if he was investigating a crime and he said yes. I said I didn’t want to talk to him. But, he insisted. When he told me that the coyote had been at my car the day before when I grabbed my camera to take photos, I sort of lost it. My lens couldn’t have taken photos of an animal that close and I just wouldn’t do something like that. But, he said he had video. Said that I was in the coyote’s way and disturbed it. I was scared and my memory was a bit faulty on some details but it was truthful in that the coyote was never a few feet from me. He thought about 5 feet. I asked what the video was taken with and he didn’t know. Then I remembered Melba talking to him the day before. I told him that if the video was taken with a scope, it would be distorted. He didn’t care. I asked him if he wanted to talk to the other people in the pullout and he said no. One of those people was there, in the pullout, while I was getting a ticket! But, I didn’t rat him out – I don’t believe in getting others in trouble just because they are targeting me. Didn’t believe that – I do now. This ranger had never seen me breaking a law and he was rabid against me. It is hard to explain but I could tell he did not like me one bit and it was a pleasure to give me a ticket. At the time he was giving me the ticket, a car was parked mostly in the road, but he didn’t care and never did ask them to park legally. The car was parked illegally all day! The next morning he drove right past a truck parked in the road. He did see me and turned around to see what I was up to. In fact, they drove past me numerous times that day.
I was very angry at myself for letting the ranger get to me and for talking to him against my better judgement. If he didn’t even know where the incident had occurred, which he didn’t, didn’t know what device was used to take the video, how far away the person was, or want to talk to any of the witnesses, the fact that he was targeting me was made very obvious. Again, someone I believed, due to their rank, was ethical, was not acting in that way at all. I called him Slime and told him he was unethical. As horrible as it was for me to realize that I had just called a law enforcement officer a name, I still feel that way. I am retired law enforcement and obviously have a deep respect for the law. So deep that I had even asked him about his take on the rules. Because, one thing about Yellowstone, there is no consistency. What one ranger ignores, another takes seriously, which is not fair to us at all. They should have discretion but there is such a thing as too much, and giving tickets because they don’t like someone should never happen. That is the definition of unethical.
Melba had taken the video at .1 mile away, failed to mention that her friend was also in the pullout (Mr. 52B) and stated that I saw her filming me and that was why I backed up and put the camera away. Has Yellowstone really created a situation where it is okay to single out one person in an incident, despite the reporter knowing others who are there, and not mention anyone else? Rangers are allowing certain visitors to be targeted – rangers are participating in targeting people. What about the wolf watchers that were near the wolf on the other side of the road on Sept. 7? Don’t they count? What about them continuing to go up there when a carcass was below and not reporting the carcass until other visitors went to see the bear? Like anyone else could know where the carcass was. I’d gone very near it, trying to locate the dead bison, and never saw the thing. But, what about all that? What about videographers remaining close to wolves, other guides/visitors chasing wolves down the road and parking in the road to photograph them? What about all other guides parking in the road? Three years after I had gotten in trouble for stopping in the road, all other local guides were still parking in the road without consequence. What about that? What about everything my clients and I missed because we had to go around the other guides that were parked in the road?
These rangers are targeting me. They think I’m awful because wolf watchers told them so. They believe the stories they’ve been told. They have allowed guides to harass me and my clients. They refuse to do a thing. If those wolf watchers hadn’t been trying to prevent me from seeing the wolves and trying to get me kicked out of the park by telling lies, I wouldn’t have found it necessary to defend myself. I wouldn’t have had to report what they were doing in order to show that they were the ones breaking the rules and were just using me as a scapegoat. They created a situation that made it necessary for me to either leave or stand up for myself. But, I loved Yellowstone so much and wanted to know about the wolves, and so wouldn’t leave. I believed that Yellowstone and those wolves were for everyone and so stood up for my right to be there. But, not only that, I heard story after story from other visitors and other rangers about how awfully they had been treated in Lamar Valley – about how Rick was actively trying to keep us photographers away from the wolves by telling rangers to take a carcass way out so it would be too far away. How they were kicking people out of parking spaces so they could park there. How they were trying to prevent people from getting information about the wolves. How so many people had quit going to Lamar because Rick and the watchers were out of control and made it so miserable. I heard those stories and saw those things happen and so stood up for everyone’s right to be there and enjoy the wolves. I was obnoxious, no doubt. I’ve been like a pit bull on this topic, but have been truthful and right. Everything has been verified. I have so much proof locked away. I have another lawyer that has every bit of truth. And still I’ve been giving the park a chance, trying to work things out. Because, it would be so simple, just to insist that rangers do their jobs and do them fairly, for everyone. So simple.
I have prepared everything, written it all up, collected all video evidence and am going to rat out everyone. I did not deserve this and no one does. I am not a bad person, far from it. The bad people are the ones who judged me before they knew me just because I was a photographer and had Idaho license plates. They are the ones with power and mental health issues. If fairness is a mental health disease, then I have it – what a shame.
One ranger tried to come after me recently, for approaching a dead animal with several other people. He called us liars and said we were getting a warning. He was nasty and livid – walking right past the person who had actually led us down to the carcass when he tried to talk to the ranger, coming to where I was. I guarantee the interaction would have been much different had I not been there. Schwartz came along and I got out of there. This ranger had refused to talk to me for a very long time but suddenly called me “Deb” and wanted to talk to me? He thought that we had thwarted him from catching us in some act by leaving when we saw him coming. We had left because it was the right thing to do.
And, then a couple of other rangers following me. I go one way, pull over so they can pass, go back the other way, and there they are. Not once but multiple times.
So, I had to leave. Had to get away from Yellowstone. And, it turns out that my timing was good because Sian Jones from England showed back up. The same Sian Jones that told me that they wouldn’t show me the wolves when I first got there, due to the fact of my being a photographer and having Idaho license plates. Because, don’t you know, all people from Idaho wanted the wolves dead. She was the one who told me about 754 being killed. Then she lied. That same day another watcher told me how Lyman had read up on me and decided that I wasn’t qualified to see the wolves. Lyman and none of them had met me but I wasn’t qualified. In fact, that day, when Rick told the gals to show me the Lamars, they had all stared at him, in shock. They weren’t allowed to show me the wolves and they were surprised that Rick was breaking that rule. Yep, Sian is back and between her, the other watchers and those rangers, they’d find something to nail me with.
But, I had to sort things out. I was scared and hating Yellowstone. I’ve always known that I never really did anything wrong and that has enabled me to stay and derive some enjoyment. But, when law enforcement rangers in a national park start coming after you, things change. They can single me out and charge me with anything. There is no way to do everything perfectly – no way to predict an animal. And, it is always quite possible that I would believe something to be okay since all of the local guides and photographers were there, and they single me out. Obviously.
It took me several days to understand that no one was watching my every movement, waiting to give me a ticket. No one was judging me. No one hated me. I didn’t have to hang me head in shame. That the law wasn’t after me. I’m not being paranoid, this stuff is real. Still don’t know what I’m going to do about being in the park and feeling safe. Keep hoping that someone in authority will put an end to this obvious targeting. That someone will set Doug Smith straight and ask him for proof that I’m dangerous, mentally ill, a criminal and hurting animals. Ask any of them for proof. They say they could have ticketed me before but that isn’t even true. I know what my behavior has been and how careful I’ve been. I know how much I care about being ethical around wildlife. That is why they attack me as being unethical around wildlife, because I am obsessively concerned about ethics. I know how much it disturbed me to see Rick disrespect the park in such a way, when I was trying to do everything right. I know what happened, how they made me lose my job, tried to take away my guiding permit, lied about my actions – I was justified in speaking out and sticking up for myself.
I’m writing the book, of that I’m certain. If able. Who knows how far this will go. My car has been vandalized, I’ve been stalked…so, who knows. But, this accounting of events will be public for all time. If possible for me to be in the park and enjoy myself, I’d like to turn my focus to video and capturing the stories, with a focus on being the advocate I could have been if not for Laurie Lyman and her friends telling everyone that they couldn’t associate with me. You know that they even told rangers that? That they told Yellowstone Association that – that they threatened people. You know that I’ve heard it straight from their mouths? This stuff is crazy and it is pretty hard to believe that Yellowstone National Park has allowed it to go on for nearly 8 years now. It wouldn’t have happened if not for the unethical actions of some high ranking rangers. Putting an end to this would be so much easier than reading this story and knowing that every word is true.
Here are a couple more videos for you. The person driving that white car was there the day I was turned in by Rick for stopping in the road and three years later he is following a wolf, stopping in the road, blocking its path, so he can get photos and continuing to park in the road. Without fear of being in trouble one bit. He has a reputation for getting all of his wolf images that way, so people have told me.
And, here is the video of Rick allowing people to park in the road on December 25 and 26, 2016, the day after turning me into a ranger for stopping, not parking, in the road, to photograph a wolf on a hill. He refused to turn in anyone else and this ranger was ethical enough that he would not give only me a ticket. That ranger left soon after that and now I wonder if he was given trouble for not citing me – the wolf watchers have had much influence over rangers. They even told Rick that one couldn’t work in the valley because he hated wolves. The ranger didn’t hate wolves, he didn’t let the watchers do whatever they wanted and wouldn’t jump to ticket people on their say so and that made them angry. That was before my arrival – this has gone on long enough.
[note: I understand that some of the people mentioned here are heroes to many and it took me a long time to tell this whole story because of that. I did not want to taint what good these people have achieved, but they have clearly wronged me and behaved in extremely unethical ways. They did these things and I am only reporting their actions. I did not cause them to act this way. Rick, for instance, has done a lot of good things but he willingly peed in public and dumped his soda on the ground. He willingly singled me out and reported me to law enforcement. He willingly allowed his friends to do what he would not allow me to do. He did those things. Just as Smith and Schwartz did what they have done. As far as Lyman and Jones go, they are no one’s heroes – people are just scared of them. Coleman – we all know about her. I did not write this lightly. I wrote it because it is truth and I am scared. And, because no one deserves to be treated this way, no animal on earth deserves this. They treat me worse than sex offenders and murders are treated. No one is as bad as these people have made me out to be. And, if no one had lied about me and singled me out, no one would have had troubles with me. Yellowstone belongs to all of us, the wolves belong to all of us. Yellowstone should never have allowed the Lamar situation to get out of control like this – they are responsible for allowing this to continue, allowing people to continually make false reports, harass people, allowing rangers to keep a disabled person from working, and on and on. I didn’t just make all of this up and stand up for myself for no reason – too many people know what has been going on in Lamar for all of these years – 19, according to Doug Smith. Yep, both Doug Smith and Thomas Schwartz told me that the problems wouldn’t go away if I left – right out of their own mouths! I am not sorry for revealing the truth but am sorry the circumstances made it necessary]