Bear (mis)Management in Yellowstone

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billandkaren
Posts: 81
Joined: Fri Aug 04, 2017 8:50 pm

Bear (mis)Management in Yellowstone

Post by billandkaren » Sat Jun 08, 2019 12:00 am

What's going on with the way rangers are dealing with bears near the roads in Yellowstone? First there was the Obsidian sow with triplets in May. They closed off all the pullouts and I was told by someone that rangers harassed her away. When I asked about it at the Mammoth Visitors Center, the ranger told me they did not harass her but closed the pullouts because there were too many people and they were concerned emergency vehicles could not get thru. I did not buy the emergency vehicles excuse, but I accepted that they did not harass her away.

Well we were heading back into the park today, June 8. We decided to go in the East entrance for a change. At least part of the reason was that we thought we might see Snow or Raspberry. Sure enough as we came past the Lake Overlook drive there were about 8 cars pulled off the road and we caught a glimpse of her heading West through the deadfall. We turned and headed up Overlook drive to get a better view which we had for a couple minutes. Then she took off running. We did not see why but a couple minutes later 2 rangers pulled up and told everyone to stay by their cars which was fine. Snow then started to cross the road and the rangers took off running and yelling at her chasing her up over the ridge and out of sight.

So is this some new bear management policy? Having been in the park fairly often the last 4 years, rangers were vigilant with bears and the public, but as long as bears and the public were well behaved, they allowed people to watch. I was at the Obsidian sight several times and yes, it was packed, but people were parked off the road and stayed up on the road just fine. The bears were more than 100 yards away. Everyone was having a good time.

Snow was not causing any trouble. The people were well behaved. A little girl came up with her family and was so excited to see her, but only got a brief look before the rangers chased Snow off. I've been upset ever since. The park is for the people and the animals. I realize that there is potential for conflict and the rangers have a tough job. But I think this is overmanagement. I realize there are idiots who cause problems. But deal with them. Fine them. Kick them out of the park. But don't ruin it for the silent majority who act appropriately and pay their taxes and entrance fees to enjoy seeing wildlife in this beautiful setting.



yellvet
Posts: 181
Joined: Tue Aug 01, 2017 5:54 pm

Re: Bear (mis)Management in Yellowstone

Post by yellvet » Sun Jun 09, 2019 12:44 am

Were the rangers new seasonal rangers or were they full-time rangers who regularly patrol those areas? Here's why I ask. Many new seasonal rangers who are working in the Park for the first time, are not familiar with bears, let alone being familiar with specific bears. They also don't know the bear's demeanor, habits and travel routes and whether or not the bear has a history of aggressive or passive behavior. Bears are also totally unpredictable. Last winter was unusually harsh and since the Yellowstone bears probably didn't encounter many humans, they''re naturally going to be skittish and nervous when they emerge from their dens and see humans wandering into their travel territories in May and June. And, most especially if the bear is a protective sow with cubs. The way I see it, the bears, the Park visitors and rangers need some time to get used to each other. While I appreciate your concerns, please keep in mind that it only takes one visitor to unwittingly do something stupid or make one wrong move or gesture that can turn a good bear into a bad bear. And that's exactly the kind of behavior that can get a visitor or a bear killed. Most likely, this is what the Park is trying to prevent.....an unnecessary tragedy.

At this time of the year, I think that all Park visitors need to be patient. Obey all the wildlife distance rules and give the new Yellowstone rangers a chance to get more familiar with the bears as well as with the frequent Yellowstone visitors. Personally, I would rather see a ranger send visitors back to their vehicles rather than take a chance of letting anyone venture into the territory or comfort zone of a bear, especially, at this time of year.

BTW, the rangers have a very specific Bear Hazing Protocol that they are expected to follow....the protocol is not only for their own safety but also for the safety of all Park visitors and for the safety of the bears. If you sincerely believe that rangers are restricting your rights as a Yellowstone visitor or that a ranger is not following the Yellowstone Bear Management Policies and Procedures or the Park's Bear Hazing Protocol, then you may want to consider contacting Kerry Gunther or the new Park Superintendent. I'm going to the Park fairly soon so I'll keep an eye on the bears and the rangers and will post my perspective on the rangers in a trip report. In the mean time, I'm going to keep an open mind and cut the new and over-zealous rangers some slack. Remember, the rangers have a new boss now, so no one wants to see a visitor get hurt or a bear get killed, especially, the new Park Superintendent. :)



yellvet
Posts: 181
Joined: Tue Aug 01, 2017 5:54 pm

Re: Bear (mis)Management in Yellowstone

Post by yellvet » Sun Jun 09, 2019 10:48 am

Bil and Karen, in my previous post, I said: "please keep in mind that it only takes one visitor to unwittingly do something stupid or make one wrong move or gesture that can turn a good bear into a bad bear."

IMO, the same thing also holds true for rangers. Lord knows I've seen more than my share of rangers do some pretty foolish things when they unexpectedly find themselves face to face with a bear, especially, when they're trying to haze it out of the area. It wasn't all that long ago when a ranger learned the hard way that you don't interrupt a sow when it's nursing a cub. As I recall, we were camped at Slough Creek when a ranger walked right up to a sow and pointed his shotgun at the bear. I thought the ranger was going to cracker it but, instead, the ranger nonchalantly said, "It's time to go bear." He said that at least a half dozen times. And each time the ranger's voice got louder and jumped a full octave. But the sow imply ignored the ranger and kept nursing her cub. The bear finally got annoyed and began walking towards the ranger. When the bear got within about 20 feet, the ranger turned full circle and ran over to our site and jumped on top of our picnic table and asked, "What do I do now?" Our reply was simple...,"Leave the bear alone and let it nurse her cubs. When she's done, she'll likely move on." And the bear family did move on right after the nursing session was over. I think that part of the problem is that many seasonal rangers do not have a good understanding of bear behavior and they also lack the necessary training, skills and experience and the methods used that are associated with the effective aversive conditioning of bears. Why many rangers feel it's necessary to rely on a shot gun instead of their smarts and common sense, when hazing a bear, is still beyond me.

I think that the lack of Park funding for the proper training of rangers has a lot to do with what you recently experienced in the Park. Bears will be bears. And most of us know that bears are unpredictable. So if you can't control bear behavior with any kind of certainty and you don't have the funding for training rangers properly, then I think the only reasonable alternative is to control the Yellowstone visitors by closing pullouts and parking areas and by asking people to move their cars off the roadways, in active bear areas. As much as I hate seeing this happen to my "home away from home", this is not the first time that the Park has tightened up its policies and it likely won't be the last. That's why I'm going to see how things works out this summer in the Park. In the interim, I sincerely hope that the new Super understands and realizes that if this new approach to visitor safety is going to be successful, then the Park rangers need a course on how to communicate effectively with the new and repeat Yellowstone visitors. You can't treat them all the same. In fact, many of the frequent Park visitors know more about bears and bear behavior than some of the rangers. So why not use these folks to help educate the Park newbies about bear awareness, the need for proper food storage and the proper wildlife viewing distances. It's been my experience that most new Yellowstone visitors are like sponges. They love seeing all the wildlife and want to know more about all the critters and their behavior. All they need is a little guidance and education. So maybe it's time that the frequent Park visitors, give the rangers a helping hand and do our part to help educate Yellowstone visitors. We all want the same thing. So maybe it's time that we show our support to the Park and the rangers so visitors aren't viewed as the enemy or as seasonal irritants but, rather, as knowledgeable Yellowstone advocates and highly valued resources. I see no reason why Yellowstone management, the rangers and the visitors can't work together. After all, most of us want to help protect and preserve Yellowstone and its wildlife. And most of us have already proven ourselves to be wonderful ambassadors and advocates for Yellowstone. So, please, let's continue in this role and move on. Actions speak louder than words and complaining about new Park policies before we even know how effective they will be in the long run, will not help serve the visitors or the bears well, in the long run.



billandkaren
Posts: 81
Joined: Fri Aug 04, 2017 8:50 pm

Re: Bear (mis)Management in Yellowstone

Post by billandkaren » Thu Jun 13, 2019 10:38 pm

Yellvet, thanks for your reply. I've been having problems posting my response on this forum. Maybe because I'm traveling in Canada. I try again when I'm back in the states.



billandkaren
Posts: 81
Joined: Fri Aug 04, 2017 8:50 pm

Re: Bear (mis)Management in Yellowstone

Post by billandkaren » Sat Jun 15, 2019 8:13 am

Yellvet, it looks like I can post now. Thanks again for your response. I don't think the issues I referred to are due to the intern rangers. The one I saw with Snow seemed to be confident and took charge of the situation. I had no problem with how she handled things until she and the other ranger hazed her away. A little girl had just arrived with her family and was so excited, but only got a glimpse before Snow was chased off. I understand their job has challenges. But neither Snow or the people watching her did anything wrong here. I fear these incidents reflect a decision from the top that it's easier to put up cones and barriers and haze the bears away than deal with the crowds.

I hope I'm wrong and the incidents are not a return to the old policy of hazing away the roadside bears. I would be interested in your perspective after visiting the park. --Bill



yellvet
Posts: 181
Joined: Tue Aug 01, 2017 5:54 pm

Re: Bear (mis)Management in Yellowstone

Post by yellvet » Mon Jul 15, 2019 12:30 pm

Bill, we just got back from the Park on Saturday, July 13th. With all the rain, sleet, snow and hail that the GYE has been getting since April, our property looked like a tall grass tropical jungle by the time we got home. I'll post a full trip report next week and will include the highlights of our trip along with some pix and our personal observations about Yelowstone bear and campground management during our stay at Slough Creek (June 15 thru July July 13th). My initial thoughts are that you were spot on, with most of your observations. What we experienced had little to do with rangers being seasonal or with a ranger's lack of experience with bears and other wildlife. I'll get into more detail and will cite some examples, in my trip report. In the mean time, I hope that you'll please "bear"with me. With the fire season at hand, our first priority is to get our tall grass jungle mowed. It usually takes us about a week or so to get our property back into shape. At this point, all I can say is that I didn't have nearly as many wildlife photo ops this year, as I've had in years past. In fact, judging by my camera counter, I took less than half the number of pix that I normally take. But the bear and bison encounters that hubby and I did have on our recent Park trip, were really quite extraordinary. I should be able to post a full trip report next week. So please stay tuned. :)



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