As the summer months approach, millions of Americans will flock to our country’s National Parks to enjoy the beauty of nature and the great outdoors. For many, it’s a chance to escape the hustle and bustle of city life and immerse themselves in the wonders of the wilderness. But as we’ve seen, not all visitors are well-versed in wildlife safety, and some have even put themselves in harm’s way by getting too close to wild animals.
It’s easy to point fingers at these reckless tourists and call them foolish, but the reality is that many of them are simply unaware of the dangers posed by wild animals. Bison, elk, and bears may seem docile from a distance, but they are powerful, unpredictable creatures that can cause serious harm if provoked.
This is where the National Parks Service comes in. The NPS is tasked with managing and preserving our National Parks, and part of that responsibility involves keeping visitors safe. Of course, it’s impossible to guarantee the safety of every single tourist in the vast expanse of our National Parks, but the NPS is doing its best to educate visitors on the importance of wildlife safety.
The NPS released a humorous yet informative public service announcement about wildlife safety. The video features a man trying to take a selfie with a bison, only to be tackled by a park ranger. It’s a lighthearted way to remind visitors that wild animals are not pets or props for photos, and that getting too close can have serious consequences.
But is this enough? I don’t think so. While the PSA is a step in the right direction, it’s clear that more needs to be done to ensure visitor safety in our National Parks. One solution would be to require all visitors to take an animal safety class before entering the parks.
This may seem like a burden, but it’s a small price to pay for the peace of mind that comes with knowing how to safely navigate the wilderness. The class could cover topics like how to read animal behavior, how to store food and trash properly to avoid attracting wildlife, and what to do in the event of an encounter with a dangerous animal.
Some may argue that this is an overreaction, that it’s not fair to impose additional requirements on visitors who simply want to enjoy the parks. But the reality is that the safety of visitors and wildlife alike is paramount. Requiring an animal safety class would not only reduce the risk of dangerous encounters, but it would also promote a greater appreciation and understanding of the natural world.
It’s worth noting that some National Parks already require visitors to attend safety classes. For example, Denali National Park in Alaska requires all visitors who plan to hike off-trail to attend a mandatory safety briefing. This has been effective in reducing the number of accidents and injuries in the park, and could serve as a model for other parks looking to enhance their safety protocols.
Ultimately, the National Parks Service has a duty to protect the natural resources under its care, and that includes both wildlife and visitors. Requiring an animal safety class may seem like a small step, but it could go a long way in ensuring that everyone who visits our National Parks can do so safely and responsibly.
So, while we can’t expect the NPS to keep every tourist safe in the vast wilderness of our National Parks, we can appreciate their efforts to do so. And if we all do our part by educating ourselves on wildlife safety and respecting the natural world, we can ensure that future generations can continue to enjoy the wonders of our National Parks for years to come.
“It’s getting to be that season again…
National parks offer a unique experience for watching wildlife. But with that privilege comes great responsibility. Visitors are responsible for their own safety and for the safety of the animals, too. Simply put, leave animals alone—no touching, no feeding, no harassing. Just remember to keep your distance, and enjoy your experience watching wildlife.
This message is not for those followers who know what’s up and would never dream of getting too close to wildlife on purpose. Thanks for leading by example! Think of this as a message to share with others you know heading out to a park. “Vacation brain” sometimes takes over, and people may let their guard down, or get taken in by bear’s ears and other cuddly thoughts, only to have a less than pleasant experience in nature. It happens. Every year.
Infographic entitled “Wildlife Safety” with a chart of two columns. First row has an illustration of someone feeding a squirrel “nope” example next to an illustration of a person distanced next to no feed sign as “better” example. Second row has an illustration of a person taking a selfie next to a bear as and the word “nope” next to an illustration of a person far away from a bear with words, “good job”. Third row has an illustration of a person next to a moose with the word “nope” next to an illustration of a person far away from a moose with words, “now you got it”. Fourth row has an illustration of a person about to touch a bison as a “nope” example next to an illustration of a person running away from charging bison herd with words “Good luck”.”