There are signs all over Yellowstone saying “Don’t approach the wildlife.” When you drive through the gates, the rangers in the check stations give you a pamphlet that tells you to give wild animals plenty of space. Wherever there is a traffic jam with people stopping to watch moose, bison, bears, elk or other animals, there’s always a ranger wandering around telling people to stay well away from the critters. But there are still plenty of people every year who walk right out there, get much too close, and then get trampled, gored, bitten or otherwise mangled because they couldn’t follow directions.
The wildlife can fight back if people get in their business. But it’s not just the wildlife that is being abused by people who can’t be bothered to follow the rules. Yellowstone is a national treasure in large part because of its thermal features. But as incredible as those features are, they are also quite sensitive. Many of those areas have amazing colors, which are created by bacteria or other organisms. Those organisms need the waters they live in to remain exactly the way they are, or they die. If they die, the colors of those features fade or go away entirely.
And some thermal areas stretch underground for great distances around what you can see on the surface. The rules they have in the park to stay on the paths and not walk all over the thermal areas are in place to protect those features, but also to keep tourists from getting boiled to death.
If you’re on your way through our state to visit Yellowstone, please pay attention to the park’s rules. They not only protect this wonderful, amazing, unique chunk of Wyoming, but they also protect you from being gored, eaten, trampled, fried or par-boiled – or arrested and tried in a federal court if you don’t get killed. Stay safe out there.