Don’t get too close to wildlife

On a trip to Grand Teton National Park a while back, I saw some folks getting way too close to wild animals. It’s a fairly common sight in the national parks, but it’s not a good idea.

My cousin’s wedding lured me to Grand Teton National Park not long ago. While I was up in that neck of the woods, I did a bit of scouting around for wildlife. In a national park, wild critters weren’t hard to find.

Among the first animals I saw were a big sow grizzly and her three cubs. When I caught my first glimpse of the mama bear, she was about fifty yards off the road. What alerted me to her presence was the giant knot of people and vehicles parked along – and in – the roadway.

Now I’m just as happy as the next guy to see a bear out in its natural habitat. But I’d much rather see it from a hundred yards, or two hundred, than from fifty. In my opinion, fifty yards from a mother bear with cubs is a mite too close.

Amazingly enough, one guy with a little point-and-shoot camera broke away from the gaggle of onlookers and started moving straight toward the bears. There was a wall of willows between the road and the bears, but this guy looked like he was going to stroll right through them to get a close-up of one of the giant carnivores. Luckily for him, a park ranger stopped the guy before he could become the main course for a quartet of hungry grizzlies.

The next day, another wad of parked vehicles caught my attention. This time, there was a big bull moose just off the roadside on the Snake River’s famous Oxbow Bend. Unlike the bears, this moose was RIGHT on the side of the road. Some of the onlookers were close enough to almost touch the moose.

Every year, a handful of people like this get gored, trampled, mauled, clawed, or even eaten by wild animals. The critters might look tame, but they are truly wild animals. In the parks, they might be a little more tolerant of people, but they still have their personal space, and they’ll fight to defend it.

One of these days, some idiot’s going to get mangled, and the rest of us will suffer. New rules will be made to keep us farther from the animals, and that’ll just create more headaches for the rangers and less enjoyment for the park visitors. So do the animals and yourself a favor. Keep a reasonable distance between you and those wild critters.