Yellowstone tourists, pursued by a black bear, evidently couldn’t quite decide whether to walk, run or keep snapping photos. About a dozen or so tourists, gathered on a scenic overlook in Montana near the Wyoming border, are seen casually meandering on the side of the bridge, until a park ranger screams at them to “Keep going! Go!”
Writes ABC News on May 9: “No one was attacked or injured, but experts say the run-in is a perfect example of the dangers in Yellowstone National Park. The park drew over 3.5 million visitors last year, according to the National Park Service.”
The one-minute video, released by Yellowstone’s park department Friday, shows the visitors finally picking up the pace – but certainly not nearly fast enough had this mother bear decided to attack. The bear, protecting her two cubs, does make a brief charge at a couple people before retreating. Tourists on the other side of the bridge still raise their cameras looking for a photo op.
Wildlife officials say the visitors in this video did everything wrong – and are fortunate they didn’t get hurt.
“A mama bear with cubs is not something you want to get near to at all,” said wildlife expert Jack Hanna after viewing the video. “These bears do wake up in warmer weather. They’re thirsty and hungry and they come out. This is their time of year. It’s their home. Treat them with respect and film them at a distance, that’s all.”
Adds ABC: “According to wildlife experts, the best defense against a bear is to keep your distance. Yellowstone National Park regulations require visitors to ‘stay at least 100 yards away from bears.’”
In other words, if a bear starts sharing a bridge with two-legged onlookers, get out of there. As opposed to just strolling about with your high-powered lens.
“Keep moving! Go! Go!” yells out Yellowstone Park Ranger John Kerr in the video.
“These tourists were absolutely in danger,” said Bob Gibson, the Communication and Education Program Manager at Montana Fish, Wildlife, and Parks. “Black bears are usually shy of people. But you put them with their cubs and they get really protective. You never want to be between a bear and its cub.”
Gibson said the tourists are fortunate that the cubs were older – appearing to be around a year old. If they were newborns, the black bear would have likely attacked.
“Had they been the young of the year and 10 days old or so, the mom would have been all over the tourists,” Gibson said.
Adds NBC News: “Gibson advises visitors to Yellowstone to stay as far away from the bears as possible, especially in the spring when cubs are born and in the fall when the bears are getting ready to hibernate and are more protective of their food sources.”
According to Yellowstone’s web site, injuries reported from black bear attacks have plummeted from “an average of 45 per year during the 1930s–1960s to approximately one injury every five years since 1980.”