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Have you ever visited a national park and wondered why some people do the things they do? You may watch someone get too close to a bison or completely ignore the posted warnings that say to remain on the trails.
Today, we’re looking at a few stories that have made the news and suggest five ways to be a responsible tourist when you head out to our nation’s best places!
Tourists Do Stupid Things Around Wildlife In National Parks
One way tourists do stupid things in national parks is by getting too close to wildlife. This happens all too frequently in Yellowstone National Park. Known for its abundant wildlife like bison, elk, and bears, Yellowstone seems to have more tourists who want to capture the perfect photo rather than heed the warnings for their safety and the safety of the wildlife.
USA Today reported a 2022 incident when an agitated bison rammed into a stopped car. A year before, USA Today ran an article about a woman who was given four days in jail for approaching a grizzly bear.
The Instagram account Tourons of Yellowstone readily posts videos of people doing stupid things around wildlife in national parks. If you want to know what not to do, check out that account!
Tourists Ignore Posted Warnings In National Parks
Other tourists might remain 100 yards away from wildlife but instead choose to ignore other warnings in national parks. We wrote an article about a dumb tourist who touched a hot spring in Yellowstone. She had to reach back and grab a family member’s hand to keep herself from falling in!
Yellowstone isn’t the only national park where tourists do stupid things. In Canyonlands National Park in Utah, a woman posed for photos atop an arch. This may not seem like a big deal except for the sign at the arch that reads “Keep Off Arch.” The lack of respect people have for these protected areas is getting exhausting.
Tourists Are Destroying Landscapes
Like the example above of the woman walking atop an arch, other tourists are ruining these precious landscapes. Whether it’s entitlement or ignorance, these visitors destroy the places we seek to protect.
Another example from Yellowstone is a drunk guy who walked on the thermal features. Thankfully, he was banned for life from the national park and now faces federal charges. There’s a reason signs are posted telling visitors to stay on boardwalks and trails. It’s not just about your safety but also to protect these natural features.
In Arches National Park, you cannot walk on any arch. The website states, “To promote visitor safety and the opportunity to view natural features undisturbed, climbing, scrambling, walking or standing upon, or rappelling off any arch is prohibited in the park.” If we want generations to continue to enjoy these unique places, we must obey warnings and regulations and use common sense to avoid destroying the landscape.
Can You Receive Jail Time For Doing Stupid Things In National Parks?
You can receive jail time for doing stupid things in national parks. You can get fined and banned from the park as well.
For example, a recent incident in Yellowstone is under investigation. A man ran after a bear, which could result in a Class B misdemeanor with up to six months in jail and a $5,000 fine. An Oregon man received 130 days in jail for harassing a bison. The National Park Service and the federal government take these actions very seriously.
5 Ways To Be A Responsible Tourist In National Parks
Instead of making the Tourons of Yellowstone Instagram account, let’s all attempt to stay out of the headlines by recreating responsibly. Here are five ways to take care of nature while enjoying its beauty, history, and cultural significance.
1. Be Respectful of Wildlife
Never approach wildlife. Stay in your car if you’re at Yellowstone and encounter a bison crossing. Don’t agitate the animals. If you’re on a hike, don’t go off the trail to capture a photo of an elk. The National Park Service tells visitors to stay at least 100 yards away from bears and wolves and at least 25 yards away from all other animals.
2. Keep Pets On Leashes
Part of protecting wildlife includes keeping your pets on leashes. But this rule is also about keeping your pets safe. Wild animals can carry diseases and harm your furry friends in an attack. Leashes also protect your pets from falling off a cliff or running into a hot spring.
If a trail says dogs are prohibited, it’s probably for good reason. Obey the posted warnings and keep your pets leashed in national parks.
Keep in Mind: If you want to bring your furry friend along with you on your national park adventure, make sure they are allowed. Start with this list of Dog-Friendly National Parks!
3. Follow Leave No Trace Principles
If you can’t remember anything else, remember this: leave no trace. Take photographs and leave footprints, but don’t disturb the wildlife or natural settings.
Don’t deface artifacts or sacred places. There should be no record of your existence. Also, pick up your trash. Whether hiking, camping, swimming, or picnicking, it’s essential to clean up and leave the area the same as you found it.
4. Obey Posted Warnings And Regulations
We’ve mentioned this throughout this article, but the warnings and rules are in place for a reason. They keep you and wildlife safe and protect the natural area.
Yellowstone doesn’t allow visitors to leave the boardwalk because they can fall into a thermal feature and possibly die. Acadia doesn’t allow swimming at Jordan Pond because it’s a water source for the community. Follow the rules and keep these special places “special.”
5. Stay On Trails
Part of Leave No Trace is staying on trails. Stepping on undisturbed crust can cause years of irreparable damage. You can kill plant life by trampling on vegetation.
Many national parks protect not only the wildlife and landscape but also the flora and fauna of a region. Staying on trails is also a way to stay safe from wildlife. Most animals prefer to avoid humans, so they don’t hang out around trails where hikers consistently walk.
Read More: Speaking of dumb things happening in National Parks, read about the Pilot Who Was Fined (Again) for Landing in a National Park!
Don’t Make the Headlines: Enjoy Our National Parks Responsibly
Recreating responsibly is vital to maintaining our national parks for generations. If people walk across an arch, that arch likely won’t be around for the next generation. If people don’t heed posted warnings, park officials may close sections to the public, no longer allowing visitors to enjoy its features.
Let’s enjoy our public spaces while also protecting them. “America’s best idea” was to allow the public and not just the rich to savor these unique places. But, if the public continues to do stupid things in national parks, we might not have them to enjoy much longer.
Have you ever witnessed a “touron” acting irresponsibly?