People taking pictures of themselves doing dangerous things cost lives in Yellowstone last year. One man died in a hot spring. Park officials have found a way to turn things around, with camera phones.
Yellowstone National Park had record visitation for the last two years, and in 2016, several illegal, and deadly incidents. In May, a Canadian tourist picked up a baby bison, that later had to be euthanized. Another group of Canadian tourists took pictures of themselves jumping on Grand Prismatic Spring. They were fined after facing criminal charges.
But, something far worse happened to an Oregon man, when he and his sister walked more than 200 yards off the boardwalk in the Norris Geyser Basin area. The Park’s investigation revealed he slipped into a spring while his sister was taking video with her camera phone. He died.
Yellowstone Public Affairs Specialist Morgan Warthin said, “Our commitment is to protect this place, and our commitment is to protect the visitor, so seeing instance after instance of the Park not being protected, and visitors hurting themselves, even to the point of those unfortunate fatalities... it is hard.”
Warthin said they are ramping up efforts to get people to take responsibility and do the right thing. So, they’re asking visitors to take the Yellowstone Pledge.
She explained, “It’s a series of statements that they will pledge to uphold.”
At the top of those pledges: Never approach animals to take a picture, and stay on boardwalks in thermal areas. The Pledge is posted on the park website and shared on social media.
Warthin explained, “Yellowstone has a Facebook page and a Twitter page.” But the Park’s new “not secret” weapon, is the cell phone.
Warthin said the phones can be used, “To take photos of violations that they see.” Warthin said the photos should be taken to the nearest ranger, or texted to the Park’s public affairs department. She gives a bear jam example.
She said you can, “Take photos of people who are at those wildlife jams who are getting way too close to the bear.”
Those photos may eventually slow down dangerous behavior when people who are considering breaking the rules realize everyone with a phone nearby may be recording and reporting their acts.
The Yellowstone pledge can be found at go.nps.gov/YellowstonePledge.