PREDATORS in the PARK!!! by Montana Grant
By angelamontana

Posted: June 12, 2024

The Yellowstone Park region and other wild open places in Montana are not just a place to see geysers, glaciers, and nature’s wonders. These places are also the home of powerful and dangerous predators. 

When our parks were just beginning, predator populations were already nearly decimated. The demand for fur, protection of livestock, sport, and risk of being eaten were all reasons to put the hammer down on wild wolves, grizzly bears, black bears, mountain lions, wolverines, and whatever threat was perceived. It has taken over 100 years for these predator populations to return. Laws and regulations protect and manage their populations. 

Like it or not, there are also more Predators in the wild now than a century ago. When we visit our parks and wild places, we are unwelcome guests in the predators’ living room. Decades ago, this was not such a big deal. As kids in the 1960’s we saw plenty of black bear traffic jams. Bears feeding at the dumps, and other close encounters in Yellowstone Park. I never saw a grizzly until I became a hunter. Even then bear sightings were rare.

When humans and critters have encounters, the critters end up paying the price. I once watched a camper kill a black bear at Tower Junction when it took a loaf of bread off their picnic table. The retired Air Force officer said he was protecting his family. I another incident, at Canyon Village campground, I watched rangers shoot a Grizzly sow with 2 cubs. She had knocked over a bear proof trash can. They became conditioned to feed camper’s trash and paid the price. The next morning, it took a backhoe and 6 rangers to replace the trash can and remove the dead bears, 20 yards from our trailer. The cubs were too young to be on their own and were euthanized. This was in the 1960’s when grizzlies were not very common. 

When the Grizzlies became protected in the Yellowstone region, the recovery goal was 750 bears. Today, the Grizzly population exceeds this goal by hundreds more, and are still protected. Grizzly encounters are obviously more likely. 

Times have changed. If you are not observant and prepared for a predator encounter, it can easily happen to you. During calving season, elk, deer, antelope, and other critters will protect their young. Wouldn’t you? Large, and small critters have defensive, and offensive skills, that can injure humans. It’s not just about the large, toothed, and grizzly critters. 

Natural dangers and accidents are also waiting to happen in the Parks. Rushing, cold rivers, boiling geysers, steaming mud pots, loose rocks, and remote adventure can turn into an emergency in moments. It is important for Tourists and all visitors to anticipate the risks, follow the rules, and avoid accidents. 

Be aware of the risks when in our wild parks. Most deadly encounters are easily prevented if people use common sense. Swatting critters in the butt, getting too close, and taking intimate/close selfies risk human lives but also the lives of the critters. Wild parks are not for amusement and are not zoos. Tourists are visitors in the wild critters living rooms.

 Be respectful!

Montana Grant

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