Northwest Wyoming is one of the most beautiful places in all of the United States, if not the world — and part of that beauty has to do with the wild animals that call the area home. Getting a chance to see wolves, bison, elk, moose, black bears and/or grizzly bears is a highlight of many a visit to Yellowstone National Park, Grand Teton National Park and other places of natural beauty in the area.
However, recent incidents remind us that the wild animals in the area are just that — wild — and not to be taken lightly.
In the last few days, two women have been attacked by cow elk in separate incidents near the Mammoth Hot Springs Hotel in Yellowstone. Both attacks occurred when they happened upon a cow with a nearby calf that incorrectly perceived the accidental intrusion as a threat.
Those have not been the only two incidents of human vs. Yellowstone area wildlife to happen of late. On May 1, a bison head-butted a 72-year-old Idaho woman near Old Faithful.
On May 22, a person recreating on Sheep Mountain near Cody reportedly shot and killed a female grizzly in self-defense after a surprise encounter.
All of these incidents are sobering reminders that while wild animals are often things of beauty, they are also dangerous. When in their territory, you must constantly stay vigilant and take precautions to not get too close.
The National Park Service reminds visitors to its parks to always stay at least 100 yards away from bears and wolves, and at least 25 yards away from all other animals, including bison and elk. If necessary, turn around and go the other way to avoid interacting with an animal in close proximity.
Some other tips include:
• Always bring bear spray along on outdoor excursions. The spray, which is a stronger version of pepper spray, is considered to be more effective at preventing bear attacks than using a firearm in some situations and is also non-lethal; of course, spray is not an option when the wind is blowing away from a bear, as it was for Warden Queen last fall. Also, people are encouraged to hike or travel in groups when on outdoor excursions in the area.
• Leave baby animals alone. While an animal might appear to be abandoned, it generally is not. In many cases, the mother is nearby and will attack anyone she sees as a threat to her young. Both recent elk attacks at Yellowstone involved mothers who had their young nearby, and many bear attacks are by sows who feel their cubs are threatened. Report the incident to the proper authorities and leave well enough alone.
We live in one of the most amazing areas in the United States when it comes to natural beauty and biodiversity. However, the wildlife here in northwest Wyoming can carry a big bite, a big swing or a big kick. Treat animals with a healthy respect and reverence and stay alert.