Out of control at Canyon.
Will wolves, grizzly hurt someone?

7-14-2006


I got email this morning describing crowd conditions at Canyon as "mayhem." This is not first email I have gotten on the situation. Apparently crowds of people are leaving the road and walking way out in Hayden Valley to a carcass, killed by the Hayden Pack. They are interfering with the pack, and some are also accompanied by small children.

Yesterday a crowd of people were down in the valley with scopes waiting for a grizzly bear that had been spotted to come over the hill.

The crowds may simply drive the animals away, but wolves and bears get habituated to people. The Hayden Pack clearly is habituated. This means in part that they are not afraid of people. The wolves are in a neutral emotional state when people are present. However, if they become irritated at people, they might just take a swipe, bite, or claw a person just as they would any other animal in the backcountry that bothers them, and course then the crowd would run, making the situation worse. Hopefully someone out there has pepper spray.

Small children, of course, act and sound like prey. There are many swales in the valley where a person and a bear or a wolf pack could suddenly meet by accident. The mostly likely situation, of course, is that someone will get gored by one of the hundreds of bison or kicked by an elk. That wouldn't make news, however, like a wolf biting someone.

In my opinion, the Park Rangers at Canyon need to take control of the situation, and do more than direct traffic.

Addition: I think the situation is made worse by congressional budget cuts. There are not enough rangers to manage the mid-summer crowds. RM

Update 6-15.
Folks have a lot of differing opinions about the situation at Hayden Valley.

The carcass in question is probably one of the many elk that they have killed in Alum Creek, the slow stream the flows under the highway at the bottom of Hayden Valley. Because these kills are visible, sometimes easily visible from the highway, a lot of people stop, and many walk to near where Alum Creek flows into the Yellowstone for a better look, as the result the wolves have become bold around people, or they have to wait until night. To get to the Alum Creek kills from their rendezvous site on the east side of the Yellowstone River, the wolves swim the river or sometimes cross the Chittenden Bridge and come down the highway (to the south) to Alum Creek.

The rendezvous site on the east side of the Yellowstone (not the side with the highway) is near the Howard Eaton Trail. The trail has been closed to hikers and horse traffic. I have heard that the few violations of this closure order have been accidental.

On the other side of Mt. Washburn (the north side), there has often been a huge traffic jam as people watch the Agates. As anyone who has been there can attest, the road is narrow, rough, and has little shoulder, except for a number of small pullouts. When we saw the Agates in June, the ranger told me to pull all 4 wheels of my truck off the pavement. I did as ordered, but in getting back out I left a fair skid mark in the vegetation. If that happens hundreds of times a day, it will pretty much ruin all the roadside vegetation.


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