Over the course of my time here I have noticed that all too often photographers, be they the “big lens” crowd, or just the average tourists with a point and shoot or phone, have a tendency to go about photographing the wildlife in ways that negatively impact the animals, or the enjoyment of others to view the animals.
For starters, lets review the actual Park rules.
Now of course the vast majority of people and photographers break these rules to some degree and the Rangers and the regulars understand this will happen, however there is “bending” a rule and there is gross violation of a rule.
Simple “rules” that we all need to be aware of
In regards to #1, I cant stress this enough, leaving the road to photograph a Predator will very often result in the animal moving farther away. I've watched people walk 200 yards from the road to get to animals that are 500 yards away. Yes, the people never get closer than 300 yards, but the animals almost always spot the people and move farther away, thus making the hike out a waste of time, plus the animals are farther away for anybody else who wished to view them.
Everything is subject to the unique situation at hand, there is no “one rule fits all circumstances”, however if you try to avoid causing the animal stress, if you try to avoid risking harm to yourself or others, generally you are doing the right thing.
Here is a scenario that is fairly common:
A Black Bear is sighted in the Tower region. We will see 20+ people standing off the shoulder of the road enjoying watching and photographing the bear, this isn't by itself an issue. The Rangers tend to provide a good bit of leeway to the people in regards to the 100 yard rule. If the bear isn't being stressed and the people are following the Rangers instructions we may be standing at 75 yards instead of 100.
However, if you add some variables into the mix it can change the scenario suddenly.
Lets remove the Ranger from the equation and/or add in some folk who don’t understand the situation. So, instead of everybody standing in a group at 75 yards, now we have several people who move off to the right and/or left and also away from the road. These people may still be 75 yards away but they are starting to surround the bear, this increases the likelihood of the bear becoming stressed due to no longer just keeping an eye on one group near the road, now it has to keep an eye on multiple groups, some who have ventured into the bears “territory”, the area away from the road.
Suddenly what should be an enjoyable experience turns into a negative due to stressing the animal. This is a no win for us or the bear. Please note that even at 100 yards, multiple groups of people surrounding the animal is not the way to do things.
Yellowstone provides wonderful opportunities for viewing and photographing animals, just remember that we are guests in the animals home and we need to respect them. By following rules, or “bending” them in cases where its not going to negatively impact the animals, or other peoples viewing we can enjoy the wildlife without causing undo stress. Always 1st think about how what you are doing impacts the animal and then take into consideration how your actions may impact the viewing chances for other visitors to the Park. If you observe a situation where its clear that things are being done wrong, never hesitate to inform other visitors that there is a “better way”, don’t be rude, don’t be abusive, just be polite and courteous. If you observe a major violation, don’t hesitate to take pictures of what is going on and report it to the 1st ranger you have contact with. Generally such actions are warranted if somebody is using a drone, harassing an animal, feeding an animal or some other serious issue.
Thanks for reading this and I hope you have a wonderful time here in YNP.