Thoughtless Yellowstone tourists hassle black bear and her cubs, despite warnings

Female black bear with cub, USA
(Image credit: Getty)

A group of tourists have been caught on camera crowding around a black bear and her two cubs at Yellowstone National Park to take pictures, with several trying to hide behind a boulder despite the fact that the bears have the high ground and can clearly see them. The mother black bear seems aggravated, standing between her young and the onlookers, facing downhill so she could easily run downhill at speed.

The incident (which you can see below) was recorded by Riley Krantz and shared via TouronsOfYellowstone on Instagram. The account documents examples of bad behavior at US National Parks, including close calls with wildlife.

There's been a spate of incidents involving bears at Yellowstone in recent weeks, including a tourist who has been seen several times jumping out at the animals and chasing them while making gorilla noises. The National Park Service has begun an investigation, but so far he seems to have escaped identification and arrest. Deliberately interfering with park wildlife is considered harassment and is punishable with a fine or even jail time. 

The National Park Service (NPS) warns visitors that all of Yellowstone is bear habitat, and you should be prepared for potential encounters anywhere.

"Your safety cannot be guaranteed, but you can play an active role in protecting yourself and the bears people come here to enjoy," explains the service.

Visitors are told to stay at least 100 yards (93 meters) from bears at all times, and never approach the animals to take a photo. It's also important never to feed them, as this can lead them to become food-conditioned or habituated, and lose their natural wariness of humans. This increases the chances of a dangerous close encounter with a person. If a bear attacks a human, even if there are no serious injuries, it may be euthanized for public safety.

Food conditioned and habituated animals are also at greater risk of death or injury in other ways.

"Studies have shown that bears that lose their fear of people by obtaining human food and garbage never live as long as bears that feed on natural foods and are shy and afraid of people," says the NPS. "Many are hit by cars and become easy targets for poachers."

For more advice, see our guides what to do if you see a bear and wildlife safety: eight tips for unexpected encounters.

Cat Ellis

Cat is the editor of Advnture, She’s been a journalist for 15 years, and was fitness and wellbeing editor on TechRadar before joining the Advnture team in 2022. She’s a UK Athletics qualified run leader, and in her spare time enjoys nothing more than lacing up her shoes and hitting the roads and trails (the muddier, the better), usually wearing at least two sports watches.