Posted by: George | July 10, 2010


July 9, 2010 (morning)

On his trip around America, John Steinbeck avoided the national parks. He felt like they didn’t represent the true America. (I disagree, but more on that later.) He made one brief trip into a national park—Yellowstone. In what seems to be a two or three hour excursion, he drives into the south gate and encountered three bears. Each bear sent Charley into hysterics, so he turned around and drove out. This is the main reason I didn’t want to bring Mona, my dog.

I am a little skeptical that he saw three bears in a few hours. This is my third trip to Yellowstone. I’ve camped in wilderness areas twice, and I’ve never seen a bear. I’ve send tracks and droppings, even a bison with a large bit out of his side, but no bear.

Of course, when Steinbeck visited, people were still feeding the bears and leaving food out. Trash dumpsters were not bear-proof. When I drove into West Yellowstone yesterday, every trash can on the street was bear-proof. So, we are doing a better job about keeping the bears wild, which means keeping them away from humans, human food, and human stupidity.

When I checked into my campsite in the Tetons and here in Madison, the rangers told me a bear had to be put down about a month ago. This is big news and sad news in this area. Despite all the warnings from rangers, the warnings on signs just about everywhere you turn, some morons had had left food in their tent. The bear went after it. The morons were not harmed, but the rangers knew that the bear, who had now tasted Sugar Pops or some other human food, would be back. They had to put the bear down.

When I checked into the Madison campground, I was, as usual, warned about bears and was told that there had been a lot of bear activity in the area. I asked if any had been into the campground. The ranger said, “A few weeks ago, a bear chased some bison through the camp.” This said as if she were talking about something much more mundane, like, “I saw Bob walking down the street yesterday.” A bear chasing bison through a campsite. I wish I had seen that.

The rangers must spend more time protecting animals from humans than humans from animals. On one of my trips to Yellowstone, day-trippers halted traffic to look at six or seven bison grazing. As is typical, people stopped their cars in the middle of the road, get out, and take pictures. One woman was standing in front of a bison, directly in front of it, petting the beast.  If you don’t understand that this is stupid, read Death in Yellowstone. Many people have been killed trying to turn wild animals into lapdogs.

This particular woman was not attacked, surprisingly. Beyond the dangers, I feel that this kind of behavior is simply insulting to the animals and the park. Yellowstone is not a petting zoo.



  1. Curiously, how does one bear-proof a trash dumpster?


    • It’s hard to explain, but usually there is a four by 1 inch pocket with a latch inside. Humans can slide their fingers into the latch. Bears can’t. This is not Jellystone. No bears stealing picnic baskets here.


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