A dozen or so Yellowstone National Park tourists apparently couldn’t decide whether to run or take photos as a black bear sow and her three cubs bounded towards them on a scenic overlook this week.
A one-minute video posted by Montana Fish, Wildlife & Parks on Friday shows the sightseers walking casually on a bridge near the state’s Wyoming border and pointing their high-powered lenses at the bear family even as a park ranger yells at them to “Keep Going! Go! Go!”
Many of the visitors do then pick up the pace back to their parked vehicles on the side of the road in the footage. The recognizable momma bear briefly appears to charge at a couple of people who were taking its picture before retreating harmlessly away.
No one was hurt and the bears, who look as confused as the two-legged onlookers in the video, safely returned to the forest, according to the agency.
The video shows several sightseers walking away casually even as a park ranger can be heard yelling at them to pick up the pace.
While a little girl can be heard screaming briefly, the travelers escaped greater risk than they may have known at the time, an agency spokesman told NBC News.
“These tourists were absolutely in danger,” said Bob Gibson, noting that the younger animals out with their mother were about 13 months old.
“Black bears are usually shy of people,” he added. “But you put them with their cubs and they get really protective. You never want to be between a bear and its cub.”
The cubs and their momma bear approached the tourists, several of whom were carrying high-powered photography equipment, earlier this week.
Yellowstone attracts over 3 million tourists each year, according to the National Park Service. Between the 1910s and 1960s, park managers permitted visitors to feed black bears along park roads even though the agency officially opposed doing so, the park’s website says.
After officials actively stopped the practice, human injuries from black bears at Yellowstone plummeted to about one injury every five years from roughly 45 per year from the 1930s to the 1960s, the website says. Visitors should “retreat slowly” and remain far away if they spot a bear, according to the federal agency.
“It serves as a reminder that wildlife can be unpredictable,” Montana officials said of the incident Friday. “For your safety and theirs, respect wildlife and give them room to roam.”
The fully-grown female black bear momentarily spooks these two men as it appeared to charge toward them in the video.
But several Facebook commenters didn’t display as much concern for the tourists’ safety in comments below the post about the encounter that one user said occurred on an overpass between Tower Junction and Lamar Valley in the park.
People often stop their cars and get out on that particular bridge to capture the scenic view, but the tourists should have cleared out of the area much sooner, several users contended.
“I have to say I have never seen the visitation so high and the IQ levels so low in the park at this time of year before,” one of the commenters said.
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