Important Reminders When Encountering Wildlife Near the Road

May 15, 2010
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A two year old black bear cub climbs up a cottonwood tree near the Signal Mountain Lodge in Grand Teton National Park, Wyoming. (Mike Cavaroc)
A black bear cub clings to a cottonwood tree for safety in Grand Teton National Park, Wyoming.

After photographing these black bears for a good hour or so with only two other local photographers near the Signal Mountain Lodge in Grand Teton National Park, the crowds began swarming shortly after that. That’s to be expected any time there are animals, especially young ones, on the side of the road.

While it can definitely be exciting, it’s important to remember that you’re visiting their home. The scene here was bittersweet because each time a car would drive through, it would startle the cubs up into the nearest tree. While it made for excellent shots, the poor cubs were frightened to the point of running for safety simply because someone didn’t respect where they were and drove right through, not caring if they were driving too close to the cubs or even if they were going too fast to make sure the bears felt safe. At one point the mother even got so upset that she made a quick jolt into the street fearing for the safety of her cubs.

If you are fortunate enough to encounter wildlife near the road, whether it be bears, wolves, owls, bison, etc., please keep in mind that while in you’re car, you appear a much bigger and much noisier animal to them. If you’re in a hurry and you just want your two quick shots, at least give them as much room as you can and drive by slowly! Anything over five or ten miles-per-hour will scare an animal causing it unneeded stress. Just remember it’s their home first and you should act respectfully when visiting, just like you would if you were visiting a friend’s house.

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