Take the Yellowstone Pledge, even if you aren’t visiting the park

Established in 1872, Yellowstone National Park was the first of its kind in the United States, predating even the National Park Service (which wasn’t created until 44 years later), and is also considered the first national park in the world. Yellowstone is famous for its wildlife, thermal waters, gorgeous scenery and gushing geysers.

The park sees millions of visitors each year, most of whom are wanting to take home images of their trip. With the selfie culture in full effect, many tourists can quickly forget about the boundaries that keep them safe for that epic picture, leaving them hurt and or hurting Yellowstone in the process.

Pay your respects from a safe distance. Photo: Courtesy of NPS/Jacob W. Frank

Yellowstone is certainly not anti-selfie; rather, they are the opposite, but just would like for visitors to take them in a safe way. That is why they made the Yellowstone Pledge, which you can apply to any park or outdoor recreation area.

Here, we break down the pledge to help you understand why it’s important to respect and abide by each statement (and share them with your cohorts).

Practice safe selfies by never approaching animals to take a picture

The rangers are much more approachable. Photo: Courtesy of NPS/Neal Herbert

This should be common sense, but the concept still evades people. Wild animals are wild animals, and, well, they will act wild. National parks are not zoos — there are no fences — so if you provoke an animal and it feels threatened and wants to harm you, there is no protection.

Furthermore, if the animal does attack, most likely it will have to be terminated, which is absolutely tragic considering how much you wanted to try to take a photo with that magnificent creature in the first place.

Stay on boardwalks in thermal areas

Want to ooh and ahh over places like Yellowstone’s Fountain Paint Pot? Do so from behind the fence, please. Photo: Courtesy of NPS/Diane Renkin

Just because you might get wet on the boardwalk or designated trails from a gushing thermal does not mean that you won’t get melted down like the witch in “The Wizard of Oz” from the water that is closer to the openings. The average temperature of the erupting water from the Yellowstone thermals is 204 degrees Fahrenheit. Do not forget what happened last year to the unfortunate man who was boiled to death, or to the guys in the spring who embarrassed the human race.

The penalty is death, fines and/or humiliation, but you don’t get to pick. Don’t be that guy.

Park in designated areas and avoid blocking traffic

Nothing ruins a scene like this more than having to yell “Down in front!” Photo: NPS/Jacob W. Frank

Who likes traffic? No one. Again, don’t be that guy: Get up early, get better parking — and, ultimately, a better photograph.

Stay with my car if I’m stuck in a wildlife jam

You only make the roads worse when you throw it in park and wander out for photos. Photo: NPS/Neal Herbert

This is the kind of gridlock that might actually be fun. Being able to see animals while you’re in the comfort of your car? Sounds awesome. But please refer to pledge promise No. 1.

If you are stuck in a wildlife jam and are a half a mile from the animals, we understand that it sucks, but there is a good chance you’ll see wildlife on your trip. Be patient and remember that Yellowstone is their home, not yours.

Follow speed limits and pull over to let cars pass

You can’t predict when wildlife will move from just off the road to crossing the double yellow, so crank up your defensive driving skills and drop your speed. Photo: Courtesy of NPS

How terrible would you feel if you hit an animal at Yellowstone with your car? Slow down.

Travel safely in bear country by carrying bear spray, making noise and hiking in a group

Hoping it won’t come to this, but you ought to be prepared if it does. Photo: Courtesy of NPS/Neal Herbert

Be bear aware. Before purchasing the bear spray, learn how to use it. Make noise; a loud holler twice will do every time you don’t have a clear sight line in front of you and when you are unsure. Why two hollers? The first is to alert the bear of your presence; the second is to let them know where you are.

You might feel silly doing this on your hike, but you will feel even sillier if you come across a bear unaware. Bears are more intimidated by larger groups; there is greater safety in numbers.

Also, know your bears. The difference between a black bear and a grizzly bear will certainly help your chance of survival if you come across an agitated bear.

Keep my food away from animals

Less adorable when munching on Cheetos. Photo: Courtesy of NPS/Jacob W. Frank

Not only is feeding bears against the law, but it can also eventually kill the animal because it will be more aggressive about getting human food, and repeat offenders are often terminated. Try to remember the adage: "A fed bear is a dead bear."

This also applies to other species in Yellowstone. Wild animals should not become dependent on people feeding them. This disrupts their ability to access (and their desire to consume) their natural food sources.

Recycle what I can and put my garbage in bear-proof containers

Keep him out of your pic-a-nic basket. Photo: Courtesy of NPS/Jim Peaco

Leaving your food garbage is just as bad as feeding an animal directly. Bear-proof containers are actually really cool and oddly gratifying to use. We think you’ll enjoy taking out your garbage and sorting your recyclables more.

Report resource violations by calling 911 or talking to a ranger

Bad behavior by others left unreported could eventually bring harm to creatures who call the park home. Photo: Courtesy of NPS/Jacob W. Frank

You don’t want to go home from your Yellowstone (or any park) vacation wishing you had done something differently. If you see something, say something.

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