Yellowstone Park officials are still investigating an “egregious” example of foolhardiness and disregard for wildlife — social media videos of a man jumping from his car to deliberately taunt and harass black bears.
Meanwhile, the location where the videos were taken remains in question, Park Service spokeswoman Morgan Warthin stated in an email to Cowboy State Daily.
“We are aware of this egregious incident, and it is under investigation. We are not confident that the incident occurred in Yellowstone National Park,” Warthin said.
No further information was available because the incident is still under investigation, according to the Park Service.
If and when he’s identified and caught, the man could face up to six months in jail and a $5,000 fine under misdemeanor charges of disturbing wildlife, illegally approaching wildlife and disorderly conduct creating or maintaining a hazardous condition.
A New Level Of Stupidity
The videos depict an unidentified man getting out his vehicle and running at bears near the roadside, making grunting and barking noises, prompting the baffled bears to flee. Someone in the vehicle’s passenger seat takes video of the breathtakingly dumb antics.
The clips first appeared on a site called “Tourons of Yellowstone,” which has since been taken down. However, the videos went viral on other social media platforms.
Videos and other accounts of stupid human tricks in and around Wyoming and Yellowstone National Park are nothing new to Jen Mignard. She runs the social media site “Yellowstone Park: Invasion of the Idiots,” which chronicles various incidents of tomfoolery in the park.
The identity of the man harassing the bears, as well as the location of the videos, remained a mystery to her on Wednesday, she told Cowboy State Daily.
“That is a level of stupidity I never actually thought we would ever witness,” she said. “But here we are.”
Mignard said she’s made her site more friendly for anonymous tips.
“I turned on anonymous posting last night. I’m hoping that allows people more comfort and posting videos of people doing stupid stuff than what they have felt previously,” she said. “Sometimes they post things and they’re just harassed through private messenger until they delete it.”
Rooting For The Bears
Two bear experts from Cody told Cowboy State Daily that watching the videos made them livid.
Joe Kondelis, an avid bear hunter and American Bear Foundation president, said he’s rooting for the bears.
“That dude is an ass,” he said. “Regardless of his safety, it’s harassing wildlife, which makes me even more mad. A guy like that deserves to have his ass kicked by a bear.”
Retired federal ecologist Chuck Neal, who has studied bears for decades, said the perpetrator should be banned from public land.
“I consider him to be an an egotistical young man who sees wildlife mainly as a prop for him to prove his supposed manhood,” Neal said.
“Such an individual as that should be banned from the park and all other public lands for at least five years,” Neal added. “That’s completely irrational behavior, there’s no way he can explain his way out of this, just throw him out of the park.”
Two Big Questions
Rob Wallace, a former official with the U.S. Department of the Interior — which oversees the Park Service — said the two biggest questions surrounding the reckless bear-baiting are the man’s identity and whether the incidents did, in fact, happen in Yellowstone.
There didn’t seem to be clear answers to any Wednesday, said Wallace, who retired in 2021 as assistant U.S. secretary of the Interior for Fish, Wildlife and Parks.
The self-incriminating viral videos might help an investigation and subsequent prosecution, he told Cowboy State Daily.
“You can describe something in words, but if you see it on Instagram or Facebook, it really makes it clear how bad an offence was,” he said.
Social media pressure helped close at least one case in Yellowstone last summer. Matt Manzarie of Clermont, Florida, decided to turn himself in, after video he’d taken of himself illegally walking on hot thermals in Yellowstone went viral.
Early Season Shenanigans
Though peak tourist season has only just begun, it’s already been an eventful year in Yellowstone.
Over Memorial Day Weekend, some people allegedly nabbed an elk calf and stuffed into their car along U.S. Highway 191 and took it to the police department in West Yellowstone, Montana.
The calf “later ran off into the forest and it’s condition is unknown,” and the incident is still under investigation, according to the Park Service.
On May 28, a male black bear was stuck and killed by a car near milepost 14 on Highway 191. Later that same evening, another male black bear was struck and killed on the same highway at milepost 29, according to the Park Service.
And on May 31, Clifford Wallace of Hawaii pleaded guilty to intentionally disturbing wildlife in the park and was charged $1,000 in fines and community service fees. He’s tried to “rescue” a bison calf struggling in the Yellowstone River. The calf had to be shot by park rangers.
How Bad Can This Year Get?
Mignard said it’s too early to tell whether year will be worse than last year in terms of moronic moves in the park. It could be a tough comparison, because flooding in the park hampered last year’s tourist season.
Most of the worst offenders are young, she added.
“It seems that the most of the chaos is centered around younger people,” Mignard said. “Maybe it’s a lack of understanding of consequences and safety, a prolonged sense of invincibility and the negative influence of social media. I suspect it’s the latter two.
“Not that mature adults don’t make terrible choices, but I can’t think of a single man in his 40s or 50s would jump out of a vehicle to chase a bear,” she added.
Mark Heinz can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.