Tourist Season Has Begun: 'New Levels Of Stupidity' Already Seen In Yellowstone

A tourist spotted within cuddling distance of a massive bison is among the first idiotic encounters in Yellowstone as tourist season begins, and one park watchdog says she’s already seeing “new levels of stupidity.”

Andrew Rossi

April 25, 20245 min read

Still image from National Park Service web cam shows a tourist get within arm's reach of a large bison in Yellowstone.
Still image from National Park Service web cam shows a tourist get within arm's reach of a large bison in Yellowstone. (Cowboy State Daily Staff)

The latest screenshot from Yellowstone National Park’s Old Faithful webcam shows the nearly desolate landscape of the Upper Geyser Basin on Thursday morning. The only living things in sight are a single person and a single bison.

And despite the vast emptiness around them, the human can’t resist getting within a few feet of the giant animal.

Not only was this tourist caught on the webcam within hugging distance of an immense bison, but he or she also went way off the established trail to do it.

“I was yelling at my computer,” said Connie Witte Reynolds, who watched the scene unfold in a classroom with her students. “There was actually another bison there with this one a bit later. A person came from the other direction and walked within arm's length.”

It’s not really the beginning. It’s already begun, and the best (or the worst) of the summer Yellowstone stupid tourist season is yet to come.

“We're already seeing new levels of stupidity this year,” Jen Mignard, owner of the Facebook page Yellowstone National Park: Invasion of the Idiots, told Cowboy State Daily. “I suspect that with even more tourism, we're going to see a lot more really negative actions coming out of the park.”

First Sighting

There’s no season for idiots in Yellowstone. The park’s West Entrance and several interior roads opened less than a week ago, but incidents are already making the rounds on social media.

Mignard said the Thursday morning webcam incident is among the season's first “touron” encounters, but not the very first. She’s already seen plenty of idiocy this year.

“The first true touron incident I’ve seen was a few days ago,” she told Cowboy State Daily. “Someone was lying in the middle of the road, taking a picture of a bison as it walked up the hill toward him. I bet they let him get within 20 feet, then jumped up and ran off the road.”

Mignard noted that the man in the video has a massive lens on his camera, which is ideal for zooming in on distant subjects. Letting your subject get within a few feet defeats the purpose of the heavy, expensive hardware.

Nevertheless, there’s something unique about spotting a foolish tourist on a National Park Service webcam. It’s a first for Mignard, who usually gets images and videos from other park visitors.

“The webcam is definitely a new one,” she said. “I don't know that there's ever been a touron spotted with the webcam doing something as audacious as going up to the bison off the boardwalk. It’s almost always other visitors in the park that are witnessing this.”

Technology in the 21st century makes it easy to capture idiocy in action. But Mignard believes nearly every account she hears is credible, even if it is just anecdotal.

“The reality is that even without photo or video proof, we can just assume that whatever they say probably happened based on history. Lots and lots of history,” she said.

A Dumber Summer

History has also taught Mignard that spring and fall are Yellowstone's peak seasons for idiotic acts. Summer is relatively quiet by comparison.

“I think spring is when we see the most of it,” she said. “Maybe it’s because the animals are a little more active because it's cooler, and they haven't seen many targets in a while. But spring seems to be the most active, then it tends to die down a little throughout the summer and kicks back up in the fall with the elk rut.”

That makes some sense. Humans are animals, after all, so why wouldn’t we share the same seasonal activity and impulsiveness as the magnificent menagerie of wildlife in Yellowstone?

Mignard has a different theory for why so many incidents occur and are recorded in spring.

“Once people are given free rein to take themselves through the park, and they think that there's no one supervising them, rules no longer apply,” he said. “And then it breaks loose, and they do really dangerous activities.”

Those dangerous activities include the inevitable forays onto the fragile thermal areas, chance encounters with grizzlies, and at least one tourist seriously hurt by a bothered bison.

Whatever happens, Mignard expects plenty of content will fill her Facebook feed this year. But more posts mean more tourism, and that’s when tourists' idiotic actions get more brazen, dangerous and cautionary for anyone planning a Yellowstone adventure.

“It’s over tourism and this sense of familiarity that people have because they do see the pictures,” she said. “And when (tourists) have this false sense of security due to familiarity, that's a recipe for trouble.”

Andrew Rossi can be reached at

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Andrew Rossi

Features Reporter