Yellowstone Flashback: When Tourists were Allowed to Feed Bears
If you visit Yellowstone National Park now, you'll find feeding bears solidly in the "don't" column. But, there was an era many years ago when people were not only allowed to feed bears in Yellowstone, the practice was sort of encouraged.
The Smithsonian Channel video reminded me of this bygone era of Yellowstone National Park when tourists and bears spent way too much time close together.
A few years ago Yellowstone Insider shared a story about bears being fed by tourists in Yellowstone and when the park put up the bleachers seen in the video so garbage dumps could be turned into bear feeders. Now, this looks insane. Back then it was an attraction.
Wouldn't this hand feeding of bears be dangerous? It sure was. The Smithsonian video estimates 50 people per season were injured doing this and I'm shocked that number wasn't much higher.
As the Yellowstone Insider article mentions, the perception in the 1930 - 1960 era was that bears were tame when that wasn't the case at all. Yellowstone National Park Trips stated that the garbage dump feeding of bears eventually brought in 250 bears in front of a bleacher full of tourists. It's not hard to imagine how that could have gone seriously wrong if the bears got wise to the potential feast of humans sitting just a few feet away from them.
The National Park Service website documents the change that the park put into place in 1960 to try and restore some natural order to bears and people. As we cringe at the occasional story of tourists doing dumb things with wildlife, it's good to remember that it used to be a completely acceptable activity before common sense kicked in.