YELLOWSTONE NATIONAL PARK — Video shot by a tourist over the weekend in Yellowstone National Park is yet another recent example of why it’s important to keep a safe distance from wildlife.
Jody Tibbitts, a tour guide with Jackson Hole Wildlife Safaris, was showing a Florida family around the park Friday when they noticed a woman with a camera inching closer and closer to an elk.
“She was practically stomping up to it,” Tibbitts tells EastIdahoNews.com. “Honestly I’d say she was probably 25 feet away from the elk as opposed to the 25 yards (mandated by Yellowstone National Park).”
Manny Perez, a man in the tour group, grabbed his cell phone and started recording as Tibbitts tried to warn the woman to stay back.
“Ma’am, ma’am, could you please…,” Tibbitts is heard in the background as the elk starts to charge.
The camera pans and you see the woman lying on the ground with the elk standing several feet away from her.
“I was just going to tell you (that) you’re standing too close to that elk,” Tibbits says in the video.
The woman responds, “It’s been a long time since I’ve been out here. Thank you.”
Tibbitts then reminds the woman that she needs to stay 25 yards away from wildlife in the park.
Yellowstone park officials say visitors are not allowed to approach wildlife and are to stay at least 25 yards away from large animals, according to the National Park Service website.
“It won’t happen again,” the woman says to which Tibbits responds, “I bet it won’t.”
Tibbitts tells EastIdahoNews.com the woman tripped and the elk stopped short of trampling her, but it could have been a completely different story.
This incident comes after a bison calf was euthanized earlier this month after several Yellowstone tourists put the animal into the back of a vehicle because they were worried it was cold.
“You never know what can happen with a wild animal,” Tibbitts says. “Imagine a stranger coming into your home and whistling and staring and taking photos. You’d be pretty upset too.”
Tibbitts has been a tour guide in Yellowstone since 1991 and says over the past few years tourists have been “out of control” when it comes to harassing wildlife.
“With everyone having a camera in their pocket, people are taking more chances and are getting more brazen,” Tibbitts says. “Literally on a daily basis I’m having to tell people they’re way too close to animals. I’ve even seen folks chase bears into the woods for a picture.”
Tibbitts shared Perez’s video on his Facebook page Sunday and it’s racked up nearly 450,000 views as of Tuesday morning.
The tour guide hopes it serves as a lesson to other tourists that wildlife need to be respected.
“I care about the animals and hope people will give them their space,” Tibbitts says.