September 23, 2012
Outdoor Exhibits Promote Wildlife Safety
Any trip to Yellowstone can be a magical experience, but many people find that the more opportunities they have to learn about the park and its treasures, the more enthralled they are by what they see.
Yellowstone offers a broad continuum of educational services, ranging from visitor centers and ranger-led programs, to podcasts and self-guided trail maps. Wayside exhibits are among the most convenient and cost-effective ways of reaching visitors because they are available 24 hours per day, year-round.
These roadside or trailside exhibits offer interesting information in site-specific contexts. Recently, the Yellowstone Park Foundation funded several new exhibits, installed this past spring, to help visitors learn more about park mammals and how to view them safely.
Large mammals—primarily elk and bison, but occasionally coyotes, wolves, and bears—are seasonally very visible in the Mammoth Hot Springs area. This presence of interesting mammals draws large numbers of curious visitors but also presents serious dangers to people and wildlife alike. In the fall, male elk can be particularly aggressive. Two new exhibits on elk are located along major visitor pedestrian routes in Mammoth, and provide information about these majestic animals along with vital safety messages.
The spring calving season also poses dangers; cow elk often hide their young while they graze or rest nearby, and they are extremely protective of their calves. To educate visitors about this hidden danger, the elk rut exhibit will be exchanged seasonally with an exhibit about spring calving.
Three additional wayside exhibits in the Hayden Valley interpret the natural history and habitat of the Hayden Valley bison herd—one of the major populations of bison in Yellowstone. Currently, visitors often see bison from the road as they drive through Hayden Valley, but do not have readily accessible information to help them appreciate the significance of what they are seeing.
The year-round cycle of migration, calving, and the mating season known as the "rut", as well as the role in the ecosystem, are presented on the exhibit panels, alongside safety messages designed to prevent dangerous encounters with bison—particularly during the rut in late July and August.
These new wayside exhibits are part of a long term, comprehensive effort to help Yellowstone National Park visitors learn about wildlife, and to present vital visitor safety information that helps protect these precious wildlife populations for future generations.