Tourists that come into Yellowstone National Park should be informed about the capabilities and territorial behaviors of elk. This should be done to protect not only the animal, but the tourists who enter the park as well.

This is important because elk have a great significance to the history and culture of Yellowstone National Park.

A video was uploaded to the Billings Gazette website on May 31, 2016 depicting a woman trying to take a picture of a cow elk. She got way too close, and was charged by the elk. Luckily, she left with no severe injuries. That kind of ignorance could’ve gotten her killed that day.

But, they should not only be informed about their behaviors and capabilities, they should also be aware about the diseases that people can contract just by coming in contact with elk. The biggest disease found in elk in the park is brucellosis. Brucellosis is a bacterial infection that works it’s way into the body. The main effect of the infection is it’s ability to cause abortions, which can cause unnatural fluctuations in the elk population. This infection has been known to spread to humans, which is why it’s important to know. The NPS (National Park Service) has made efforts to try and control the infection, but none have ever reliably succeeded. According the Park Ranger John Nicholson, the NPS had an idea to perform a mass vaccination program. This plan was eventually debunked due to the lack of money, scientific research, and animal migratory patterns.

People should also be informed about how elk are very important to the park and how it came to be Yellowstone. Yellowstone was discovered by French explorers who translated the Crow Indian name of the river, Iichiilikaashaache, to Yellowstone. The name of the park is a huge mistranslation. The correct translation is “Elk River” or “Elk Crossing River,” which, if you haven’t put it together yet, means Yellowstone National Park would actually be named Elk River National Park. This is a big deal that not very many people actually know about.

Of course, how would the National Park Service go about trying to tell people about how dangerous elk could be. I propose that we have signs placed in animal hotspots telling people the dangers of approaching each specific animal. Now, there may be signs at the entrances with this exact information, but you’ll easily forget most of that information because of the awe inspiring sights you can see at Yellowstone. For example, let’s say that you’re entering one of the many different area of Yellowstone that has high elk activity. Maybe you set a sign at one of the many viewing spots in the area, informing the person on why you should keep your distance.

I also think that we should increase awareness of the mistranslation that led to the park’s name. People should know that the name YNP and the Yellowstone River are deeply tied to the abundance and importance of elk.

CC BY-SA 4.0 Elk’s Importance to YNP by Stone is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 4.0 International License.

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