Cellphones spill into Yellowstone's wilds despite park plan

A bison blocks traffic in August as tourists photograph the animals in the Lamar Valley of Yellowstone National Park. Visitors to the park made headlines in 2016 for a variety of incidents from dangerous encounters with wildlife to injuries involving some of the park’s thermal features.

It was a dangerous year in America’s first national park.

Yellowstone visitors made national headlines in 2016 for a variety of incidents, some involving wildlife and others involving the park’s unique thermal features.

The park welcomed a record 4.1 million visitors in 2015, and it appeared that it was on track to outpace that in 2016. Its 2.2 million acres are teeming with wild animals and unusual landscapes.

“This is not a resort. This is not a zoo. This is not a farm or ranch. This is a place that will kill you, and people are not used to that,” Yellowstone historian Lee Whittlesey told the Associated Press in June.

That was the month in which a 23-year-old Oregon man died when he strayed from a boardwalk near Pork Chop Geyser and fell into an acidic hot spring at the Norris Geyser Basin, one of the park’s most volatile spots. Water temperatures there can reach 199 degrees. The next day, rangers ended their search for his body, saying no significant remains would be left for recovery. His sister later said he had been searching for a place to “hot spot,” which involves soaking in the park’s thermal features and is banned.

Also in June, a Chinese tourist was fined $1,000 plus a $30 court processing fee for leaving the boardwalk in the Mammoth Hot Springs area. A park news release said he walked on the thermal formations near Liberty Cap and gathered thermal water. It also said he broke through the area’s delicate travertine crust.

In the same month, a 13-year-old boy suffered burns after falling into a hot pool in the park’s Upper Geyser Basin area. His father, who had been carrying him, slipped.

A Canadian man pleaded guilty this fall after damaging the Grand Prismatic Spring when he walked on it to take photos. He must pay $8,000 in fines, restitution and community service payments and will be on probation for five years. Three other men have pleaded not guilty to similar charges stemming from the May incident.

Other unusual happenings in the park involved wildlife. A French-Canadian man captured national attention when he picked up a bison calf he thought was abandoned and put it in his vehicle to keep it warm. The calf later had to be euthanized when it was rejected by its herd. The man was fined and sentenced to probation.

A Mississippi woman became the fifth person hurt by bison in the park over the summer when she was tossed into the air while trying to take a selfie with the animal near the Fairy Falls trailhead, park officials said. She was also the third person to be hurt by a bison while attempting to take a picture.

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In a similar incident in May, a 16-year-old Taiwanese exchange student was gored while trying to have her photo taken with a nearby bison. She sustained serious but non-life-threatening injuries.

In early June, a bison tossed an Australian man trying to take pictures, seriously injuring him. A 19-year-old working in Canyon Village was tossed in the air later that month near Firehole River. She was treated for minor injuries.

Finally, a 68-year-old woman was gored in early July when she tried to pass one of the huge animals on one of the park’s trails. She was flown to a hospital outside the park after sustaining serious injuries.

A woman visiting from Texas was also struck and killed by a vehicle as she was crossing one of the park’s roads to see an eagle.

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