Wildlife Etiquette in National Parks

It's the Centennial, so hopefully you're going to be in a National Park to help celebrate the birthday of these awesome lands. But to best appreciate the parks and their wildlife without getting eaten by a buffalo or destroying part of the natural order of things. I'm breaking down some rules for playing in the park.

1. Don't save the animals

Does a baby look like its lost its mother? This is not Target. That baby is way better off being left along for its family to find it. A family tried to take a lost bison calf to the safety of the park ranger station and as a result, the calf couldn't be re-integrated back into its herd. Don't be that family. Protect the animals by not interacting with them directly. Feel free to take photos, though, and gaze from afar.

Want to see some bison? Head out to Theodore Roosevelt National Park's South Unit and be impressed.

2. If you see a bison, stop, don't make eye contact and back away slowly

American bison can run up to 40 m.p.h. You cannot run that fast. Usain Bolt can't even run that fast. So if you do see one of these beasts, and they see you, make a large perimeter and don't make any sudden movements.

Black bears, marmots, and chipmunks abound in Mount Rainier National Park. Hike part or all of the Wonderland Trail (but make sure you secure a permit a day in advance) to catch a glimpse of these cute creatures.

3. Don't feed the animals

Feeding the animals makes them braver and more willing to approach human camps. You're not the only one addicted to Cheetos. And as bad as Cheetos are for you, they are worse for the birds.

Big Bend National Park is in the middle of birds' highway (flyway?). The best time to go? Winter, when the birds are heading south.

4. Buy a pair of binoculars

This way you can see the details without them seeing yours if you know what I mean. My favorite pair is the Nike Aculon A211 because they're under $100 and made with pretty great glass so you're getting a really good value.

Jodi Regan is a freelance writer and explorer currently based out of Fargo, ND with a Masters of Arts in Philosophy from the University of Chicago and Bachelors of Arts in Philosophy from Fordham University in New York. Follow her adventures on Twitter and Instagram @jodestool.