A mother has provoked a firestorm of criticism online after appearing to pressure her daughter into taking a selfie next to a wild animal in Yellowstone National Park.
The daughter, however, refuses and stands rooted to the spot some distance away. Her mother, meanwhile, turns her back to the elk and poses for a photo.
“Too close, way too close,” Michael (@m_packmore), who posted the original video, groans in the background.
This incident is a classic example of what many have taken to calling a “touron” — a park ranger slang word that mixes the words “tourist” and “moron.”
A worrying trend has been emerging where members of the public get too close to the wildlife in the U.S.’s national parks.
In May, a visitor to Yellowstone pleaded guilty to pushing a bison calf from the river to the road, which resulted in the calf’s death.
Another group took a newborn elk into their car and drove it to the West Yellowstone, Montana, Police Department. The elk calf later escaped into the woods.
These events prompted the National Park Service to issue a plea that people leave the animals they encounter alone. Park regulations state that visitors should maintain a safe distance of 25 yards — in the case of bears and wolves, 100 yards is recommended.
This is important both for people’s and animals’ welfare. The National Park Service recently warned that bull elk can be especially aggressive during mating season. In 2018, Yellowstone’s elk injured two people in separate incidents.
Even when it is people, and not the animal, that get injured, the animal may still end up euthanized, whether they deliberately attacked or not.
Environmental action, then, starts with the basic act of respecting and protecting the animals you come across in national parks.
Research has shown that time spent in nature leads to a greater interest in nature and a passion for conserving it, and being a touron directly contradicts that — particularly when it becomes distressing for bystanders and the rangers patrolling the parks.
Social media users have been quick to condemn such reckless behavior, as seen in the video.
“These phones have turned us into idiots!” said one.
“The daughter did the right thing,” wrote another.
“Never turn your back on a wild animal when you are within his strike zone,” another warned. “You lose valuable seconds to respond to an emergency.”
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