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Smartphone apps point tourists to grizzly sightings

FRIDAY, APRIL 20, 2012

This June 2011 file photo shows grizzly bear No. 399 crossing a road in Grand Teton National Park, Wyo., with her three cubs. Phone apps may offer wildlife sightings in Yellowstone National Park. (Associated Press)
This June 2011 file photo shows grizzly bear No. 399 crossing a road in Grand Teton National Park, Wyo., with her three cubs. Phone apps may offer wildlife sightings in Yellowstone National Park. (Associated Press)

CHEYENNE, Wyo – For wildlife enthusiasts hoping to catch a glimpse of wolves, grizzly bears and bison at Yellowstone National Park, the best place to be on the lookout may soon be a cellphone.

New smartphone apps enable people to pinpoint where they’ve recently seen critters in Yellowstone. People who drive to those locations can – at least in theory – improve their odds of seeing wildlife compared to the typical tourist’s dumb luck.

One app called Where’s a Bear promises “up to the second” animal sightings in Yellowstone. Recently a website called Yellowstone Wildlife began offering a similar app.

Websites long have kept track of animal sightings in Yellowstone. Already this spring the Yellowstone Wildlife site shows signs of life: Mule deer near park headquarters at Mammoth, bison in the area of a landmark petrified tree.

A message on the site warns of grizzlies feeding on a bison carcass near the Yellowstone River Trail. The statement relayed from the National Park Service could save a life. Grizzly attacks killed two tourists in Yellowstone last summer.

But not everybody thinks that making a lot of wildlife sighting information readily retrievable by phone is a hot idea. As it is, the crowds that stop to gawk at roadside wildlife in Yellowstone can grow to hundreds of people, pointed out Vicky Kraft, of Pine Mountain, Calif., who maintains a Facebook group about Yellowstone.

Grizzlies are especially challenging for park rangers who have to both direct traffic and keep people a safe distance away.

“It’s crazy. There’s no parking. People sideswipe each other because they’re looking at the bear,” Kraft said Monday.

Wildlife becoming too comfortable around people is another concern. A grizzly habituated to people is even more dangerous than your average bear.

Attempts to reach the app developers through their websites Monday and Tuesday were unsuccessful.

One technical problem with the apps is the vast majority of Yellowstone doesn’t have cellphone coverage. Also, it’s not like anybody is going to persuade a moose, elk or bald eagle to wait around for the next tourist to show up.


 

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