Yellowstone’s most prolific invasive species—with a regional population of roughly 3.5 million—is migrating through Yellowstone once again. Every summer, these reckless beasts travel from diverse environments across the earth (sometimes solo, sometimes in large herds) to disrupt the delicate balance of the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem. They’re an unmistakable species: disease-ridden, dangerous, unbelievably loud, and historically stupid.
I’m looking at you—yeah, you—walking on two legs, asking “Where’s the gift shop?”
I know, you mean well. But you just might be destroying Yellowstone.
Human behavior in Yellowstone has been questionable this year, even early in the tourist season. Social media sellouts are soiling hot springs for Facebook likes, well-intentioned travelers are killing newborn bison by trying to save them, and ignorant middle-aged women are being pummeled by ignorant middle-aged elk. It’s the year of human stupidity in Yellowstone, just like every year before it. It’s not just making headlines. It’s causing irreparable damage to Yellowstone Ecosystem.
So how do we stifle the stupidity? How do we manage the shenanigans of our own species?
It might be time for some “population management.”
National parks across the country are experiencing record visitation numbers, and that’s putting a strain on national park infrastructure across the country. How are park officials supposed to quell human acts of stupidity when they are dealing with more visitors and receiving less federal funding than ever before? It’s a situation that puts park visitors in danger, and more deeply soils the pristine nature of our national parks. Federal funding is unlikely to increase, which means there is only one logical solution to the problem: let less people into national parks.
It’s not a perfect solution. Yes, everyone deserves to experience the natural wonders of Yellowstone—a few days in the Park can be an eye-opening, spiritual journey. But the Park also deserves to be preserved and protected. Unfortunately, giving people incredible human experiences and preserving our natural wonders are extremely contradictory ideas. In fact, choosing one of these ideas would destroy the other.
If humans continue to proliferate Yellowstone at record rates, we’ll be the invasive species that brings the world’s first national park to a slow, bitter end. Much like humans manage wildlife populations, it’s time for humans to manage themselves.