History of Bear Feeding in Yellowstone National Park

The history of bear feeding in Yellowstone National Park dates back to the early days of the park. In the late 1800s and early 1900s, visitors to the park would often feed bears in order to attract them for viewing and photography.

In the 1920s, the National Park Service began actively encouraging bear feeding as a way to attract visitors and generate revenue for the park. Feeding stations were set up throughout the park, and rangers would even bring food to bears in order to ensure their presence in certain areas.

Pictured: Yellowstone “Lunch Counter for Bears Only” in the 1930’s.

As the popularity of bear feeding grew, so did concerns about the impact on the bears and their natural behavior. Bears became increasingly habituated to humans and dependent on handouts, leading to a rise in aggressive behavior and dangerous interactions with park visitors.


In the 1960s, the National Park Service began to phase out bear feeding in Yellowstone, recognizing the negative impact it was having on the bears and the potential danger to visitors. Almost a decade later, in 1970 the practice was officially banned in the park. Since the 1960’s, the recorded number of negative encounters between humans and bears has dropped from 48 to 1 annually.

Since the ban on bear feeding, the park has worked to educate visitors on the importance of keeping a safe distance from bears and avoiding interactions that could lead to habituation or dangerous behavior. The park also employs a number of strategies to manage human-bear interactions, such as bear-resistant food storage containers, encouraging park visitors to carry bear spray, and establishing designated viewing areas where visitors can safely observe bears in their natural habitat.

Pictured: Yellowstone National Park’s first superintendent, Horace Albright, sharing a meal with three bears in the park.

Today, the park’s policies on bear feeding are strict, with heavy fines and penalties for visitors who intentionally feed bears or leave food or garbage out in areas where bears can access it. You can even serve time in jail for feeding bears and other wildlife. The goal is to ensure that bears in Yellowstone remain wild and self-sufficient, and that visitors can enjoy the park’s natural beauty and wildlife without putting themselves or the animals at risk.

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