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YELLOWSTONE NAT’L PARK – Missouri family has frightening encounter with Yellowstone wolf

It took Ashley VanZant about an hour to stop shaking from the adrenaline rush. “It was frightening, that’s for sure,” she recalled in a phone interview. Ashley, her husband Michael and their three children were spending their first day in Yellowstone National Park. A few days earlier they had made the 20-hour drive from their home in Lebanon, Missouri, for a family vacation. Yellowstone was a backup plan after the coronavirus pandemic halted the family’s visit to Disney World. Covering more than 3,400 square miles of rugged country, Yellowstone remains a wild island in an ocean of human development. Partly because of its large size, along with protections afforded by forward-thinking lawmakers, the park remains a wild place with a full complement of wildlife ranging from elk and bison to large predators such as grizzly bears and wolves. Visitation to Yellowstone had been about 4 million people a year prior to the novel coronavirus outbreak this spring. So keeping wild animals and curious tourists safely apart for the benefit of both is a constant struggle for park staff. The VanZant family was visiting Yellowstone with hopes of seeing the park’s wildlife, geysers and mud pots. On May 26 they stopped at Hayden Valley’s Otter Creek picnic area along the Yellowstone River at about 2 p.m. to eat lunch. The scenic pullout is between the Lake and Canyon areas on the east side of the park. A man was fishing nearby when they chose a table next to the water and spread out their food. Shortly after their arrival the angler began packing up his gear. That’s when the VanZants noticed what looked like a dog on the loose. With the angler so close they figured he had let his pooch out of his vehicle. Unleashed dogs aren’t allowed in the park. Then Michael realized it was a wolf. Ashley estimated the wolf’s distance at 100 to 150 yards.  [full article]

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