Smart-phone app can help tourists track, spot wildlife

Home » News» Technology Loading… Published: 4/19/2012 ASSOCIATED PRESS

CHEYENNE — 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 cell phone.

New smart-phone 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. A Web site called Yellowstone Wildlife began offering a similar app.

Web sites 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.

WILDLIFE WATCH

■ Chasing critters: new smart-phone apps enable people to pinpoint where they’ve recently seen wildlife in Yellowstone National Park. People who drive to those locations can — in theory — improve their odds of seeing wildlife.

■ Concerns: As it is, the crowds that stop to gawk at roadside wildlife in Yellowstone can grow to hundreds of people.

■ Technical challenge: The vast majority of Yellowstone doesn’t have cell-phone coverage.

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, said Vicky Kraft, of Pine Mountain, Calif., who maintains a Facebook group about Yellowstone.

Grizzlies are especially challenging for park rangers who have to 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,” Ms. Kraft said.

Yellowstone officials said the apps could become a problem depending on their popularity. “If it did take off it would be a concern. It’s got other applications but at its worst core it would send more people to wildlife jams,” Yellowstone spokesman Dan Hottle said.

One technical problem with the apps is that the vast majority of Yellowstone doesn’t have cell-phone 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.

On the other hand, a pack of wolves seen killing a bison might stick around for days while they fed on the meat, said Tom Mangelsen, a wildlife photographer who lives in Jackson Hole, just south of Yellowstone. “I imagine [the app] would be helpful, certainly for tourists or people who aren’t familiar with Yellowstone, and I suppose for people like me too,” Mr. Mangelsen said.

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Smart-phone app can help tourists track, spot wildlife


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