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'Tourons': Frequenters call out bad behavior at Yellowstone National Park

'Yellowstone National Park: Invasion of the Idiots!' homepage
Posted at 8:41 AM, May 01, 2024
and last updated 2024-05-01 10:41:23-04

BILLINGS — It’s that time of the year when tourists start to flock to Yellowstone National Park to take in the breathtaking views. But many tend to forget safety tips when viewing the wildlife, with some Facebook users nicknaming these visitors ‘tourons’—or tourist morons.

One recent visitor from the United Kingdom said she has witnessed multiple incidents of this bad behavior firsthand.

"Luckily, we managed to see the wolves," said Phillipa Osborne, who visited Yellowstone National Park in October, via Zoom on Tuesday. "We (also) saw a grizzly the day before."

Phillipa Osborne
Phillipa Osborne

Osborne has traveled from the UK to the park twice, with her most recent trip last October. She knows to be respectful while visiting.

"We're in somebody else's country, so we've got to respect their rules and their laws," Osborne said. "And I know you guys are quite strict with your laws, especially in Yellowstone, because obviously it's federal land. So I do not want to break any laws."

But others seemed to have missed the memo. Osborne captured the following photo of a group of tourists getting too close for comfort to a herd of elk:

Osborne's post in 'Yellowstone National Park: Invasion of the Idiots!'
Osborne's post in 'Yellowstone National Park: Invasion of the Idiots!'

"If you can see on my photo, there's a fallen log, and they were sat on the log taking selfies," Osborne said. "We took photos of the tourons."

'Tourons' is a nickname often used in the Facebook group ‘Yellowstone National Park: Invasion of the Idiots!’ It's a combination of the words ‘tourists’ and ‘morons’.

'Yellowstone National Park: Invasion of the Idiots!' homepage
'Yellowstone National Park: Invasion of the Idiots!' homepage

"Just follow the rules. They're handed out in 15 different languages when you enter the park," said Jen Minard, who started the Facebook group, on Tuesday. "Definitely have fun, but fun doesn't involve bison selfies or taking home small furry pets in the back of your car."

The group was started in 2016 by Minard to share laughs and spread awareness.

"Back in 2016, there had been a couple of pretty serious incidents," Minard said. "This was a good, cathartic way for people in our community, my friends in particular at the time, to come together and laugh."

Jen Minard
Jen Minard

Just this month, on April 21, an intoxicated Idaho man kicked a bison. In return, he received minor injuries and jail time. This was two days after the park opened to the public.

"This most recent incident with the inebriated man kicking a bison, I'm still floored. I didn't have that on my Bingo card at any point, any year," Minard said. "It's really hard to comprehend."

It’s the first bison-tourist injury of the season at Yellowstone Park, according to the National Park Service. The last reported incident was in 2023, and three occurred before that in 2022.

Footage from 1992 of a YNP bison encounter
Footage from 1992 of a YNP bison encounter

"About two years ago, we lived in the park... Obviously, you see a lot of stupid people," said Ralee Plunkett, who frequents the park, on Tuesday. "We were driving through going into Canyon, and these guys were on the side of the road. And I actually have a clip of my buddy screaming at them. But they were just way too close."

Ralee Plunkett
Ralee Plunkett

Plunkett witnessed tourists getting too close to bison two years ago.

"They were about 10 yards from the bison at that point. Got a little closer after I took the picture," Plunkett said. "We ended up just yelling at them to get out of the road. They're going to get gored."

Plunkett's post
Plunkett's post

Posts like these serve as a humorous reminder to respect the park and its wildlife.

"Pick up after yourself, treat the wildlife with respect, and also try to respect your fellow tourists," said Minard. "Be a good custodian and guardian of the park. It's everyone's park."

In other words, don't be a touron.

Wildlife viewing tip from Yellowstone National Park
Wildlife viewing tip from Yellowstone National Park