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Visitors at Zion National Park harassing and touching wildlife, park rangers say

Southern Utah

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ZION NATIONAL PARK (ABC4 News) – With its vast narrow canyons and stunning scenery, it’s no surprise Zion National Park is home to iconic western wildlife.

As the summer tourist season is in full swing, park rangers are urging visitors to be more respectful of their surroundings.

Staff said hikers have been touching and harassing wildlife, with multiple reports of fawns being picked up, held, and moved in The Narrows and the campgrounds in the past few weeks.

“They’re completely innocent animals going about their normal lives, and people, even with the best of intentions, intervene and cause those animals to be injured or even killed,” Zion National Park wildlife technician Jason Pietrzak said. “It’s terrible.”

Pietrzak explained that does will forage, leaving their fawns in hidden areas for sometimes up to 12 hours at a time. The fawns are scentless, making it difficult for predators to find them.

“Unfortunately, visitors don’t always know this, and they see a fawn lying somewhere and they imagine that they’re defenseless and something must be wrong,” said Pietrzak.

One fawn recently died in the Narrows as a result of either its mother abandoning it or the stress and trauma of being held.

“Imagine you’re a child and a grizzly bear was trying to help you by picking you up,” Pietrzak added. “It would be terrifying.”

Zion National Park visitor Ana Zissou expressed her frustration, describing wilderness ethics as “common sense.”

“That makes me very upset,” Zissou said. “You know not to do that to animals, no matter how out of your comfort zone you may be. That’s just a very basic human thing.”

While many of us may want to help wildlife that appear to be in trouble, park rangers said the best thing to do is leave the animal alone.

Staff members recommend holding up your thumb to an animal, and if the wildlife is small enough to hide behind your thumb, then you’re likely far enough away.

If any wildlife seem to be in danger, rangers recommend reporting it right away.

For more tips on wilderness ethics, click here.


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