Ecological Impacts of Re-releasing Tourists into Yellowstone

Dr. Jogi Barr1, and John Francis Smith2

1 Department of Snackbar and Picnic Basket Ecology, Cranberry-Lemon University, Pittsburgh, PA, USA

2 Park Ranger and Conservation Expert, Yellowstone National Park, USA 


In the world of ecology, one small change in an environment can create a cascading domino effect which can cause drastically different environments. In America’s national parks, second and third order effects have been observed as animals are reintroduced, wild fires are prevented and even from the maintenance of trails to prevent erosion. Yellowstone National Park (YNP) is facing yet another complicated ecological phenomenon as it measures and adjusts to the irreversible impacts of re-releasing tourists back into the Yellowstone ecosystem. Once YNP and other conservation areas became closed off to the public during the pandemic we watched as the environment repaired itself and humanity became nature starved shut-ins. With new safety measures allowing tourists back in the national parks, it became time once again to re-release tourists back into the YNP habitat in the summer of 2020 or face a collapse of conservation funding. This study has shown that reintroducing this species into the fragile North American environment has caused a domino effect which will cause the eruption of the Yellowstone super volcano and end the Age of America. 

1. Introduction

    The national park system is structured to save America’s most precious natural areas to be enjoyed by posterity through conservation and making the wonders accessible to the public. Unfortunately, this requires allowing tourists into the park to coexist with the natural habitat. When the Covid-19 lockdowns began taking place around the world, nature reconquered the outdoors with cleaner water, air, the birds were even chirping louder

    Starting in late May of 2020, tourists began being re-released in the phase one plan. In this phase, environmental impacts were negligible due to the extremely limited accessibility; however, that was not the case as the tourist reintroduction program entered phase 2. In this riskier phase more park amenities opened up as well as more hiking trails and less monitoring by rangers. It wasn’t just risky due to Covid, but also risky for the natural environment exposed to humans who had not seen a tree or animal outside of the big cats of Tiger King in over three months.

    This began with an unexpected interaction with the Snickers Population Inversion which led to diabetic squirrels. This led to a change in the local wolf diet which caused elk overpopulation. These non-threatened Elks commenced to reduce the overall vegetation of the park which exposed Geyser Thermo pockets by means of erosion which has made the eruption of the super volcano Yellowstone sits atop imminent. The resulting volcanic clouds will cripple the American infrastructure and economy ending our age of geopolitical dominance. 

2. Snickers Population Inversion

It all began when the visitor center logistician failed to adjust a contract in time. As most of the snacks in the vending machine were easily adjusted, Snickers and Snickers products could not and began stock piling in between early March and mid summer when snack bar purchasing diminished in relation to the flat supply. Because of the cost to slow down or turn off the snickers factory, the distribution contracts are written in less negotiable language. 

In the peak of the candy bar’s overpopulation, it was becoming almost more expensive to store the snickers causing an almost negative price at snack bars. By the time tourists were released back into the park with access to the visitor center a two dollar snickers king-size was now only twenty cents.

Figure 1: Snickers Population Inversion
Figure 1: Snickers Population Inversion

By then a small child given two dollars by their parents to spend on a snack and a drink was not limited to a modest soda and bag of high fiber sun chips as their guardians intended. As most children under thirteen are savvy consumers, elementary school children noticed the price and reduced the snickers population even further below pre-Covid levels before the price could reflect the true value. This snickers population inversion took place over a three month period.

3. Diabetic Squirrels

Young children were able to spot a good deal when they saw it with the snickers, but many were unable to finish all of the king sized snickers bars without getting sick. In a truly unsuspected combination of errors, these overvalued unfinished candy bars made their way onto the hiking trails. With their value worthless, the children could not barter for something less rich and they began feeding the snickers to the squirrels and other cute ground dwelling animals. 

This phenomenon of unsupervised children feeding tiny animals is a known problem. Typically the worst risk is the development of animals becoming dependent on humans for their food. While there are issues, most hiking food consists of trail mix, summer sausage, cheese and crackers which is harmless to the ground squirrel digestive system. 

The mechanisms for deterring this tourist behavior was also compromised as park rangers socially distanced too much to catch the behavior. Even worse, all of the signs for the additional Covid protocol within the park detracted from the weathered ‘Don’t feed the animals’ signs.

These factors created a perfect storm which caused rapid onset type two diabetes, heart palpitations, and dismal cardiovascular performance in sixty percent of the small ground mammals in the park before the effect of the snickers population inversion was over in the late summer

Figure 2: Yellowstone National Park Diabetic squirrel comparison
Figure 2: YNP Diabetic squirrel comparison

4. Change in Wolf Diet

Wolves which were recently reintroduced back into YNP in 1995 were also affected by the outcomes of the snickers population inversion. Wolves are the apex predator in the park and will prey on most of the animals to include larger animals. While wolves sometimes will hunt smaller ground mammals, it is usually not worth the effort and the wolf packs will stick to larger prey. After the ground squirrels were fed a consistent diet of snickers for during the summer of 2020, it was now worth the caloric intake for the wolves.

It is much more effort to hunt larger prey such as deer and elk but they provide much more calories given that effort for a well fed wolf pack. Counter to this, the average ground squirrel normally provides about 100 calories to a wolf which is only worth the hunt to the wolf in desperate situations. The fattened diabetic squirrel however began providing over 300 calories and was three times easier to be caught due to decreased athletic performance. Many squirrels could not even escape up trees to safety. When the wolf packs discovered this easy prey, their diet switched to primarily fattened ground mammals. 

5. Elk Population/Diminished Vegetation

Once the diet of the wolves shifted from tougher larger game to fattened smaller game, the Elk population exploded. Despite an attempt to injure a few Elk to entice the wolf population back to their old diets by the desperate park rangers, the wolves kept to their new diet of small squirrels, gophers and marmots. They were all too sweet and easy to hunt. Even the marmots became easier to catch and eat after they relapsed into their anti-freeze addiction with the arrival of the tourist vehicles. That’s when things went from bad to worse.

Figure 3: De-Vegetated area post all night Elk Party
Figure 3: De-Vegetated area post all night Elk Party

The overpopulated elks soon discovered they were no longer endangered and celebrated by feasting on vegetation and reproducing more than ever seen before in modern recorded ecology. The massive elk feasts and orgies left select areas near Yellowstone’s hot springs barren of all vegetation except for some trees with the bark worn off from the massive all night elk party. These celebrations continued every night since, as the elk community collectively were released from constant fear as they were no longer in danger of their multi-generational enemy, the wolves.    

6. Geyser Thermo Pocket Disruption

Old Faithful is the most famous feature of YNP’s wonderful landscape. The geysers of YNP build up pressure in thermo pockets from geothermal sources. These thermo pockets build up pressure until a restricted path to a geyser gives way and a stream of hot steam shoots up into the air. Old faithful is named that way  due to it’s predictable eruption. It has erupted every 44 minutes to two hours since the turn of the millennium. As of the publishing of this paper on February 26 2021, Old Faithful has not erupted in over five months. 

Figure 4: Old Faithful before the mudslide damage
Figure 4: Old Faithful before the mudslide

After a few weeks of elk celebration, a series of high pressure storm systems rolled through YNP. While it is usually uneventful, the heavy rain on the upturned and unvegetated soil had caused massive landslides across the park. The mudslides were so large that many of the thermo pockets creating the famous Yellowstone geysers had been either exposed or permanently clogged up. Massive landscaping projects are underway to minimize further erosion damage but some analysis is showing that old faithful may never erupt again, at least with water and steam. 

7. Imminent Super Eruption

Likely a result of the massive erosion and resulting lack of geyser thermo pocket release, disturbing seismic activity has caused extreme alarm for YNP and the northern rockies. Seismologists and volcanologists have moved the doomsday clock to five seconds to midnight as they have estimated the supervolcano underneath America’s backbone is about to erupt and cover over 70% of the continental United States in ash. Because such an event is unprecedented, the experts do not know when exactly it will blow it could be one week or one month away.

To avoid deadly fall out and save as many lives as possible, Montana, Wyoming, Idaho and some surrounding areas have been completely evacuated. American citizens are advised to prepare for the worse if living North of Phoenix and West of Chicago. The deadly volcanic ash and dust is expected to be extremely harmful and those citizens living in the danger zone should fill their bathtubs with water and take shelter immediately. 

8. Conclusion

All beginning with too many candy bars, a bored child and a cute animal, tens of millions of Americans will soon be homeless and even more around the world will go hungry as America’s great plain farms recover from the destructive volcanic ash. Many other national parks are taking note and have begun restricting food in and out of their parks. Several hikers have already passed out from low blood sugar attempting to climb the half dome in Yosemite. However, for YNP, the damage is already done. 

Most geopolitical  experts predict that it will take too long for America to recover from this disaster due to her large amount of agricultural exports and the amount of effort it will take to rebuild around the massive crater of the great volcano. Foreign powers are already stepping in to fill the power vacuum now that US military forces have begun withdrawing all forces from every major theater to assist in the recovery. If only the tourists could have stopped feeding the animals.

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Published by B McGraw

B McGraw has lived a long and successful professional life as a software developer and researcher. After completing his BS in spaghetti coding at the department of the dark arts at Cranberry Lemon in 2005 he wasted no time in getting a masters in debugging by print statement in 2008 and obtaining his PhD with research in screwing up repos on Github in 2014. That's when he could finally get paid. In 2018 B McGraw finally made the big step of defaulting on his student loans and began advancing his career by adding his name on other people's research papers after finding one grammatical mistake in the Peer Review process.

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