Do Feed the Bears – The Arthur E. Demaray Collection

Arthur E. Demaray was a National Park Service Administrator who worked as the liaison between the Park Service and Congress. He worked for the park service from 1917 to 1951.

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Arthur E. Demaray in the 1930’s. Photo courtesy of the National Park Service.

Demaray’s writings offer insights into Yellowstone National Park during the first half of the 20th Century. During this time period, the parks did not have strict policies against feeding animals.

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Bear cubs begging for food along the roads in Yellowstone Park were once a common sight. Photofile: Yellowstone-Wildlife, American Heritage Center, University of Wyoming.

Demaray describes a game he witnessed children playing. The children would drag string along the ground with string at one end. Ground squirrels would grab the string and the children would lift the squirrels off the ground.

Demaray also discusses his first encounter with bears. He and his wife did not know bears lived in the wild in Yellowstone. When they saw one outside their tent they thought it had escaped its cage.

When Demaray consulted a park pamphlet, he read “even the grizzlies, which are generally believed to be ferocious are not proved by our national parks’ experience to be inoffensive if not attacked.”

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Tourist hand feeding bears at Yellowstone National Park. Karl C. Allan papers, Accession #7636, Box 2, American Heritage Center. University of Wyoming. 

Demaray writes that at the time, tourists could walk to the garbage dump to see a dozen bears feeding. He says the smaller bears had to wait their turn and says in this way bears are much like people. One bear would stand in the road and force visitors to pay a toll of food to pass.

Arthur E. Demaray’s attitude towards interactions between people and wildlife are endearing, but not supported by the National Parks today. His papers are available at the American Heritage Center.

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“A summer beggar in Yellowstone National Park.” Arthur E. Demaray Papers, Accession #4031, American Heritage Center, University of Wyoming.

This entry was posted in conservation, environmental history, found in the archive, National Parks, Natural resources, Uncategorized, Western history, Wyoming history, Yellowstone National Park and tagged , . Bookmark the permalink.

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