National parks are beautiful places that enjoy much attention over the years, but they have a wild (yes, wild) side that comes back to bite at humanity once every so often. People tend to forget that while these parks are maintained by park services, they are still quite untamed–and quite dangerous. Nine confirmed cases of a disease known as the hantavirus–known fully and scientifically as Hantavirus Pulmonary Syndrome–have recently been linked to Yosemite National Park. These individuals, just nine out of the 230,000 guests to have visited Yosemite, had stayed one or more nights at the park since June of this year and become infected. It wouldn’t be that bad if the disease wasn’t so deadly–3 of the 9 died, while the remaining six fully recovered.
According to CBS News, one survivor stated that she was disappointed in the park service’s lack of response, calling it a “seemingly lack of concern for public welfare.” This brings up a good point, however. Is it the responsibility of humanity, and in such a specific context, Park Services to warn of and attempt to contain or eradicate such dangers in the wilderness? The park, while under some human control, is mostly untamed and as such innately carries such dangers. Should people not realize they are always in danger when they purposefully place themselves in such a wild place? I realize that this is an extreme case, and any disease of such a deadly magnitude (it has a 38% mortality rate) should be of great concern to the public.
In addition to the hantavirus recently discovered, however, the Rocky Mountains National Park has a danger that could be just as endangering to human health…
The bull elk. That’s right, bull elk are currently gathering cows and becoming quite aggressive. Any interference could lead to quite a nasty incident between any park-goer and the nasty antlers of a bull elk.
It really can’t be assumed by humanity that national parks are safe places where we can merely relax and reflect upon nature and our reality. It is an all-too-real wilderness that is not perfectly tamed by humanity. And maybe, just maybe, that is what we want it to be. Maybe what we need is that sense of a real danger, a real threat to show us that these parks really do communicate the power of the wilderness.