In national parks, the call of the wild is often the call of a disoriented hiker wondering how to descend a peak now that it’s dark and windy. Yellowstone National Park recently had a record number of injuries for July, and experts think advanced technology is to blame. A visitor gets too close to a water buffalo for a picture and is charged. A teenager falls off a cliff while taking photos. And as the New York Times reports, a group of hikers recently called in rescuers three times because their water was “too salty.”

Jackie Skaggs is spokeswoman for Grand Teton National Park in Wyoming. As she told the NY Times, “Because of having that electronic device, people have an expectation that they can do something stupid and be rescued.” People are arriving into the parks with sometimes just a cell phone in hand. They often lack water, maps, compasses, and brains, putting their pocket devices above any real nature training. This ignorance is placing people in precarious positions while costing the parks thousands of dollars in rescue fees.

How bad does it get? The New York Times reports on a recent expedition into the Grand Canyon taken by two men and their two teenage sons. The group pushed the help button on their panic device when they were short on water, causing search and rescue to send a helicopter at $3,400 an hour. The men declined help when the rangers arrived.

Later that night, the men called for help again — this time because their water tasted salty. They were given water after the Arizona Department of Public Safety sent in a helicopter equipped with special night-vision equipment. Finally, the group pushed their rescue button a third time — and were told to return home by park services. Their guide told rangers that they never would have attempted the hike if they hadn’t had their panic device. He was given a citation.

Technology does have its advantages. Several recent rescues in the Rocky Mountains show cell phones can be handy tools when used properly. On Aug. 11 alone, three separate injuries were reported by cell phone, resulting in aid arriving faster than usual.

And there is another upside. The New York Time reports that several men were arrested in Yellowstone National Park after a surveillance camera trained on Old Faithful revealed some disconcerting behavior. Cameras had been set up on the famous geyser to support a live Internet feed. Instead, it caught several men urinating into the natural landmark. These men were reported by Internet viewers and arrested.

For further reading:

National parks abused by visitors abusing technology
Cell phones, cameras and GPS devices give park visitors an inflated sense of security or entitlement.