The National Park Service just posted a timely picture to their Facebook page about how to properly pet a wild animal. The short answer is: not to pet them at all.

I just got back from an awesome vacation out to Yellowstone. We spent four days in the park and I feel like we got the full Yellowstone experience. We camped in tents and it rained every night but was perfect weather during the days. The geysers and pools were smelly and beautiful while inspiring more than enough egg/flatulence jokes. We got stuck behind a lone buffalo walking down the middle of our lane for 15 minutes. Then we were in a traffic standstill for nearly an hour as a herd of buffalo blocked the road and came within a few feet of our car. We were lucky to see two different black bears plus a large herd of elk.

Maybe the most Yellowstone thing that happened though was while we were hiking to a waterfall we came up on a grizzly bear about 20 feet in front of our group in the middle of the trail! Luckily for us, he wasn't interested in us and disappeared into the forest while we turned around and scrapped our plans to continue to the waterfall.

We know these animals are wild and can be dangerous - but there is something that makes us want to get close to them when we see them in real life. I even had to fight the urge to follow the giant grizzly just to get a good picture. When we were stopped by the herd of buffalo, there were people out of their cars within a few feet of the furry giants. Yellowstone Park guidelines tell visitors to stay 25 yards away from the buffalo and 100 yards away from the bears and wolves.