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Looking for bears? There's an app for that

New cell phone apps can help tourists find a bison, wolf or grizzly bear in Yellowstone National Park. But rangers are afraid this could increase the danger for both the sight-seeing families, and the wildlife themselves.

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People now can use their phones to find out where somebody has just seen a bison, wolf or grizzly bear in Yellowstone National Park. The new apps take wildlife viewing to a new level but not without raising concerns for the well-being of wildlife, park rangers and the tourists themselves.

Tom Mangelsen/AP

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Family vacations to our nation's beautiful national parks are always great ways to immerse ourselves in the natural beauty of America's finest flora and fauna. But some wildlife enthusiasts are using new technology to ensure an optimal vacation experience, with potentially unsafe consequences. Contrary to the notion that vacations are best enjoyed "unplugged,"  if you're hoping to catch a glimpse of wolves, grizzly bears and bison at Yellowstone National Park, the best place to be on the lookout may soon be a cellphone.

New smartphone apps enable people to pinpoint where they've recently seen critters in Yellowstone. People who drive to those locations can — at least in theory — improve their odds of seeing wildlife compared to the typical tourist's dumb luck.

One app called Where's a Bear promises "up to the second" animal sightings in Yellowstone. Recently a website called Yellowstone Wildlife began offering a similar app. 

Websites long have kept track of animal sightings in Yellowstone. Already this spring the Yellowstone Wildlife site shows signs of life: Mule deer near park headquarters at Mammoth, bison in the area of a landmark petrified tree.

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