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Death Valley National Park returns to normal after gov't shutdown cleanup

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Posted at 4:46 PM, Feb 01, 2019
and last updated 2019-02-01 19:48:20-05

DEATH VALLEY (KTNV) — Services are back to normal at Death Valley National Park after the extended government shutdown ended last week.

All visitor services have resumed, including ranger-guided programs that run at least three times per day.

The Wildrose Campground has also reopened along with Furnace Creek, Texas Springs, and Mesquite Springs Campgrounds.

Staff also continues to assess the shutdown’s impact, but preliminary reports of waste, trash, vandalism, and impacts to wildlife have been disturbing.

“The shutdown couldn’t have happened at a busier time for Death Valley. Our visitation always skyrockets over Christmas and New Years,” said Superintendent Mike Reynolds. People tried to do the right thing by leaving trash next to full dumpsters, but wind and animals dispersed it. The park’s resources, visitors, and wildlife all paid the price.”

A few staff members spent over 1,500 hours documenting, cleaning, and repairing damage from the shutdown, according to a park spokesperson.

Park rangers have also noticed coyotes and bobcats approaching humans for food since the park's reopening.

“We think their behavior was changed by the food scraps they got from trash,” said Reynolds.

One coyote regularly faked an injury to beg for food. The animal often stopped traffic in the middle of a blind curve, which created a dangerous situation, according to park officials.

Park rangers ended up killing this coyote because of the traffic hazard and concerns that its lack of fear of humans would soon turn to aggression.

“We tried hazing it,” said Reynolds, “But it learned to identify NPS vehicles. I hated authorizing this, but was the only way to keep the public safe.”

In addition to trash, human waste also caused problems at the park, according to officials, during the shutdown.

"We estimate there was at least half a ton of human waste deposited outside restrooms,” Reynolds said.