It's hard to imagine this now, but a few decades ago it was a regular sight to see tourists feeding bears at Yellowstone and the park even kinda encouraged it.

The video above from the Smithsonian is jaw-dropping. As the narrator says, Yellowstone rangers used to let tourists feed bears and even encouraged it.

Check out these people back in the 1920's that were hand-feeding our hairy friends.

Atlas Obscura has a fascinating article on the history of bear feeding at Yellowstone. They linked to a book that was written by Alice Wondrak Biel about how tourists fed bears and the park turned a blind eye to the practice. The description on Amazon tells you all you need to know about how crazy this was:

It was a familiar sight at Yellowstone National Park: traffic backed up for miles as visitors fed bears from their cars. It may have been against the rules, but park officials were willing to turn a blind eye if it kept the public happy.

According to this documentation, it was common to see tourists feeding bears from cars as recently as the 1970's before Yellowstone realized this was putting people and bears in danger.

The National Park Service website vaguely refers to the era of bear feeding and how regulations changed in the 1970's and 1980's as there were annually 40 to 50 injuries at Yellowstone thanks to tourists and bears getting too close to each other.

I'll play the role of Captain Obvious and say don't even think about doing this now. Bears can and will eat you. Thankfully, Yellowstone came to its senses in 1970 and their current bear safety practices are words to live by if you go to the park.