Lost & Found in Yellowstone
Lost & Found
In a nondescript warehouse in Gardiner, MT, shelves are filled with eyeglasses, water bottles, blankets, suitcases, clothing, and more. But this isn’t inventory for a retail store. Instead, it is the clearinghouse for Xanterra’s Lost and Found department in Yellowstone. In 2021 so far, there have been 777 items reported lost and 4390 items found! We talked to Virginia Morris, Support Services Manager, and Karen Wojtak, Lost and Found Specialist, to get an inside look at how they manage lost and found in Yellowstone.
Lost in Yellowstone
While Yellowstone is an extraordinarily unique park, the items commonly lost in it are relatively ordinary; wallets, cellphones, and eyeglasses. But there have been some strange things – like a stand-up paddleboard paddle, legal documents for a lawsuit, and an entire closet filled with 50 lbs. of clothes! The park is more than 2 million acres but Virginia says more than 40% of lost items come from the Old Faithful area alone, “lobbies seem to be a major collector of found items; the bigger the lobby, the bigger the haul.” Most often it is the Housekeeping, Front Desk, and Campground staff who find these items and create lost reports in our internal database.
Lost items that remain unclaimed after 90 days are sorted into bins to be donated. Eyeglasses go to the Lions Club and towels are donated to the local ambulance. Toys, clothing, books, and blankets go to the Montana Rescue Mission in Billings. Everything else of significant value is sent to the National Park Service Property office so they can be donated to their causes, reused in their programs, or auctioned off (GSAAuctions.gov).
Found in Yellowstone
So how does a lost item get found? Once a week, couriers in the park collect lost items and bring them to the Support Services warehouse in Gardiner, MT. Karen gets to work logging those items into a database of lost reports and seeing what matches pop up. If there is a match, she will email the person and notify them their item has been found. Typically 30% of items are able to be returned. Two-thirds of items found are returned on property, while the remaining one-third are shipped back to guests.
Karen will often head into the park herself to retrieve valuable items that need to be returned ASAP (like laptops, wedding rings, or cash). One of her favorite things to return is children’s items like stuffed animals. “I write notes with those like ‘I was beary beary sad when I was left behind on our vacation, but I’m happy to be back with you’.”
Karen also loves to receive emails from satisfied guests that were reunited with their items. She recently received these kind words: “I can’t tell you how much I appreciate the whole process that you guys go through to not only find and maintain but then retrieve and then return to guests.”
Searching for something? For lost cellphones in particular, Karen advises filling out the medical ID or emergency contact in your phone settings before you travel as it “goes a long way in getting your cell phone returned.” If something is lost in one of our hotels, campgrounds, restaurants, or tours file a report here or give us a call at 307.344.5387. Karen works closely with her Lost & Found counterpart at the National Park Service and she recommends also filing a report with them in case items end up in their care. It is always stressful to lose something, particularly on vacation. But Virgina, Karen, and the rest of Xanterra’s Support Services team work hard to ensure items that end up in the lost and found have a happy ending.
For more travel experiences to Beautiful Places on Earth™ available from Xanterra Travel Collection and its affiliated properties, visit xanterra.com/explore.
Want to experience Yellowstone in-depth? See what makes Yellowstone National Park a great place to work for a season or longer!