Apparently a few Yellowstone National Park grizzly bears are anxious for spring.
A large grizzly bear was seen between Canyon Village and Fishing Bridge on March 8, and grizzly tracks were reported between Mammoth Hot Springs and Norris Junction on March 11. The first grizzly bear sighting in 2018 occurred on March 7.
Male grizzlies come out of hibernation in mid-to-late March. Females with cubs emerge in April and early May. When bears emerge from hibernation, they look for food and often feed on elk and bison that died over the winter. Sometimes, bears will react aggressively while feeding on carcasses.
“We are just starting to observe ungulates die from the harsh winter, so there will likely be a lot of meat available,” said Morgan Warthin, park spokeswoman.
All of Yellowstone National Park is bear country, from the deepest backcountry to the boardwalks around Old Faithful. The park’s staff recommends protecting yourself and the bears by following these guidelines:
- Prepare for a bear encounter.
- Carry bear spray, know how to use it and make sure it’s accessible.
- Stay alert.
- Hike or ski in groups of three or more, stay on maintained trails, and make noise. Avoid hiking at dusk, dawn or at night.
- Do not run if you encounter a bear.
- Stay 100 yards away from black and grizzly bears. Use binoculars, a telescope or telephoto lens to get a closer look.
- Store food, garbage, barbecue grills and other attractants in hard-sided vehicles or bear-proof food storage boxes.
- Report bear sightings and encounters to a park ranger immediately.
- Learn more about bear safety.
“Yellowstone visitors care deeply about the conservation of bears and observing them in the wild,” said Kerry Gunther, the park’s bear management specialist, in a press release. “Reduce human-bear conflicts by preventing bears from getting food and garbage, hiking in groups of three or more people, carrying bear spray and making noise in blind spots on the trail.”
While firearms are allowed in the park, the discharge of a firearm by visitors is a violation of park regulations. Bear spray has proven effective in deterring bears that are defending cubs and food sources. It can also reduce the number of bears killed by people in self-defense.