G&F Urges Bear Awareness for Hunters
Hunters and bears share the woods
by Wyoming Game & Fish Department
September 18, 2005
With big game hunting seasons just getting into full swing, and the recent injuries to a Texas deer hunter north of Moran, Wyoming Game and Fish officials are urging hunters in Northwest Wyoming to be "bear aware" and take steps to avoid conflicts with grizzly bears.
"By and large, hunters are pretty good at recognizing bears sign and taking precautions to avoid conflicts," says Mark Bruscino, Bear Management Officer for the Wyoming Game and Fish Department. "However, we still see a lot of hunting related conflicts each fall. This is partly due to the fact that bears are foraging more actively this time of year and the fact that there are just a lot of people using the backcountry this time of year."
Managers will also note that hunting, by nature, is an activity that may increase the chances of a bear conflict. "Hunters are typically moving quietly through the woods, with the wind in their face and often in areas bears and other wildlife are using," says Bruscino. "Then if the hunter is successful, those carcasses are a huge bear attractant."
For these reasons, managers are encouraging hunters, in particular, to have a higher level of awareness regarding bears and follow some simple tips to avoid a conflict.
• Keep a clean camp ALWAYS, be sure that each person in camp follows the food storage rules
• Have bear pepper spray available at several locations around camp
• Hunt with a partner.
• Carry bear pepper spray
• Watch for sign (tracks, scat, digging, broken branches of fruit bearing shrubs)
• Watch for bear foods (white-bark pine cone piles, entrails, berry patches)
• Avoid "dark" timber during mid-day when bears may be day-bedded
• Have a predetermined plan of action for retrieving harvested game from the field
• Become extra cautious after making a kill and when hunting in areas where animals have been killed
• Avoid hunting in areas where fresh bear sign is repeatedly observed
Field Dressing and Carcass Retrieval
• Take extra precautions during field dressing, pepper spray un-holstered and readily available
• Pack game out as quickly as possible to camp and then to the trailhead
• If the carcass must be left, hang from a tree if possible and at least 10' off the ground
• Leave an article of clothing or bell in tree, something that leaves an unnatural feel to the area
• If unable to hang, put carcass in a position so that it can be seen from a distance
• Spatially separate the entrails from the carcass, be aware of Forest Service regulations
• Approach carcasses left overnight cautiously, make lots of noise
• Casual encounter: bear observed, no threat, note location, direction of travel, back away slowly
• Encounter: Bluff charge, avoid the area for a period of time
• Avoid gut piles, recently disturbed squirrel middens, heavily tracked areas
• Bear in camp, allow bear to leave camp if you are on the outside looking in
• Bear in camp, use bear pepper spray if bear is overtly aggressive
• Bear has claimed carcass, leave the scene, report to Game & Fish
• Encounter: mauling or dead bear, seek immediate help, leave the scene undisturbed, write down details if possible, contact Game and Fish or U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service
Hunters are reminded grizzly bears continue to expand their range and can be found in areas they haven't been for many years, particularly the southern end of the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem. "Right now one our most active areas of expansion seems to be in and around the upper Green River basin," says Bruscino. "A lot of the folks hunting and recreating in this area may not be accustomed to taking the special precautions associated with grizzly bears like those closer to Yellowstone Park."
Hunting in grizzly bear country requires added skill and preparation. Even still, hundreds of hunters successfully harvest big game each year in areas occupied by grizzly bears without having human-bear encounters.
For more information on bear safety, contact the local Game and Fish or Forest Service office.