Bears are awake again
Bear activity resumes in Yellowstone National Park
by Yellowstone National Park
March 20, 2006
It may still look and feel like winter, but some of Yellowstone’s bears think spring is just around the corner. The first bear sighting of the year occurred Monday. A grizzly bear was observed scavenging a winter-killed bison carcass in Yellowstone National Park.
Soon after emerging from their dens, bears begin looking for food. Bears are attracted to elk and bison that have died over the winter. Elk and bison are such a prized source of food that bears will aggressively defend these carcasses. Visitors risk serious injury when disturbing a bear feeding on a carcass.
Park regulations require visitors to stay a hundred yards – the length of a football field – away from black and grizzly bears at all times. The best defense is to stay a safe distance from bears and use binoculars, telescope or telephoto lens to get a closer look. Hikers, snowshoers, and cross-country skiers are encouraged to travel in groups of three or more, make noise on the trail, and keep an eye out for bears. Bear pepper spray has proven to be a good last line of defense if you keep it handy and use it according to directions when the bear is within 30 to 40 feet.
Yellowstone National Park has several seasonal Bear Management Area closures designed to reduce encounters with bears in areas that have a high density of elk and bison carcasses. These closures help prevent human/bear conflicts and provide areas where bears can roam free from human disturbance. Prior to hiking, skiing, or snowshoeing in the park, ask at park visitor centers for dates and locations of bear closures.
Visitors are also reminded to keep food, garbage, barbecue grills and other attractants stored in hard sided vehicles or bear-proof food storage boxes. This helps keep bears from becoming conditioned to human foods, and helps keep park visitors and their property safe. Bear sightings should be reported to the nearest visitor center or ranger station as soon as possible.