Hunters: Be Bear Aware
by Wyoming Game & Fish
October 9, 2009
With big game hunting seasons getting into full swing, Wyoming Game and Fish Department officials are urging hunters in Northwest Wyoming to be "bear aware" and take steps to avoid conflicts with grizzly bears.
Game and Fish officials say that several hunters have reported encounters with bears already this fall. "°We've heard of a number of hunters encountering bears in the field, on downed game and even visiting camps," say Jackson Game Warden, Bill Long. "With the number of encounters we've seen already this hunting season, we just need to remind hunters to have a higher level of awareness."
"By and large, hunters are pretty good at recognizing bear 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 there are just a lot of people using the backcountry this time of year."
Officials 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 significant bear attractant." Hunters are encouraged to make every effort to get the carcasses of downed game out of the field as quickly as possible. 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 bear encounter.
- 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
- Avoid gut piles, recently disturbed squirrel middens, heavily tracked areas
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 feet off the ground and 4 feet from any vertical support.
- 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
- 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
- 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
Food storage is required for many areas on the Bridger-Teton National Forest. It is very important for your safety and the safety of others that you comply with these regulations. For additional information please contact the nearest Forest Service office or visit www.fs.fed.us/r4/btnf/ where you can view a map of the food storage order. These regulations apply April 1 to December 1.
Forest Service Food Storage Order Requirements
- All attractants must be kept unavailable to bears at night and during the day when unattended.
- Camping or sleeping areas must be established at least 1/2 mile from a known animal carcass or at least 100 yards from an acceptably stored animal carcass.
- Food, beverages, game meat, carcass parts, processed livestock food, pet food, garbage, toothpaste, etc.
- All attractants must be hung at least 10 feet high and 4 feet from any vertical support or stored inside a bear resistant container or hard-sided vehicle.
- All food must be acceptably stored or acceptably possessed during daytime hours.
- All food must be acceptably stored during nighttime hours, unless it is being prepared for eating, being eaten, being transported or being prepared for acceptable storage.
- Game meat that is properly stored must be at least 100 yards from a sleeping area or recreation site and 200 yards from a trail.
- Game meat left on the ground must be at least one-half mile from any sleeping area or recreation site and 200 yards from a trail.
- Any harvested animal carcass must be acceptably stored, unless the carcass is being field dressed, transported, being prepared for eating or being prepared for acceptable storage.
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, including the southern Teton Range and northern portions of the Wyoming Range and Wind River Range.
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 your local Game and Fish or Forest Service office. Maps with locations of food storage structures can be obtained at the Blackrock Ranger Station, Pinedale and Jackson Ranger Districts and the Jackson Wyoming Game and Fish office. Bear resistant food storage panniers and backpacking tubes can be rented at the Blackrock Ranger Station and Pinedale Ranger District offices.