Bears emerging from Winter Dens
by Wyoming Game & Fish
March 30, 2011
Recent observations of bear tracks in the snow are clear indications that bears are emerging from their winter dens. Bear sign has been observed in the Pacific Creek and Gros Ventre drainages as well the John Dodge subdivision along Wyoming Highway 390 south of Teton Village.
According to Jackson bear management specialist Mike Boyce, it is not unusual for some bears to emerge at this time of the year.
"Typically, boars (males) emerge from their dens in mid-March and early April, while sows (females) and young of the year cubs emerge in late April and early May," said Boyce.
Bears typically wander over big game winter ranges in early spring searching for winter killed big game animals. If bears do not readily find natural foods they may turn towards developed areas.
Boyce cautions that now is the time to take the necessary precautions to avoid conflicts with bears. "The majority of the people in and around the Jackson area do a good job of keeping foods away from bears and although it may seem early, itís never too early to become bear aware," said Boyce.
Boyce noted there were approximately 242 human-grizzly bear conflicts reported last year in Wyoming.
According to Boyce many of those were related to improperly stored food and garbage. If you live in bear country, grizzly or black bear, Boyce recommends keeping all attractants unavailable to bears. In addition, many areas of Teton County now require residents to store all their garbage in a certified bear resistant container or a secure building or enclosure. The second part of this regulation requires all bird feeders to be hung with a catch pan 10 feet high and 4 feet out from supporting structures from April 1- November 30.
Bear encounters often occur when bears are surprised. In response to this surprise a bear may bluff charge. This behavior allows the bear to determine the seriousness of a threat. If it feels the need to eliminate the threat, it will charge.
When hiking, avoid having problems with bears by being cautious and alert. Make noise as you travel so bears can hear you. Learn to recognize areas of heavy bear use based upon tracks, scats, and diggings. If you smell a carcass, avoid it. Flocks of magpies, ravens, or jays often indicate a carcass is nearby. Remember, when bears scavenge large animals they often cover what they canít eat with brush or dirt and may stay close by to defend it from other bears for several days.
Commercially available bear spray is effective in stopping aggressive bears. Use bear spray only as a deterrent and as a last resort in avoiding a physical encounter. Spraying an area or personal property with bear spray to repel bears is not recommended.
To learn more about how to avoid conflicts with bears or what to do in an encounter, people should plan to attend one of the Game and Fish Departmentís "Staying Safe in Bear, Lion and Wolf Country" seminars being offered in various communities across the state. There will be two for the Jackson and Pinedale areas.
April 26: 6:30 p.m.-9:30 p.m., at the Pinedale Library
April 27: 6:30 p.m.-9:30 p.m., at the Snow King Resort in Jackson, WY
For more information people may contact the Jackson Game and Fish office at (307) 733-2321 or 1-800-423-4113 (in-state) or the Pinedale Game and Fish office at (307) 367-4353 or 1-800-452-9107 (in-state) during regular business hours.