Bears starting to emerge for spring
Be alert for bear activity in the backcountry
by Yellowstone National Park
March 9, 2005
The Yellowstone National Park Bear Management Office has started receiving reports of bear activity within Yellowstone, indicating that bears are beginning to emerge from their winter dens. Yellowstone visitors are asked to be alert for signs of bear activity in the park.
Soon after bears emerge from their dens they search for winter-killed wildlife and winter-weakened elk and bison, the primary sources of much needed food during spring for both grizzlies and black bears. Visitors are asked to be especially cautious of wildlife carcasses that may attract bears, and to take the necessary precautions to avoid an encounter. Do not approach a bear under any circumstances. An encounter with a bear feeding on a carcass increases the risk of personal injury. Bears will aggressively defend a food source, especially when surprised.
If precautionary measures fail and a bear charges, behavioral reactions can be used to defuse the situation in most cases. Bear pepper spray is a good last line of defense that has been effective in most of the reported cases where it has been used.
Bear pepper spray is effective only at short distances (10-30 feet), and is adversely affected by wind, cold temperatures, and the age of the product. Take time to become familiar with your bear pepper spray, the safety trigger, and holster. Carefully read the instructions and be aware of its limitations. If you decide to carry bear pepper spray, it must be immediately available, not in your pack. Remember that carrying bear pepper spray is not a substitute for vigilance and good safety precautions.
Some news stories have suggested that bear pepper spray is a bear attractant. These stories have arisen from the misuse of the product -- applying it to people, tents, packs, or other equipment. Bear pepper spray is not designed to be applied as a repellent, but is designed to spray at a charging or attacking bear. Bear pepper spray has been a highly effective deterrent when used in this manner.
The National Park Service is continuing the seasonal "Bear Management Area" closures in Yellowstone's backcountry. The program regulates human entry in specific areas to prevent human/bear conflicts and to provide areas where bears can range free from human disturbances.
The purpose of the Yellowstone National Park bear management policy is to ensure a natural and free-ranging population of black and grizzly bears. One important aspect of the management program is the separation of bears from unnatural food sources. Human foods are one of the chief culprits in the creation of problem bears.
Bears' conditioning to groceries, garbage or intentional feeding, and habituation to people may lead to their causing human injury and property damage and occasionally require their destruction. Visitors are reminded to keep food, garbage, barbecue grills, and other attractants stored inside or otherwise unavailable to bears.
Superintendent Lewis states that park staff, along with other local, state, and federal agencies in the Greater Yellowstone Area constantly strive to protect the bear population through public education, enforcement of regulations for proper food and garbage handling, the relocation of problem bears, and seasonal human use closures.
Visitors are asked to report any sightings or signs of bears to the nearest visitor center or ranger station as soon as possible. Permits for backcountry camping and information on day hikes are available at visitor centers and ranger stations.
For further information on spring conditions in Yellowstone National Park, call park headquarters at (307) 344-7381.