Hunters need to be ‘Bear Aware’ in Northwest Wyoming
by Wyoming Game & Fish
September 21, 2007
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 seeing bears, two reports of hunters having their downed game claimed by bears, and another report of a black bear approaching a hunter while calling for elk,” says 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, Game and Fish bear management officer. “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.”
Game and Fish officials say that with this year’s dry conditions in northwest Wyoming, bears may be covering more ground to find food and some bears may show more boldness in seeking it out. “It’s going to be especially important for hunters to get their game out as quickly as possible, preferably not leaving a carcass on the ground overnight,” says Long. “We’ve already heard of a grizzly bear claiming a hunter’s downed moose and a bear claiming a hunter’s mule deer.”
For these reasons, managers are encouraging hunters, in particular, to have a higher level of awareness regarding bears and follow some simple tips in grizzly bear country to avoid an 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. Keep 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 at least 10 feet off the ground and 4 feet from the trunk.
-- Leave an article of clothing or bell in the 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.
-- Bear observed: no threat, note location, direction of travel, back away slowly.
-- Bluff charge: avoid the area for a period of time.
-- Mauling or dead bear: leave the scene undisturbed, write down details if possible, contact Game and Fish or U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service immediately.
-- 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 and Fish.
Forest Service Food Storage Order Requirements:
-- All attractants must be kept unavailable to bears at night andduring the day when unattended.
-- Camping or sleeping areas must be established at least ½ 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. “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 your local Game and Fish or forest service office. (contact: Mark Gocke (307) 733-2321 or Mary Cernicek, Bridger Teton National Forest (307) 739-5564.