Black bear cub approaches car in GTNP, reminder not to feed wildlife

JACKSON, Wyo. – Pictures show a black bear cub approaching a car and leaning on it in Grand Teton National Park (GTNP) Sunday night. It is unknown why the cub remained close to the road, but suggests the bear was looking for food rewards.

When bears are fed by humans they often end up thinking that humans are a good source of food. Because of this, bears that are fed are likely to approach people or their cars, resulting in higher cases of bear encounters and injuries. Animals that are fed by humans also have an increased likelihood of being drawn to roadways and killed by vehicles.

“The cub was hanging out near the road and approaching cars that would stop,” Adam Brookins, a wildlife guide in GTNP, said. “I’m afraid this cub might be removed from the park if it stays near the road. It looked like he wanted food rewards, and that he’s got them before.”

This bear was hanging around an area close to the road Sunday evening in GTNP. Photo: Adam Brookins

Two years ago, a mama black bear had to be euthanized after park visitors were caught feeding them near Signal Mountain, leaving her two cubs parentless and forcing them to go to a conservatory. The orphaned cubs were relocated to Oswald Bear Ranch in Michigan, which provides educational opportunities about bears and information about how to protect their natural environment. This is just one of many examples of wildlife being euthanized or relocated from lack of consideration by people feeding them.

Last year, the Signal Mountain Summit Road was closed temporarily after park rangers received reports of multiple visitors feeding bears, leading up to park rangers and visitors being bluff charged by a bear with cubs.

“The proper storage of food items and responsible picnicking are vitally important in bear country,” The Park Service said in a statement about the earlier bear feedings. “Picnickers should only have immediate use items out so that if a bear approaches, food items can be quickly gathered and the opportunity for the bear to receive a food reward is removed. Visitors should store food and scented items in bear-resistant food lockers that are located throughout the park or in a hard-sided vehicle. Do not burn waste in fire rings or leave litter in campsites.”

Not only is feeding bears dangerous for both parties involved, but the maximum penalty for feeding park wildlife is a $5,000 fine and up to six months in jail. Yes, that even includes the squirrel begging for scraps from your picnic.

“Feeding wildlife is irresponsible, dangerous, and illegal, and we take these incidents very seriously,” Grand Teton National Park Superintendent Gopaul Noojibail said in response to previous reports. “Please share any information about the feeding of wildlife immediately to a nearby park ranger, visitor center, or by calling Park Watch at 307-739-3677.”

Please note: Though the bear pictured was showing signs that it was looking for food rewards, nobody was actually seen feeding this bear.

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