Grizzlies observed out of hibernation in Yellowstone

JACKSON HOLE, WYO –The first grizzly bear sighting of 2018 is in the books for Yellowstone. Staff at the park witnessed a male griz emerge on Tuesday, March 6.

The bear was an 11-year-old wearing a radio collar in the west-central part of the park. Park employees also reported seeing another bear a day later in the east-central part of Yellowstone.

Is that early or late for grizzlies to be emerging from their dens? Actually, it’s about right on time.

Male grizzlies are almost always the first out of the den. They will begin to come out of hibernation in mid-to-late March. Females with cubs emerge later, in April to early May.

In 2017, the park’s first grizzly sighting was March 15 (but remember that winter!). In 2015 and 2016, grizzlies were out and about in Yellowstone as early as February.

When bears emerge from hibernation, they look for food and often feed on elk and bison that died over the winter. Sometimes, bears will react aggressively while feeding on carcasses.

All of Yellowstone National Park is bear country—from the deepest backcountry to the boardwalks around Old Faithful. Your safety cannot be guaranteed, but you can play an active role in protecting yourself and the bears people come here to enjoy by following these guidelines:

  • Prepare for a bear encounter.
  • Carry bear spray, know how to use it, and make sure it’s accessible.
  • Stay alert.
  • Hike or ski in groups of three or more, stay on maintained trails, and make noise. Avoid hiking at dusk, dawn, or at night.
  • Do not run if you encounter a bear.
  • Stay 100 yards away from black and grizzly bears. Use binoculars, a telescope, or telephoto lens to get a closer look.
  • Store food, garbage, barbecue grills, and other attractants in hard-sided vehicles or bear-proof food storage boxes.
  • Report bear sightings and encounters to a park ranger immediately.
  • Learn more about bear safety.

“Many Yellowstone visitors are deeply passionate about the conservation of park bears,” says Kerry Gunther, the park’s bear management specialist. “Reducing human-bear conflicts by preventing bears from obtaining food and garbage, hiking in groups of three or more people, carrying bear spray, and making noise in blind spots on the trail are the best way for visitors to protect bears while recreating in the park.”

While firearms are allowed in the park, the discharge of a firearm by visitors is a violation of park regulations. Bear spray has proven effective in deterring bears defending cubs and food sources. It can also reduce the number of bears killed by people in self-defense.

~Grizzly bear emerges in 2017. (YNP)

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