Yellowstone Bears are waking up
by Yellowstone National Park
March 10, 2009
As the snow melts and spring begins to emerge, so do bears from their dens. Tracks from an undetermined species of bear were spotted March first on Specimen Ridge, and tracks from a grizzly were spotted on March third along the Tower Fall Ski trail.
Soon after emerging from their dens, bears begin looking for food. Bears are attracted to elk and bison that have died over the winter. Elk and bison are such a prized source of food that bears will aggressively defend these carcasses. Anyone disturbing a bear feeding on a carcass puts themselves at serious risk for injury.
Park regulations require you to stay a hundred yards from black and grizzly bears at all times. The best defense is to stay a safe distance from bears and use your binoculars, telescope, or telephoto lens to get a closer look. Hikers, snowshoers, and cross-country skiers are encouraged to travel in groups of three or more, make noise on the trail, and keep an eye out for bears. Bear pepper spray has proven to be a good last line of defense if you keep it handy and use it according to directions when the bear is within 30 to 40 feet.
Yellowstone National Park has several seasonal Bear Management Area closures designed to reduce encounters with bears in areas that have a high density of elk and bison carcasses. These closures help prevent human/bear conflicts and provide areas where bears can roam free from human disturbance.
Firehole Lake Drive; the Fountain Paint Pot Nature Trail, boardwalk and parking area; and the Midway Geyser Basin boardwalk and parking area; are all closed from now through Friday, May 22. Prior to hiking, skiing, or snowshoeing in the park, check at park visitor centers or the park web site at http://www.nps.gov/yell/parkmgmt/bearclosures.htm for dates and locations of other bear closure areas.
Visitors are also reminded to keep food, garbage, barbecue grills and other attractants stored in hard-sided vehicles or bear-proof food storage boxes. This helps keep bears from becoming conditioned to human foods, and helps keep park visitors and their property safe.
Bear sightings should be reported to the nearest visitor center or ranger station as soon as possible.