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Pinedale Online > News > May 2011 > Visitors reminded to be ‘Bear Aware’ this Memorial Day weekend
Visitors reminded to be ‘Bear Aware’ this Memorial Day weekend
by Yellowstone National Park
May 26, 2011

With most bears now out of their winter dens and Memorial Day weekend fast approaching, Yellowstone National Park staff are preparing for another busy summer season.

Park officials are optimistic that bear management this coming summer will be as successful as it was last year. Last summer, despite record visitation from May through September and a generally poor food year for bears, there were only two conflicts where grizzly bears damaged property or obtained human foods in the park.

No visitors were injured by bears in the park during 2010. There has not been a bear-inflicted human injury in the park in more than two years. Recent media reports that global warming has caused park bears to become more aggressive in attacking visitors are unsubstantiated. In fact, the rate of bear-inflicted human injuries in the park has declined significantly from 175 injuries per million visitors in the 1930’s to less than one injury per million visitors in each of the last three decades.

All visitors to Yellowstone National Park should keep food and garbage stored in a bear-proof manner. Also, visitors should use roadside pullouts and stay in their cars while viewing roadside bears.

When hiking, stay on designated trails, hike in groups of three or more people, be alert for bears and make noise in blind spots. If you have a surprise encounter with a bear, slowly back away. If the bear charges, stand your ground and use your bear pepper spray.

Bear pepper spray has been highly successful at stopping aggressive behavior in bears. If a charging bear reacting defensively from a surprise encounter makes contact with you, fall to the ground on your stomach and "play dead." If you are approached by a curious or predatory bear, as evidenced by a silent approach where the bear’s ears are erect, be aggressive and fight back if the bear attacks.

Predatory attacks are extremely rare. Remember, the odds of being injured by a bear while visiting Yellowstone National Park are less than one in two million.

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