Yellowstone National Park is reporting the first bear sightings of the season.
On Friday, visitors saw a large grizzly bear between Canyon Village and Fishing Bridge. Grizzly tracks also were reported between Mammoth Hot Springs and Norris Junction on Monday. The first grizzly bear sighting in 2018 occurred March 7.
Male grizzlies come out of hibernation in mid-to-late March. Females with cubs typically emerge in April and early May. 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.
From the deepest backcountry to the Old Faithful boardwalks, all of Yellowstone is bear country. So park officials are asking visitors to take the following steps to be prepared for bear encounters:
- 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.
“Yellowstone visitors care deeply about the conservation of bears and observing them in the wild,” Kerry Gunther, the park’s bear management specialist, said in a press release. “Reduce human-bear conflicts by preventing bears from getting food and garbage, hiking in groups of three or more people, carrying bear spray, and making noise in blind spots on the trail.”
While firearms are allowed in the park, the discharge of a firearm by visitors is a violation of park regulations. Instead, park officials recommend carrying and using bear spray.
The park restricts certain visitor activities in locations where there is a high density of elk and bison carcasses and lots of bears. Restrictions began in some bear management areas Sunday.