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Yellowstone biologists spot first bear of 2020

THE POWELL TRIBUNE: Grizzly bears are beginning to wake up in Yellowstone National Park, with the first confirmed grizzly on Saturday. The bear was observed from the air by biologists during a radio telemetry flight near Grand Prismatic Spring. It came just one day before last year’s first sighting, according to the National Park Service.

Male grizzlies come out of hibernation in early March. Females with cubs 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.


“Now that bears are emerging from winter dens, visitors should be excited for the chance to view and photograph them, but they should also treat bears with respect and caution,” said Kerry Gunther, the park’s bear management biologist. “Many visitors think bears are ravenously hungry and more likely to attack people for food after emerging from hibernation, but almost all bear attacks result from surprise encounters when hikers startle bears at close distances and the bears react with defensive aggression.”

Hikers, skiers, and snowshoers should travel in groups of three or more, carry bear spray, and make noise, Gunther said.

The Park Service also recommends following these guidelines:

  • Stay alert and prepare for a bear encounter.

  • Carry bear spray, know how to use it, and make sure it’s accessible.

  • Stay on maintained trails, and 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.

All of Yellowstone is bear country: from the deepest backcountry to the boardwalks around Old Faithful.

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, and it can also reduce the number of bears killed by people in self-defense, the Park Service said.

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 on Tuesday.



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