At least three grizzly bears have awoken from hibernation, according to a Yellowstone National Park press release.
Early Wednesday morning a park employee observed a grizzly bear between Mammoth Hot Springs and Tower-Roosevelt. It was the first confirmed bear sighting this year, although bear tracks have been observed since Feb. 22. Later in the morning, park staff saw two more grizzly bears scavenging carcasses in the northern part of the park.
This is a little later than the first reported bear sightings have been in recent years. In 2016, the first bear in the park was reported on Feb. 23. In 2015, the first sighting was Feb. 9. In 2014, bears were spotted on March 4.
When bears emerge from hibernation they look for food and often feed on elk and bison that died over the winter. Sometimes bears will act aggressively while feeding on carcasses.
All of Yellowstone National Park is bear country. To stay safe in bear country follow 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.
- Learn more about bear safety.
“Yellowstone visitors care deeply about preserving bears and observing them in the wild,” said Kerry Gunther, the park’s Bear Management specialist. “Carrying bear spray is the best way for them to participate in bear conservation because reducing potential conflicts protects people and bears.”
While firearms are allowed in the park, the discharge of a firearm by visitors is a violation of park regulations.
The park restricts certain 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 March 10.
Visitors are asked to report bear sightings and encounters to a park ranger immediately.