CASPER — Grizzly bear sightings by campers and hikers in the Bridger-Teton National Forest have led to the closure of the Upper Green River area to overnight camping, agency officials said Friday.
In an unusual move, the Pinedale District ranger decided to close the area to night camping until further notice.
The move came after multiple reports from hikers and campers of recent grizzly activity, said Bridger-Teton public affairs assistant Nan Stinson.
“I would say this is a rare event and it’s not a typical action we take,” Stinson said.
“I know in the past we have moved campers because of bears, but as far as I know, this was our first closure for bear activity.
“There were no problems per se, but just to play it on the side of caution ... and for public safety, we decided the best thing to do was to close the area to overnight camping and let the Game and Fish Department go up there and do their work.”
She said day use in the area is not prohibited.
Visitors should be alert for grizzlies, however, and report any bear activity to the Pinedale Ranger Station.
The closed area runs from the forest boundary up to Green River Lake and includes the Green River Lakes campground.
Camping is also prohibited within five miles of the Green River Lakes trailhead.
The campground area had just opened Fourth of July weekend, Stinson said, after being closed because of a beetle-killed-tree removal project.
Stinson said the agency received several reported bear sightings in the Upper Green River corridor below the local landmark Square Top Mountain, where a lot of dispersed camping takes place.
“There were multiple sightings of bears that had actually gone through some camps and got into garbage, mostly over the weekend and in the last couple of days,” she said.
Stinson said a lot of people camped in the area Thursday.
“We’ve already moved most of the camps out, and we’re patrolling the area and signs have been posted,” she said.
“We’re not sure if it’s a single bear or not. ... The Game and Fish is trying to ascertain if all these people were seeing the same bear or different bears,” Stinson said.
She noted that Bridger-Teton has a food storage order in place that covers various portions of the forest, including the Upper Green River area. The order requires that all food and other attractants be properly stored or hung so that they are not available to bears.
Bear activity and conflicts with humans have been unusually high in western Wyoming this season.
An Illinois man was fatally mauled by a grizzly bear near the east entrance to Yellowstone National Park on June 17. The adult male grizzly had been snared and tranquilized by federal researchers that morning and fitted with a radio collar before being released.
Last week, a grizzly bear entered one tent, damaged another and bit a generator at a Yellowstone campground before being captured and sent to a Montana zoo.
And a grizzly bear that was born in Grand Teton National Park in 2006 was captured on July 3 and moved back into the park after killing a cow calf south of the park’s boundaries.
Contact Jeff Gearino at firstname.lastname@example.org or 307-875-5359.