It may still look like winter in much of Yellowstone, but spring has arrived in one important way: bears have started emerging from their dens. The National Park Service annually prepares for the season by instituting restrictions in some bear management areas.
These areas are in locations where there is a high density of carcasses and lots of bear activity. The park restricts certain activities in these areas to reduce encounters between bears and humans.
“This time of year visitors must be especially vigilant,” said Yellowstone’s bear management biologist Kerry Gunther.
“Bears are attracted to carcasses of elk and bison that have died during the winter. They will sometimes react aggressively when surprised while feeding on them.”
When out on the trail, stay in groups of three or more, make noise, and carry bear spray.Gunther recommends that anyone planning to hike, ski, or snowshoe in Yellowstone, review the online list of bear management area closures before going. Upon arrival in the park, check with the nearest backcountry office or visitor center for recent bear activity.
When out on the trail, stay in groups of three or more, make noise, and carry bear spray. Read more on bear safety precautions to take >>
Yellowstone Steps Up Bear Safety Efforts
In 2009, the Yellowstone Park Foundation (now Yellowstone Forever) launched the “Sponsor a Bear Box” project to help Yellowstone purchase and install bear-proof storage boxes in roadside campgrounds. Bear boxes are a proven method to improve safety by keeping food locked up and away from hungry bears. More than 1,000 sites still need bear boxes to meet the park’s ultimate goal to provide one in every campsite.
Education, says Gunther, remains the key to getting people to take precautions and use available resources like bear boxes and bear spray, and the park is acting accordingly. Warning signs are visible at trailheads and enhanced information and videos are available on the park website.
Through the Wildlife and Visitor Safety Project, funded in part by Yellowstone Forever, roving rangers respond to bear-related traffic jams and conduct Wildlife Safety Demonstrations parkwide on food storage, hiking in bear country, and correct use of bear spray.