Mar 05
Grizzly bear

Be Bear-Aware This Spring

It may still look like winter in parts of Yellowstone, but spring has arrived in one important way: bears have started emerging from their dens. All of Yellowstone is bear country, from the trails in the park’s backcountry to the boardwalks and parking lots around Old Faithful. You can play an active role in protecting yourself and the bears people come here to enjoy.

  • Photo: Jim Futterer

    Give bears space. Keep at least 100 yards (93 meters) from bears at all times and never approach a bear to take a photo.

  • Carry bear spray and know how to use it. The park service recommends each person carry one can of bear spray in a readily accessible location like a quick-draw holster (not stowed away in your backpack).
  • Hike in groups and make noise. Since 1970, 91% of the people injured by bears in Yellowstone were hiking alone or with only one hiking partner. While hiking on a trail, periodically yell “Hey bear!” to alert bears of your presence. Learn more about backcountry safety.
  • Respect closures. Do not travel in areas closed for bear management.
  • Never feed bears. Bears that become dependent on human food may become aggressive toward people and will be killed.
  • Stay with your stuff. Do not leave packs or bags containing food unattended, even for a few minutes, as bears learn new food sources quickly.
  • If a bear approaches or touches your car, honk your horn and drive away. We want to discourage this behavior for the bears’ safety and yours.

Spring Bear Management Areas

The National Park Service annually prepares for the spring 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.”

Gunther recommends that anyone planning to hike, ski, or snowshoe in Yellowstone review the online list of bear safety tips and 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.


Yellowstone Steps Up Bear Safety Efforts

Rangers installing a bear boxIn 2009, 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. Hundreds of sites still need bear boxes to meet the park’s ultimate goal to provide one in every campsite.

Wildlife Safety RangerEducation 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’s 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.


Carry Bear Spray and Know How to Use It

If you are out hiking, whether it is a tenth of a mile or on a backcountry adventure, it is essential to carry bear spray for your safety. Bear spray has been proven to be the most effective tool in stopping aggressive bear behavior and preventing attacks. Watch the NPS video below for the tips and information you need to come prepared for a safe, memorable hiking experience in the world’s first national park.