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Grizzly bears coming out of hibernation at Yellowstone National park

Grizzly Bear
Posted at 9:58 AM, Mar 16, 2021
and last updated 2021-03-16 11:58:32-04

MAMMOTH HOT SPRINGS, Wyo. — Yellowstone National Park had its first grizzly bear sighting of 2021 over the weekend. On March 13, a pilot supporting park wildlife studies saw the bear interact with wolves at a carcass in the northern part of the park.

A news release says that while this is the first official sighting, tracks have been seen on several occasions in the last two weeks. In 2020, the first bear sighting was on March 7.

Yellowstone says male grizzlies come out of hibernation in early March and females with cubs come out in April and early May. When bears emerge from hibernation, they look for food and Yellowstone says they often feed on elk and bison that died over the winter. Bears may react aggressively when feeding on carcasses.

All of Yellowstone National Park is bear country and visitors should protect themselves by following these guidelines provided by Yellowstone:

  • 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 (91 m) away from black and grizzly bears. Use binoculars, a telescope, or a 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.
  • Learn more about bear safety.

“When bears first emerge from hibernation, they look for carcasses at lower elevations and spring vegetation in thermal meadows and south-facing slopes for nourishment,” said Kerry Gunther, the park’s bear management biologist.

Firearms are allowed in the park, but the discharge of a firearm by visitors is a violation of park regulations. Bear spray has proven effective in deterring bears that are defending cubs and food sources. Yellowstone says it can also reduce the number of bears killed by people in self-defense.

Yellowstone says it restricts certain visitor activities in locations where there is a high density of elk and bison carcasses and lots of bears. Click here for more information on those restrictions.