Grizzlies start to emerge
By Mike Koshmrl, Jackson Hole, Wyoming
March 15, 2013
Grizzly bears are being reported out of their dens in Yellowstone National Park, and should start emerging from hibernation soon in Jackson Hole.
Yellowstone biologists are seeing grizzly tracks in the backcountry near the Pelican Valley and Turbid Lake areas, park spokesman Dan Hottle said. It’s a normal time of year for bears in the ecosystem to begin emerging from their dens, he said.
“We’ve done this announcement as early as the 26th of February right up until the end of March,” Hottle said.
As of Thursday, Grand Teton National Park officials had not yet received any reports of either bear sightings or tracks, spokeswoman Jackie Skaggs said.
“Our long-term data show that 50 percent of adult male grizzlies are out of their dens by March 15 each year,” Skaggs said. “It’s entirely possibly for someone to either see a bear or see tracks of their passage.”
Wyoming Game and Fish Department’s Jackson office also hasn’t yet had any reports of bears.
“We’ve got nothing right now,” Game and Fish spokesman Mark Gocke said. “But man, it’s so nice out there today. It’s a good time to be reminding people about taking care of their garbage and bird feeders. Those are our two big attractants here in the valley, by far.”
In Yellowstone, emerging grizzlies are likely being drawn to the scent of rotting meat, Hottle said.
“The very first thing grizzlies do after coming out is look for carcasses and winter kill,” he said.
Because of their early season food of choice, the spring is the most reliable time of year to spot a grizzly in the park, Hottle said.
“Last year, I was seeing 4, 5, 6 bears a day around this time, all the way up until mid-April,” he said. “Once there’s a sighting of a carcass, there’s photographers and wildlife watchers sitting on it until it’s gone.”
Although Yellowstone has not had any early-season, human-bear conflicts in recent years, Hottle stressed that bear seekers should keep their guards up.
Much of the park is only accessible by cross-country skiing and snowshoeing until gates open to vehicles. Park visitors are advised to stay in groups of three of more, make noise on the trail and carry bear spray.
In 2001, a Grand Teton employee was bitten on the back of the legs while skiing to a backcountry cabin March 7.
Regulations in both of Wyoming’s national parks require people to stay 100 yards from black and grizzly bears at all times.
Yellowstone also seasonally closes areas of high bear activity. A map of the closures is available at NPS.gov/yell/parkmgmt/bearclosures.htm.