We can “bearly” contain our happiness with this news! The first official grizzly bear sighting of 2019 has occurred in Yellowstone National Park! Despite a ton of snow and ridiculously frigid temperatures, the inevitable return to warmer weather is showing signs of occurring. We are a ways from wildflowers and open roads, but the bears are “waking up.”
The first grizzly bear sighting of 2019 occurred in Yellowstone National Park just a few days ago. On Friday, March 8, visitors observed a large grizzly bear wandering between Canyon Village and Fishing Bridge. Additionally, grizzly tracks were reported between Mammoth Hot Springs and Norris Junction on Monday, March 11.
While reports of a bear sighting had occurred in January of 2019, the park did not confirm this as the first official bear of the year. Calls to Yellowstone about this issue have not been returned.
“Male grizzlies come out of hibernation in mid-to-late March. Females with cubs emerge in April and early May. When bears emerge from hibernation, they look for food and often feed on elk and bison that died over the winter. Sometimes, bears will react aggressively while feeding on carcasses.
The first bear sighting of 2018 was on March 6th. In 2017, the first grizzly was spotted on March 15th. In 2016, the first grizzly sighting was on February 23rd, while 2015 saw the first grizzly on February 9th. With the bears waking up and roaming, hikers need to be aware, as active bears earlier in the year increase the potential for unexpected bear encounters.
Because of the number of active bears in Yellowstone, the park restricts certain visitor activities in locations where there is a high density of elk and bison carcasses and lots of bears. Restrictions began in some bear management areas on Sunday, March 10 and will last for months.
All of Yellowstone National Park is bear country: from the deepest backcountry to the boardwalks around Old Faithful. Your safety cannot be guaranteed, but you can play an active role in protecting yourself and the bears people come here to enjoy by following these guidelines:
Firearms are allowed in the park, but the discharge of a firearm by visitors is a violation of park regulations. Seriously, you do not need a gun. Bear spray has proven effective in deterring bears defending cubs and food sources.
“Yellowstone visitors care deeply about the conservation of bears and observing them in the wild,” says Kerry Gunther, the park’s bear management specialist. “Reduce human-bear conflicts by preventing bears from getting food and garbage, hiking in groups of three or more people, carrying bear spray, and making noise in blind spots on the trail.”
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The answer is experience. I have been visiting Yellowstone for 30+ years, as well as having lived and work right near the park. With thousands of trips into the stunning landscape, I have seen nearly every animal possible, numerous times. Year round, I have traveled into the park and witness scenes like wolves chasing down bison and elk, grizzly bears feasting on elk and bison, elk battling for a harem, bison in the rut and bighorn sheep challenging each other. I have seen beavers, otters, eagles, swans and sandhill cranes. I have watched bison and elk take their first steps, and other animals take their last. I have seen coyotes and fox dive into snow and watched as mountain goats perch precariously from craggy rocks. I have seen it all and want to share that knowledge with you. With full color images and a beautiful layout, this book is for every Yellowstone enthusiast, no matter the age or experience level.