On Feb 23rd, 2016, the first grizzly bear of the the year was spotted in Yellowstone National Park. The announcement and picture sent a jolt through the hiking and wildlife watching community of America’s original National Park. This bear sighting comes before the normal first sightings, which usually occur in March. The 2016 grizzly sighting is a few weeks earlier than normal, but not as early as 2015, when the first grizzly was spotted on February 9th 2015, 14 days earlier. 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.
Yellowstone National Park officials took this year’s bear sighting as yet another reminder to those who live or are visiting the area to start being bear aware while in the wilderness. Carrying bear spray, making extra noise, hiking in groups, etc, should be second nature in the summer months, and thanks to an early spring, now need to be followed.
Bear attacks in Yellowstone are quite rare, with an average of just one bear incident per year. In 2015, Yellowstone National Park was the fifth-most visited National Park in America with 4,097,710 visits. Last year also saw very few bear incidents, according to park officials. In fact, only eight people in the 145-year history of Yellowstone National Park have been killed by a bear in the park. More people in the park have died from drowning, burns (after falling into thermal pools), and suicide than have been killed by bears. For even more perspective, five people have died from being struck by lightning inside the park. Please quote these statistics next time someone says they are afraid of bears in Yellowstone.
The numbers speak for themselves. Yellowstone is one of the most-visited National Parks in America, a destination for millions from every corner of the globe. Yet, the numbers of incidents with wildlife is in the decline, thanks to programs focusing on education. By embracing the breadths of the Park Service’s many responsibilities, Yellowstone’s level of educational information on all aspects of the park makes it a sought out destination.
“Wildlife viewing has always been an important draw to visitors to Yellowstone.” Al Nash of Yellowstone National Park explained in a 2015 interview, “We work diligently to share our wildlife safety message with visitors. We believe our efforts really do make a difference.”
Once again, the grizzlies of Yellowstone are now active and it is time we all remember to be bear aware. If you are heading out into wilds of America’s First National Park, or any wilderness known to have bears, please be prepared. While your odds may be low, it is always better to be safe than sorry, for you and the bear’s safety.
After having been to Yellowstone over 25 times, I have put on the miles, stopped at nearly every gas station, rest stop and scenic area from Seattle, Washington to Gardiner, Montana. I have stayed in the campgrounds, eaten at the restaurants and experienced the lodges. I know Yellowstone, I know the drive and I want to share it with you. The information I give has no hidden agenda. I want to give you the best trip to Yellowstone from Seattle as possible and this guidebook can do that.