We can “bearly” contain our happiness with this news! The first official grizzly bear sighting of 2022 has occurred in Yellowstone National Park! The inevitable return to warmer weather is showing signs of occurring. We are a still a long ways off from wildflowers and open Park roads, but the bears are “waking up.”
The first grizzly bear sighting of 2022 just occurred and we are stoked. On Monday, March 7, a pilot supporting Yellowstone National Park wildlife research observed the first grizzly bear of 2022. The adult bear was seen walking in a meadow in the west-central part of the park.
“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 grizzly bear of 2021 was on March 13, also from a plane. The first bear sighting of 2020 was on March 7th. On that day, the bear was observed from the air by biologists during a radio telemetry flight near Grand Prismatic Spring just one day before last year’s first sighting. In 2019 was on March 8th. In 2018, it 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.
“Spring visitors hiking, skiing, or snowshoeing in the park can reduce the chances of encountering bears by avoiding low elevation winter ranges, thermal areas, and south-facing slopes where bears seek out ungulate carcasses and spring vegetation shortly after emerging from winter dens,” said Kerry Gunther, the park’s bear management biologist.
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:
- Prepare for a bear encounter.
- 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 away from black and grizzly bears. Use binoculars, a telescope, or 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.
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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