We can “bearly” contain our happiness with this news! The first official grizzly bear sighting of 2021 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 2021 occurred in Yellowstone National Park just a few days ago and we are stoked!
On Saturday, March 13, a pilot supporting park wildlife studies saw the first grizzly bear of 2021. From the air, the pilot watched the bear interact with wolves at a carcass in the northern part of the park. This is the first sighting of a grizzly bear in the park this year, although tracks have been seen on several occasions in the last two weeks.
“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 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.
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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