Yellowstone National Park

Yellowstone National Park

Hikers, campers, hunters uged to use caution in Yellowstone bear country

October 26, 2009, 7:36 am

With the general rifle season opening on Sunday for big game across Montana, state and federal agencies are urging hunters to be bear aware.

Yellowstone National Park, the Forest Service and Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks each issued the same statement urging people to be cautious during this time of year, when black and grizzly bears are actively feeding before denning for the winter.

"Bears are moving up and down in elevation and moving along river valley bottoms looking for calories - fruits and vegetables, unsecured food in residential areas (pet food, garbage, bird feeders), and carcasses from hunter harvests," the joint statement noted.

"Hikers, campers, hunters - all recreationists - should use care and be familiar with how to avoid encounters in bear country."

The agencies' warning carries extra urgency this year after Yellowstone's grizzly bear population was put back on the endangered species list.

Some of the tips to avoid bear encounters include:

•Always carry bear pepper spray, have it close at hand, and know how to use it.

•If you are going to be alone in bear country, let someone know your detailed plans; better yet, don't go alone.

•Be alert to signs of bear activity. Think in advance about what you would do in the event of an encounter.

•Make noise as you travel.

•Cook any meals at least 100 yards from any backcountry campsites.

•Store any attractants, including game carcasses, at least 100 yards from any backcountry campsite.

•After making a kill, hunters should get the carcass out of the area as quickly as possible; while field dressing, keep a can of bear pepper spray within easy reach; use special precautions if you must leave and return to a carcass, including placing the carcass where you can easily observe it from a distance when you return. Do not attempt to frighten away or haze a bear that is near or feeding on a carcass.

The Gallatin National Forest, Beartooth Ranger District on the Custer National Forest, and Yellowstone National Park require all attractants be stored in hard-sided vehicles or bear-resistant containers, or be hung above the ground out of the reach of wildlife.

Food, cooking utensils and garbage may not be left outside at any time unless in immediate use.

In Yellowstone National Park, regulations require visitors to stay at least 100 yards away from bears at all times.