Grand Teton National Park

Grand Teton National Park

Bears at Grand Tetons

Bears have always played a central role in the Greater Yellowstone eco-system. In Grand Teton National Park specifically, black bears are frequently seen; grizzlies have become more common as they make a comeback in the area. While they may look similar at a distance, black bears and grizzlies have some major differences that you can easily learn to recognize.

Bear Comparison

Black bears (Ursus americanus) actually vary in color from cinnamon to blond to black. They are generally smaller than grizzlies and have much narrower faces. They weigh around 125 to 200 pounds. Black bears have shorter, more curved claws than grizzlies, which help them climb trees.

Grizzly bears (Ursus arctos horribillis) are the largest carnivores in the continental United States. They have a distinctive hump of muscle over their shoulders and a wide face. Their fur ranges in color from blond to black but tends to have silver—or grizzled—tips, thus the bear's name. Adults average 350 pounds, although some bears have weighed more than 650 pounds.

Bear Clues

Look for signs such as overturned or torn apart logs, excavated mammal burrows, broken branches and twigs, and claw marks on trees. You may also see scat (droppings) or tracks. Black bear and grizzly bear tracks are primarily distinguished by their size: Grizzly tracks can be more than 10 inches long!

When hiking or camping, be cautious in areas that suggest bear activity. Make noise when traveling, by talking or singing, so bears won't be surprised by your presence. (Bear bells, although a fun souvenir, do not generally make sufficient noise.)

If You See a Bear

If you spot a bear, do not approach it. Moving closer for a better look or to take a picture may inspire an attack. Female bears with cubs or bears defending a carcass food supply are especially dangerous. Be alert.

If you encounter a bear, do not run or make abrupt moves. Bears are hunters and instinctively chase anything that flees. A bear may "bluff charge" and stop short of touching you. If possible, stay still until the bear calms down, then slowly back away. If you cannot detour, wait until the bear moves away from your route. If the bear knocks you down, curl into a ball and protect your stomach and neck.

As a precaution for hikers in bear country, it is recommended that you carry bear pepper spray and have it ready and available to use.

Report all bear sightings as soon as possible to the nearest NPS ranger. Someone else's safety may depend on your information!

Don't Feed the Bears

A fed bear is a dead bear. When bears become accustomed to eating human food and garbage, their role in the park's natural environment is altered. They often turn into annoying or aggressive intruders who must be killed if they become a threat to visitors.

Yet the bears are not to blame. It is up to each person who enters the park to take the necessary precautions to be responsible and safe by bear-proofing all food and related supplies.

Bearproof Food Storage

To protect yourself and the bears, please heed the following suggestions:

•â€‚ Never leave food, trash or other scented items unattended.

•â€‚ Prepare food at least 100 yards from your tent site and do not store food in your tent or sleeping bag.

•â€‚ Properly store all food and odorous items in storage boxes where provided, sealing items in air-tight containers to minimize odors. This includes grocery bags, garbage and scented articles such as soap, sunscreen, hairspray and toothpaste. Clean fire grills and picnic tables after use and put all trash in a proper trash can or back in your vehicle.

•â€‚ If storage boxes are not available, seal all food and odorous items in airtight containers and lock them in your vehicle's trunk. If a trunk is not available, cover food and store it out of sight in the vehicle's passenger compartment, with windows closed tightly.

•â€‚ In the backcountry, pack your food and odorous items in storage boxes where possible or put them in dur-able bags and hang them from trees or hanging poles at campsites at least 10 feet high and four feet from the tree trunk. Carry enough clothesline or parachute cord for this purpose.

•â€‚ Follow all park rules on bear- proofing your food supply. For more information, ask at any visitor center for pamphlets on backcountry safety and bear safety.