It's Not To Early To Encounter Grizzly Bears

Wyoming Game & Fish Dept., Bear Hunting Magazine

A recent grizzly bear sighting in Sunlight Basin and grizzly tracks in the upper North Fork Shoshone River Valley are clear indications that bears are emerging from their dens.

According to grizzly bear conflict officer Mark Bruscino, it is not unusual for some bears to emerge at this time of the year. "Typically, boars (males) emerge from their dens in mid-March and early April, while sows (females) and young of the year cubs emerge in late April and early May," said Bruscino.

Bears wander over the big game winter ranges in early spring searching for winter killed deer and elk. With yet another mild winter, early emerging bears may find it difficult to find food and this could bring bears into conflict with people.

Bruscino cautions that now is the time to take the necessary precautions to avoid conflicts with bears. "The majority of the people in and around Cody do a good job of keeping foods away from bears and although it seems early, it's never to early to become bear aware," Bruscino said.

Bruscino stated that in Wyoming, there were approximately 135 human-grizzly conflicts reported last year resulting in 11 bear mortalities; there were 318 black bear conflicts in northwest Wyoming.

According to Bruscino many of those were related to improperly stored food and garbage. If you live in bear country Bruscino recommends keeping livestock feed and barbeque grills stored properly and bird feeders and dog bowls kept empty after dark.

The competitive nature of antler hunting has some antler hunters beginning their search in early March. However, because bears concentrate on big game winter ranges in early spring the Game and Fish Department does not recommend antler hunting in grizzly country until after spring green-up in early May.

When hiking, avoid having problems with bears by being cautious and alert. Make noise as you travel so bears can hear you. Approach areas from upwind to increase the opportunity for bears to smell you ahead of time. Learn to recognize areas of heavy bear use based upon tracks, scats, and diggings. If you smell a carcass, avoid it. Flocks of magpies, ravens, or jays often indicate a carcass is nearby.

Remember, when bears scavenge large animals they often cover what they can't eat with brush or dirt and may stay close by to defend it from other bears for several days.

Commercially available bear pepper sprays have been effective in stopping aggressive bears. Use bear pepper spray only as a deterrent and as a last resort to avoiding a physical encounter. Spraying an area or personal property with pepper spray to repel bears is not recommended.

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