As spring unfolds in Grand Teton National Park and the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem (GYE), it’s an exciting time as grizzly and black bears emerge from their dens, marking the beginning of their active season. In a recent sighting on May 16, grizzly bear #399, an iconic resident of the park, was spotted with her new “cub of the year.” This event holds tremendous significance, as #399, at the age of 27, has become the oldest documented grizzly bear in the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem to successfully reproduce. This remarkable accomplishment highlights the successful conservation efforts and continued dedication to bear safety in the region.
A Conservation Success Story:
Chip Jenkins, superintendent of Grand Teton National Park, acknowledges the collective efforts invested in conserving bear species, enabling them to thrive through active management and education. Grizzly bear #399 has become an ambassador for her species, attracting visitors from around the world who eagerly hope for a glimpse of this magnificent creature and her cubs. Preserving the best bear safety practices and implementing responsible management strategies are essential to ensuring the continued prosperity of bears within the GYE.
Inspiring Connection and Responsibility:
Encountering a bear in its natural habitat is a life-changing experience that fosters a desire to protect and support these incredible creatures. Whether residents or visitors, living or recreating in bear country necessitates awareness and responsible actions to ensure the safety of both bears and humans. With the expanding grizzly bear population, bears are dispersing across their historical range, including more populated areas. In fact, all of Teton County now falls within occupied grizzly bear habitat.
Promoting Bear Safety:
To maintain the safety of both humans and bears, it is crucial to secure or properly store all attractants that might entice bears into campsites or developed areas. Preventing bears from accessing unnatural food sources is paramount. Once bears become conditioned to human food, the risks to both bears and humans increase significantly. Whether you are a local or a visitor, your role in protecting bears is pivotal.
Guidelines for Bear Encounters:
If you happen to encounter a bear, please adhere to the following guidelines:
- Preferably park in a pull-out away from the road or, if not available, park on the side of the road, ensuring your vehicle is fully on the shoulder.
- Be cautious as you exit your vehicle, especially in blind corners, and watch out for pedestrians.
- Maintain a distance of 100 yards, or 300 feet, from any bear – it’s not just good practice, it’s the law.
- Safeguard all attractants to prevent bears from obtaining food rewards.
- Comply with instructions from park staff and be prepared to act promptly.
Tips for Backcountry Explorers:
For those venturing into the backcountry:
- Stay alert and attentive to your surroundings.
- Make noise, especially in areas with limited visibility or where sound may be muted.
- Carry bear spray, know how to use it effectively, and keep it easily accessible.
- Hike in groups of three or more people for added safety.
- Never run if you encounter a bear; instead, back away slowly.
During Your Visit:
To ensure a safe and enjoyable visit:
- Maintain a clean camp and store all attractants, such as coolers, cooking gear, and pet food, in bear-resistant storage lockers or secured inside a locked hard-sided vehicle.
- Never leave your picnic table or backpack unattended, ensuring someone stays with your food.
- If you wish to observe bears closely, use spotting scopes, binoculars, or telephoto lenses.
- Park only in designated areas, avoiding blocking travel lanes.
- Respect wildlife closure areas