Bears are emerging from their winter dens; consequently, local residents and park visitors need to be alert for the presence of bears within Grand Teton National Park and the John D. Rockefeller, Jr. Memorial Parkway. As bears once again become active, appropriate precautions for traveling in bear country must be taken. Recently, bears were observed near Moran, Jackson Lake Lodge, and the Oxbow Bend. Tracks were seen along the Teton Park Road.
When bears leave their winter dens, they search for any food source that will help restore fat reserves lost during hibernation. Winter-weakened animals and winter-killed wildlife carcasses provide immediate sources of protein and are vigorously defended by hungry bears. As snow banks recede, bears also dig up and eat burrowing rodents and spring wildflowers. Historically, adult male bears emerge from hibernation by mid to late March. Female bears, accompanied by their cubs, emerge later in the spring and are especially protective of their young. Any bear will defend a food source against perceived threats.
Do not approach a bear under any circumstances. This is particularly important for situations involving bears with cubs, or bears near a carcass or other food source.
When traveling in bear country, precautionary measures include carrying bear pepper spray and keeping it easily accessible for ready use. Please take the time to learn how to properly handle bear pepper spray and remember that having it with you is not a substitute for being alert. While enjoying the park’s backcountry, hikers should exercise good judgment and follow recommended safety precautions, such as making noise and traveling in a group.
Visitors should report any bear sightings or signs of their activity to the nearest visitor center or ranger station as soon as possible. This timely information will assist park staff in keeping visitors informed about recent bear activity, and in keeping bears away from unnatural food sources. Access to human food habituates bears. Habituated animals can lose their fear of humans, which threatens the safety of both park visitors and the bears themselves. Park visitors are reminded to keep food, garbage and other odorous items unavailable to bears by either storing attractants inside vehicles or disposing of garbage in a bear-resistant trash can or dumpster.
For further information on how to behave when hiking, camping or picnicking in bear country, read the park’s newspaper, Teewinot, online at www.nps.gov/grte .