Caution Advised for Bears Actively Seeking Food

Interagency News Release
Grand Teton National Park
Wyoming Game and Fish

April 24, 2008

Local residents living in the greater Jackson Hole area are cautioned that bears—including grizzly bears—are actively seeking food and have recently visited residences where attractants such as bird feeders, composting bins, garbage, and pet foods have been stored outside during the winter months. Since bears are out of their winter dens, these attractants must be cleaned up immediately and stored out of reach of bears to prevent them from obtaining food rewards. Access to human food habituates bears, and habituated animals can lose their fear of humans—which in turn threatens the safety of both people and the bears themselves. Responsible residents of Jackson Hole should annually secure all food, garbage and other odorous items during early spring when hungry bears have emerged from hibernation.

As 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 generally provide immediate sources of protein. When these carcasses are not readily available to bears, they may search for other foods, including easily obtained human-foods. After snow banks recede, bears also dig up and eat burrowing rodents and spring wildflowers; however, with a significant snowpack remaining from the rigorous winter, access to these food sources may be limited.

As bears have once again become active, appropriate precautions for traveling in bear country must be taken. Do not approach a bear under any circumstances. This is particularly important for situations involving bears with cubs, and bears near a carcass or other food source. Be especially alert for the possibility of bears scavenging on a winter-killed animal carcass. If fresh bear sign or scavenger birds (ravens, magpies, and eagles) are present, leave the area and take an alternate route of travel to avoid a potential encounter with bears that may be feeding at that location.

When traveling in bear country, precautionary measures should be exercised, including 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 Jackson Hole backcountry, hikers should exercise good judgment and follow recommended safety precautions, such as making noise and traveling in a group.

Local residents and park visitors are requested to report any sightings of bears—or signs of their activities—near developed areas. Reports should be made as soon as possible to the nearest park visitor center, ranger station, or the Wyoming Game and Fish Department office. This timely information will assist wildlife officials in keeping the public informed about recent bear activity, and in keeping bears away from unnatural food sources.