Bears Emerge From Hibernation in Grand Teton

Grizzly bears out of hibernation -- photo by Gary Pollock, NPS

April 14, 2009
Bears have emerged from their winter dens in the greater Jackson Hole area; consequently, local residents and park visitors need to be alert for their presence anywhere within Grand Teton National Park and the John D. Rockefeller, Jr. Memorial Parkway. Just this week, a grizzly bear was observed near the Craig Thomas Discovery and Visitor Center and the park’s headquarters building at Moose. Because this and other bears are again on the move and actively searching for springtime food sources, 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 near a carcass or other food source, and female bears with cubs.

When traveling in bear country, take precautionary measures such as 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 recreational activities on the Teton Park Road, the Moose-Wilson Road, and in other backcountry areas within the park, visitors should always exercise good judgment by following recommended safety precautions: Be alert to surroundings, make noise, travel in a group, and keep food and garbage properly stored.

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 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.

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 and habituated animals can lose their fear of humans, which threatens the safety of both 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, biking, picnicking or camping in bear country, read the park’s newspaper, Teewinot, online at .