MAMMOTH HOT SPRINGS — On Tuesday a Yellowstone National Park wildlife biologist on a radio telemetry flight observed the first grizzly bear of 2023 to emerge from hibernation. The adult bear, estimated at 300-350 pounds, was seen near the remains of a bison carcass in Pelican Valley, in the central-eastern part of the park.
The first bear sighting of 2022 also occurred on March 7. Male grizzlies come out of hibernation in early March. Females with cubs emerge in April and early May. When bears emerge from hibernation, they look for food and often feed on elk and bison that died over the winter. Sometimes, bears will react aggressively to encounters with people when feeding on carcasses. All of Yellowstone National Park is bear country: from the deepest backcountry to the boardwalks around Old Faithful. Protect yourself and the bears people come here to enjoy by following these guidelines:
- Prepare for a bear encounter.
- Carry bear spray, know how to use it, and make sure it’s accessible.
- Stay alert.
- Hike or ski in groups of three or more, stay on maintained trails, and make noise. Avoid hiking at dusk, dawn, or at night.
- Do not run if you encounter a bear.
- Stay 100 yards (91 m) away from black and grizzly bears. Approaching bears within 100 yards is prohibited. Use binoculars, a telescope, or telephoto lens to get a closer look.
- Store food, garbage, barbecue grills, and other attractants in hard-sided vehicles or bear-proof food storage boxes.
- Report bear sightings and encounters to a park ranger immediately.
- Learn more about bear safety.
“Spring visitors skiing, snowshoeing, or hiking in Yellowstone National Park are reminded to carry bear spray and be especially alert for bears near carcasses and areas with early spring green-up. These are the first foods sought out by grizzlies after emerging from hibernations,” said Kerry Gunther, the park’s bear management biologist.
Bear spray has proven effective in deterring bears defending cubs and food sources. It can also reduce the number of bears killed by people in self-defense. While firearms are allowed in the park, the discharge of a firearm by visitors is a violation of park regulations. The park restricts certain visitor activities in locations where there is a high density of bears, along with elk and bison carcasses. Restrictions will begin in some bear management areas on March 10.