Apparently there's a grizzly in Yellowstone National Park that's as desperate for spring as we are. Park visitors observed a large grizzly bear between Canyon Village and Fishing Bridge on March 8. Grizzly tracks were also reported between Mammoth Hot Springs and Norris Junction on Monday, March 11. The first grizzly bear sighting last year also occurred in early March (March 7).

Male grizzlies typically come out of hibernation in mid-to-late 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 while feeding on carcasses.

If you plan to visit the park this year please remember that Yellowstone National Park is bear country from the deepest back country to the boardwalks around Old Faithful. Protect yourself and the bears 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 away from black and grizzly bears. 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.
  • “Yellowstone visitors care deeply about the conservation of bears and observing them in the wild,” says Kerry Gunther, the park’s bear management specialist. “Reduce human-bear conflicts by preventing bears from getting food and garbage, hiking in groups of three or more people, carrying bear spray, and making noise in blind spots on the trail.”

While firearms are allowed in the park, the discharge of a firearm by visitors is a violation of park regulations. 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.

The park restricts certain visitor activities in locations where there is a high density of elk and bison carcasses and lots of bears. Restrictions began in some bear management areas on Sunday, March 10.

Yellowstone National Park contributed to this post.