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First grizzly bear of the season at Yellowstone National Park

grizzly bear in the snow national park service photo
Posted at 9:08 AM, Mar 08, 2023

The bears are back in town at Yellowstone National Park. Officials said that the first grizzly bear to emerge from hibernation was spotted on Tuesday, marking the second consecutive year that the first bear sighting of the season occurred on March 7.

This year's bear was spotted by a wildlife biologist during a radio telemetry flight. Based on that observation, officials believe the grizzly weighs between 300 and 350 pounds. The adult bear was seen near bison carcass remains in Pelican Valley, officials said, and is likely a male, as female bears and cubs don't typically emerge until April and May.

And while seeing the first grizzly of the season can be exciting, it also means that visitors should be more cautious when they head to any area of the park.

"When bears emerge from hibernation, they look for food and often feed on elk and bison that died over the winter," the National Park Service said. "Sometimes, bears will react aggressively to encounters with people when feeding on carcasses."

Last week, the National Park Service issued a warning about the return of spring. Warmer weather means all the bears will soon be roaming the lands once again – and that people must be prepared if they end up face-to-face with one.

"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," Yellowstone bear management biologist Kerry Gunther said. "These are the first foods sought out by grizzlies after emerging from hibernations."

When it comes to grizzlies and black bears, it's recommended that people stay at least 100 yards away at all times. But if you get closer than that to any bear, there are several steps you can take, although there is one thing you should "never" do: "Push a slower friend down...even if you feel the friendship has run its course," the National Park Service said.

Instead, the best thing to do is hike in groups, stay alert and avoid areas where bears are most likely to frequent. The National Park Service has several safety tips to follow and also recommends that national park visitors carry easily accessible and EPA-approved bear spray on their person.

Attacks are rare. But they do happen.

"Keeping your distance and not surprising bears are some of the most important things you can do. Most bears will avoid humans if they hear them coming," the park service says. "...Following some basic guidelines may help to lessen the threat of danger. Your safety can depend on your ability to calm the bear."


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