Recent reports of bear tracks observed in the snow in the Jackson and Cody areas indicate that bears are emerging from their dens.
According to large carnivore conflict coordinator Brian DeBolt, it is not unusual for some bears to emerge at this time of the year. “Typically, male bears emerge from their dens in mid-March and early April, while females and young-of-the-year cubs emerge in late April and early May,” said DeBolt.
Antler hunters should be particularly cautious as they search the foothills because bears wander over big game winter ranges in early spring in search of winter-killed deer and elk. Bears frequenting lower elevations also increase the likelihood of people encountering bears on their rural properties.
“Grizzly bears occur throughout northwest Wyoming and, in recent years, have been expanding their distribution,” DeBolt said. “Outdoor enthusiasts and rural landowners are reminded that grizzly bears may be present outside of their known distribution.”
DeBolt said that now is the time to take the necessary precautions to avoid conflicts with bears. “The majority of the people in the rural areas of northwest Wyoming do a good job of keeping foods away from bears and although it seems early, it’s never too early to start practicing the proper storage of bear attractants,” DeBolt said.
DeBolt said that in Wyoming there were approximately 213 human-grizzly bear conflicts reported last year in the Jackson, Pinedale, Lander, and Cody areas. In most conflicts bears did not interact with people, rather they obtained human foods, livestock or pet foods, garbage, or birdseed from developed areas.
According to DeBolt many conflicts were related to improperly stored food and garbage. If you live in black bear or grizzly bear country, DeBolt recommends keeping garbage, livestock feed, and birdseed properly stored and unavailable to bears. Barbeque grills should be kept clean and stored in a garage or shed when possible.
Those who recreate in bear country this time of year also need to be aware of the potential for conflicts. Where shed-antler hunting is open, the competitive nature of antler hunting has resulted in some antler hunters beginning their searches in early March. Because bears concentrate on big game winter ranges in early spring, Game and Fish urges antler hunters to be especially vigilant in grizzly country.
When hiking, be cautious and alert. Hike in a group and make noise as you travel so bears can hear you. Learn to recognize areas of heavy bear use by knowing how to identify tracks, scats, and diggings. If you smell a carcass, avoid it. Flocks of magpies, ravens, or jays often indicate a nearby carcass. Remember, when bears scavenge large animals they often cover what they can’t eat with brush or dirt and may stay nearby for several days to defend it from other bears.
Commercially available bear spray is effective for stopping aggressive bears. Use bear spray only as a deterrent and as a last resort to avoiding a physical encounter. Carry bear spray in a readily accessible manner.
Logo courtesy Wyoming Game and Fish Department