It’s no secret this has been an unusual winter for the entire country, and the Upper Snake Region of Idaho is no exception. While the snowpack in the Island Park Area has been just below average, the air temperatures have leaned more towards spring than winter. The milder temperatures means bears will be emerging from their dens.
Both black and grizzly bears can be found in the Upper Snake Region, but it is generally the male of both species that comes out first. Females with cubs den separately from the males and generally emerge after the males have had a chance to snack on winter-killed ungulates. Because of this focus by bears to regain lost fat reserves, everyone heading out to bear country should keep their eyes open and act accordingly.
Both black and grizzly bears originally called the Upper Snake Region home. Today, black bears are still common in many locations. Their cousins the grizzlies are re-colonizing many places their ancestors inhabited in the not too distant past. Persons living or camping in or near bear country need to remember their actions could open themselves up for injury, and could lead a bear down the path of getting into trouble around humans; thus requiring it to be killed.
According to IDFG Regional Conservation Educator Gregg Losinski, “Once bears start getting into trouble around humans, chances are the outcome will not be good for the bear. It is far better to avoid conflicts from the beginning, rather than hoping to fix them after they start. While conflicts can arise in the woods, most of the problems relating to bears occur where people live near bears, but fail to take the necessary precautions with things like garbage, bird feeders, BBQ grills, and pet food.”
Black bear hunters heading out for the start of general black bear season on April 15 should be especially careful to identify the species of bear they are looking at before they pull the trigger. Not only is species identification important, but in Idaho, it is legal to take a female bear as long as no cubs are present. It is important that bear hunters take the time to watch for cubs and make sure the bear is a black bear and not a grizzly. Every year, hunters in the Yellowstone Ecosystem kill grizzly bears mistaken for black bears. Idaho Fish & Game has developed a bear identification website to help hunters, or anyone who ventures out into the woods, on how to tell the difference between a black and grizzly bear. http://tinyurl.com/6n5vwbk. According to Losinski, “Knowing the difference could save your life!”
A recent BYU study showed that while pistols in the hands of experts could be effective in stopping bears, the use of bear spray is still overall the best tool to deter an active assault. To learn more about all facets of living safely in bear country visit www.igbconline.org.