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Recent observations of bear tracks in the snow indicate bears are emerging from hibernation and venturing out looking for food in and around Glacier and Yellowstone National Parks. Signs of Yellowstone's bears emerged earlier this month when park employees observed grizzly tracks on Mary Mountain, roughly near the center of the lower loop of the park’s Grand Loop Road. Tracks were spotted in Glacier this week, prompting Park Superintendent Chas Cartwright to remind visitors: “Bear tracks in the snow are a good reminder that Glacier National Park is bear country and park visitors need to be alert for bear activity and to be familiar with and comply with safety regulations.”

Actual Harbinger of Spring: Bears Emerging From Dens in Glacier, Yellowstone

Recent observations of bear tracks in the snow indicate bears are emerging from hibernation and venturing out looking for food in and around Glacier and Yellowstone National Parks.

Signs of Yellowstone’s bears emerged earlier this month when park employees observed grizzly tracks on Mary Mountain, roughly near the center of the lower loop of the park’s Grand Loop Road.

Tracks were spotted in Glacier this week, prompting Park Superintendent Chas Cartwright to remind visitors: “Bear tracks in the snow are a good reminder that Glacier National Park is bear country and park visitors need to be alert for bear activity and to be familiar with and comply with safety regulations.”

Bears begin looking for food soon after they emerge from their dens. They are attracted to elk, bison, mule deer, pronghorn and other animals that have died during the winter. Carcasses are an important enough food source that bears will sometimes react aggressively when surprised while feeding on them.

Tracks and other evidence have also been found in and around Missoula.

Hikers, snowshoers, and cross-country skiers in and around the parks are encouraged to travel in groups of three or more, make noise on the trail, and keep an eye out for bears. Bear pepper spray has proven to be a good last line of defense, if kept handy and used according to directions when the bear is within 30 to 40 feet.

Visitors should not approach any wildlife; instead, use binoculars, telescopes, or telephoto lenses to get closer looks.

Visitors are also reminded to keep food, garbage and other attractants stored in hard-sided vehicles or bear-proof food storage boxes when not in use. Garbage must be deposited into a bear-resistant trash can or dumpster. These actions help keep bears from becoming conditioned to human food, and help keep park visitors and their personal property safe.

Cartwright added, “One of the reasons people visit the park is to experience a vast wild land, capable of supporting a healthy population of both black and grizzly bears. While here park visitors are encouraged to carry, and know how to properly use, bear spray. We want everyone to have a safe experience while enjoying the park.”

Federal law allows the carrying of firearms within national parks and wildlife refuges consistent with state laws. Glacier managers agree with Montana Fish, Wildlife, and Parks’ statement: “If you are armed, use a firearm only as a last resort; wounding a bear, even with a large caliber gun, can put you in far greater danger.”

According to U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) investigations of human-bear encounters since 1992, persons encountering grizzlies and defending themselves with firearms suffered injury about 50 percent of the time. During the same period, persons defending themselves with pepper spray escaped injury most of the time and those that were injured experienced shorter duration attacks and less severe injuries.

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Comments

  1. dave smith says:

    Bear spray vs. bullets.

    Biologists with the U.S. Geological Survey’s Yellowstone area Interagency Grizzly Bear Study Team rely on 12 gauge shotguns with slugs for bear protection–not bear spray.

    State & federal employees assigned to guard tourists at bear viewing sites in Alaska rely on a 12 gauge shotgun or a .375 H&H;magnum–not bear spray.

    Firearms work in wind, rain, and all other weather conditions–bear spray doesnt.

    If you have the skill needed to use firearms effectively, firearms are more of a sure thing than bear spray.

    Most people lack firearms skills and would be better off using bear spary.

  2. dave smith says:

    real mike–Did you happen to notice the huge glitch by Glacier Park Superintendent Chas Cartwright: “park visitors are encouraged to carry, and know how to properly use, bear spray. We want everyone to have a safe experience while enjoying the park.”

    Bear spray has a range of 30 feet, and if you’re that close to a grizzly, you are not having a safe experience. You’re in danger.

    Your brain is the best tool for helping you have a safe experience in bear country. If you use your brain, you can often avoid unpleasant experiences requiring emergency use of bear spray or firearms.

    If you find yourself in a dangerous situation with a bear, guns work regardless of wind, rain, snow or cold temps. How well guns work depends on your skill with guns. Wind, rain, snow, and cold temps have adverse effects on bear spray performance, but it doesn’t take any skill to use bear spray.

    Whether you rely on guns or bear spray when things go wrong, never forget it’s your brain that keeps you from having to defend yourself.

    Real mike shows real potential as an amateur psycholgist. But this is a classic case of trying to kill the messenger, and amateur psychology has nothing to do with staying safe in bear country.

  3. dave smith says:

    real mike–What triggered my response was the article stating that “According to U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) investigations of human-bear encounters since 1992, persons encountering grizzlies and defending themselves with firearms suffered injury about 50 percent of the time. During the same period, persons defending themselves with pepper spray escaped injury most of the time and those that were injured experienced shorter duration attacks and less severe injuries.”

    That information comes from “Bear Spray vs. Bullets: Which offers better protection,” written by U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service grizzly bear recovery coordinator Chris Servheen in 2003.

    A mentally balanced individual might ask how many investigations we’re talking about: 200, 20, 2? A mentally balanced individual might ask if the persons using bear spray were National Park Service rangers casually approaching a grizzly to break up a bear jam vs. elk hunters on National Forest land trying to handle a sudden encounter with a grizzly at close range? Obviously one situtation is easier to handle than the other.

    I’m wobbling and feeling a bit off-balance these days, but I’m bright enough to question the veracity of unsubstantiated claims by a politician like Chris Servheen.

  4. Common Sense says:

    Changing the law to allow anyone to carry a loaded gun inside a national park is the most stupid and disturbing thing I’ve ever heard of. I can only imagine the needless deaths and injuries that will occur and that is just to the animals. The soul purpose of these places are to provide a peaceful and safe place for animals to live and for nature loving people and families to relax. I don’t care to encounter people of unknown stability or intentions carrying a loaded weapon in an isolated area of the park. And to advocate that it’s acceptable to use lethal force on innocent animals going about the business of surviving when your the intruder in what is supposed to be their protected home is completely disgusting.

  5. dave smith says:

    Common sense–is it acceptable for trappers with the Interagency Grizzly Bear Study Team to torture grizzly bears by catching them in foot snares, and then use a 12 gauge shotgun for protection instead of bear spray when they approach the bear to tranquilize it?

    Is a bear trappers’ life worth more than mine, or yours, or the life of any other civilian?

    If it’s OK for bear trappers to use firearms for protection, what’s wrong with the public using firearms for protection?

    Isn’t a human life a human life?