Spring visitors to Grand Teton National Park, here's your warning: the park's bears are out, about, and hungry.
Bears have emerged from their winter dens and local residents and park visitors need to be alert for their presence throughout all locations in Grand Teton National Park and the John D. Rockefeller, Jr. Memorial Parkway. Several recent sightings have been reported, and bears are now active at various park locations from the Oxbow Bend of the Snake River and the park’s east boundary with Bridger-Teton National Forest, to developed areas at Flagg Ranch, Colter Bay and Beaver Creek. At some of these locations, bears were observed feeding on winter-kill carcasses.
Park officials point out that when bears leave their winter dens, they search for any food source that will help restore fat reserves lost during hibernation. Winter-killed animals provide immediate sources of protein, and hungry bears will strongly defend this and other food sources against perceived threats. Carcasses and freshly killed animals should serve as a point of caution — a red flag to detour away from the area. As snow banks recede, bears also dig up and eat spring wildflowers and burrowing rodents.
Adult male bears usually emerge from hibernation by mid- to late-March, followed by females without cubs. Female bears accompanied by cubs emerge later in the spring and are extremely protective of their young.
Park visitors are reminded to never approach a bear under any circumstances. This is particularly important for situations involving a bear near a carcass and other food sources, or a female bear with her cubs.
With the increased activity of bears, appropriate precautions must be taken. Visitors are advised to carry bear spray, keep it easily accessible and know how to properly handle it. Hikers enjoying the park’s backcountry should exercise good judgment, stay alert, and follow recommended safety precautions such as making noise and traveling in a group.
Visitors should report any bear sightings or signs to the nearest visitor center or ranger station as soon as possible. Timely reporting will help to keep bears away from unnatural food sources, and allow park rangers to provide important safety messages to visitors about bear activity.
Access to human food and garbage usually leads to food-conditioned bears. When bears lose their fear of humans, they often become a nuisance and a safety concern. Park visitors are reminded to keep food, garbage and other odorous items unavailable to bears at all times by storing attractants inside vehicles, by disposing of garbage in a bear-resistant trash can or dumpster, and by keeping personal items—such as backpacks or drink containers—with them at all times, especially when they contain food.