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Reader Participation Day: Do Grizzly Attacks Have You Leery of Hiking in Yellowstone National Park?


Are you canceling plans to hike in Yellowstone's backcountry because of this summer's fatal bear attacks? NPS file photo.

With two fatal grizzly maulings in Yellowstone National Park this summer, it's understandable if some feel intimidated about hiking in the park's backcountry. Would you cancel a hike because of those incidents?

Neither published records nor park officials can cite another year when bear attacks killed two Yellowstone visitors. Were this year's attacks just an extreme coincidence, or is it getting more risky to hike into grizzly bear habitat?

Whatever the reason, tell us if this summer's incidents have you canceling or reconsidering hiking into Yellowstone's landscape.


I just spent a week in Great Smoky Mountains National Park.  There were bear warning signs posted everywhere.  Yet visitors continued to do stupid things which could incite bear attacks.  A mother and three cubs feasted on roadside berries.  Naturally everyone stopped to take photos.  Many left their cars and got as close as possible to the bears for a better picture.  Some got too close and turned their backs on momma (so they could pose looking at the camera with the bears right beside them).  Those are two very bad behaviors in bear language.  Momma got mad and charged.  Dummy was fortunate.  The other dozen or so vistors were also lucky because momma could have gone after any of them for the mistake of one.
Would I cancel a back-country trip because of this?  No.  We hiked in a lot of posted areas the rest of the week with no problem.  Bear evidence was everywhere.  Sightings were frequent.  But we obeyed the ranger warnings, tactics, and knowledge of bear behavior and so we all had a great time.

It would not stop me just make me prepare more and be a lot more cautious.

My husband Dave and I were in Yellowstone just last month and we did our usual backcountry hiking; we were packing our bear spray, making noise and being generally "Bear Aware".  We had planned to hike Riddle Lake but it was closed due to the fatality in July so we adjusted our schedule. We actually hiked a small portion of the Mary Mountain Trail (the Western portion though and not the Eastern side where the latest fatality occurred). These incidents, as sad as they are, have not deterred us from our hiking agenda.
Last summer while we were in Glacier NP, several trails were closed due to bear activity. We took alternative hikes but as soon as the trails were reopened, we were on them. Needless to say, we were on high alert!
I have mentioned before that life is full of risks. Everytime we get behind the wheel of our car we run the risk of being one of the *40,000 people who die on our nations roads every year. While we can lessen our risk factors in life, we can't completely eliminate them.

I think that the fatalities this summer have made me more aware of how good the 'standard' advice is - hike in groups of three or more, make people sounds, eliminate enticing odors, etc...
I like hiking quietly and enjoy hiking alone - I don't think I will be doing that anymore in grizzly country.  So, yes, I have done some reconsidering, though I don't think that is a bad thing.
The best defense I've ever had against grizzly attacks was a hiking friend who was going through a nasty divorce.   All I had to do was broach the topic, and for the next 20 minutes he would go off on a rant that would chase away every bear within hearing distance... :)

Interesting question - thanks for the article!

Bear Bells - Check
Bear Spray - Check
Air Horn - Check
Cascade Corner here I come.....

I'm with Danny and Ramblefeet on this one - prepare and be aware.
I also like to touch base with the rangers at the visitors' center early in a park visit, since we like to take less-used trails. This pays off in any number of ways (like being steered to Chilnualna Falls in Yosemite), and we always ask about animal sitings just so we know what to look for. Or, in the case of bears, avoid.

I spoke to a volunteer at the Clingman's Dome Visistor's Center when I spotted three big cans of bear spray for sale.  She was originally from out west in grizzly country.  Although the package stated effectiveness for grizzlies, she shook her head and said, "No way."

  I think it's a shame that the shy grizzly is being forced to live in this modern, overcrowded, country. I feel that once again we are over managing and putting our own wants first. Grizzlies are not endangered on this continent. They are in the lower U.S. states and for good reason- too many people! How would you like to be forced to live within strict unnatural boundaries and never know where those boundaries are? Kinda like living with hidden mines all around you...step over that invisible boundary and BAM! Yes I will still visit the out doors, but will never really relax and enjoy it, because I'll be having to watch out for dumb people and scared bears! Hope we don't figure out how to bring back the dinosaurs....

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