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....

I am concerned about the apparently new policy that a bear can kill a human and not be euthenized if it is protecting cubs. Where will this lead in the future? Will black bears and mountain lions also be allowed to kill humans if it is determined that it is justifiable? At the same time a man in Idaho faces one year in jail and a $50,000 dollar fine for shooting a grizzley in his back yard to protect his "cubs". Personally, I believe a top omnivoire like a Grizzley if protected long enough in a confined area like Yellowstone will not only rebound but overpopulate the area. While considered a threatened species outside the park, it has been removed for the threatened speicies list inside the park. Bear and human encounters will increase with more deaths if the bear people ratio in the park is not addressed. National Parks and Wilderness areas were set aside for humans and not intended to be primarily game preserves. The Rangers in Yellowstone had better hope that the recent killing of a Michigan man was not a repeat offense of the sow grizzly from July. The incident was only 8 miles away.

I am planning to go fishing on the Snake River in the Grand Teton National Park in about two weeks. While I was there last fall I was been told there is a grizzly in the area. I had bear spray, and watched the surrounding area carefully. This year, after two people have been killed by bears, I plan to carry bear spray and a colt .45. I've heard some bears are unaffected by pepper spray, and I understand shooting a bear is unlawful. Just the same life, liberty, and the pursuit happiness are important to me.

No, I would not cancel a hike. BUT I go prepared with bear spray and hike in a group. I also remind myself before I go on what I should do if confronted. If we spot a bear, we avoid the bear and its surroundings. Be smart.

My husband and I have hiked in Glacier and Denali. We have seen Grizzly bears at both places. Does the recent incident make less likely to hike....NO. I still it is more dangerous to drive to the airport than hike where Grizzlies live.

We should protect all wildlife in national parks, among the only small fragmented refuges remaining for
large mammals requiring much open space. Visitors need to be instructed: Enter this Trail at your own
Risk like you do each day you drive a vehicle knowing approximately 44,000 fellow citizens
are killed each year in crashes. We do not need an autocratic NPS Bureaucracy consuming scarce
Taxpayer dollars engaged in pseudo-research whose mission is to kill bears with a natural instinct
to defend their cubs. Wildlife die on highways in parks because of distracted drivers each day. If more
rangers were on the highways (instead of their computer cubicles) fining speeding drivers in the parks, less
wildlife would perish. For the readers who carry concealed weapons, visit urban parks where your prey
will be the vicious human predator.

I wouldn't place too much faith in the idea that you are safer traveling in groups... what was it here just a month or two back, seven young men were attacked and badly mauled. And carrying a big gun might or might not stop one. Your best bet is, carry a gun and bear spray, and know how to use them. Travel with more than seven to a group, make Lot's of noise ( so much for a relaxing hike), don't take a bath, or cook anything that smells, or use anything that smells, like bug spray. Try to avoid rubber like, boats, boots, coats,etc. And avoid animal carcases that have been feed upon and buried out of sight...wait, if they are buried, then you probably won't see them before it's too late - in this case it would be best to remain in your vehicle with the doors locked and windows up. And remember, just because you feel like you or your family are in danger, does give you the right to protect yourself! Remember, these are only a few of the rules you should follow when you are about to enjoy a hike. Every bear reacts differently and in some cases nothing you do will work and you will be eaten. Thank you and have a nice day!

I thought this was very interesting and very informative!!!

As a landscape photographer and outdoor enthusiast, the common sense side of me says the chances of seeing let alone having a grizzly bear encounter are slim. However, there is still a part of me that is a bit apprehensive about venturing too far into grizzly country, be it Yellowstone, Glacier, Denali, or any other national park which these magnificient creatures call home.
Maybe it is because I rarely hike alone, often visiting the parks with my wife and, in the near future, my newborn son (no, I won't be taking my newborn into the woods...we're going to wait a year or two, opting for short, safe hikes in local state parks until he is a bit older), that makes me extra cautious when venturing into an area where I am no longer at the top of the food chain.
Still, I hope to visit Yellowstone in the near future. The geysers, watefalls, geothermal features, abundant other wildlife, etc. are all too much to miss out on due to the presence of one species of bear. When I do visit, I will be packing my bear spray and adhere to all park regulations and heed trail warnings. Better safe than sorry! :)

My wife and I were in Yellowstone/Grand teton NP two weeks ago. In one day in YS we were lucky enough to see a wolf and two Grizz-- one with two cubs. What a thrill-- something we will never forget. The remote danger of attack is not a factor in visiting as far as we are concerned. Nothing is going to happen as long as you follow the rules and use common sense.We are against any killing of Grizz or anyother wildlife in the parks unless they have become habituated to humans and have lost all natural fear.What some advocate is basically turning the parks into a pseudo-zoo with no risks to humans?? If thats what you want then go to the zoo in your local town-- personally I want a wild and free Yellowstone.

And what does that mean? Did that mean that the volunteer thought pepper spray was ineffecive? There seem to be some gun advocates from the west who are afraid that widespread use of pepper spray will somehow infringe on their rights. . but I can't imagine how someone would recommend NOT taking a proven deterant into bear country . . sure it might not be a 100% guaruntee that you will safe but it sure would improve your chances, even if you had a gun as well. Pepper spray is easy to use, the effects on humans only last about 40 minutes and the effects on bears last for hours. I have seen bears sprayed effectively first hand and although it is not "brains in a can", used with common sense it has saved lives of both humans and bears. It also has other uses . . I have only used mine on a swarm of mad bees chasing me and it worked well. After all the hours I spent with bears as a bear viewing guide and the years I have spent tracking bears I have never had to use it on a bear out on a trail. Used it once on a bear in a building eating dirty laundry . . saved the laundry and the bear did not come back. It also works on the most dangerous animal in the woods . . man.

When a human goes hiking in bear country, the human becomes part of the food chain. If that means you are not at the top, then you are taking a chance. I will continue to hike and camp in the backcountry, but be prepared, cautious and aware of the possibilities. If I die from a bear attack, I would not wish the bear be put to death as I was in its territory, he/she was not in mine.
Same thing for swimming in the ocean. If you become fish food, well, you became part of the food chain when you entered the water.
Now, go out and enjoy nature without following it up with a lawsuit if you or someone in your party exits nature in a body bag or is left behind as scat on the forest floor.