It’s that time again, folks! Yellowstone’s first grizzly bear sighting of 2023 is in, and the national park heeds visitors to “carry bear spray and be especially alert.”
The grizzlies of Yellowstone are punctual if anything. The park’s first sighting in 2022 occurred on March 7. And for 2023, the first to emerge from hibernation and make himself known did so on March 7, too.
A radio telemetry flight by Yellowstone National Park (YELL) wildlife biologists observed the adult male grizzly (boar) Tuesday. He’s estimated at 300-350 pounds, and as many brown bears are, was seen near the remains of a bison carcass in Pelican Valley.
This sighting in the central-eastern part of the park will be followed by many more males. Boar grizzlies emerge from hibernation in early March. Then, females (sows) with cubs emerge sometime in April or early May. All of the above means it is time for Yellowstone visitors to be on their toes and remain extra-alert to grizzly bears and their habits.
“When bears emerge from hibernation, they look for food and often feed on elk and bison that died over the winter. Sometimes, bears will react aggressively to encounters with people when feeding on carcasses,” YELL explains in their media release to Outsider.
All of Yellowstone National Park is Bear Country
And remember: “All of Yellowstone National Park is bear country. From the deepest backcountry to the boardwalks around Old Faithful.”
In kind, it’s imperative that visitors Protect themselves and the bears people come to the national park to enjoy.
Yellowstone recommends the following to keep yourself and grizzly bears safe while they’re active:
- Prepare for a bear encounter – Stay Alert!
- Carry bear spray, know how to use it, and make sure it’s accessible
- Hike or ski in groups of three or more, stay on maintained trails, and make noise
- Avoid hiking at dusk, dawn, or at night
- Stay 100 yards (91 m) away from black and grizzly bears
- Approaching bears within 100 yards is illegal – Use binoculars, a telescope, or telephoto lens to get a closer look
- Store food, garbage, barbecue grills, and other attractants in hard-sided vehicles or bear-proof food storage boxes
“Spring visitors skiing, snowshoeing, or hiking in Yellowstone National Park are reminded to carry bear spray and be especially alert for bears near carcasses and areas with early spring green-up. These are the first foods sought out by grizzlies after emerging from hibernations,” offers the park’s bear management biologist, Kerry Gunther.
In addition, the park restricts certain visitor activities in locations where there is a high density of bears. The presence of elk and bison carcasses will also contribute to closures. Restrictions begin in some bear management areas on March 10.
What to Do if You Encounter a Grizzly Bear
- Read Yellowstone’s Grizzly Bear Encounter Guide before entering the park
- Do not run if you encounter a bear
- Report bear sightings and encounters to a park ranger immediately once you are safe
As mentioned above, carrying bear spray is a proven, effective deterrent for bears defending cubs and food sources. It also reduces the number of bears killed by people in self-defense, the park notes. While firearms are legal in the park, the discharge of a firearm by visitors is a violation of park regulations. So always carry bear spray, keep it handy, and know how to use it. To familiarize yourself, see Yellowstone’s Bear Spray Guide.
For more on wildlife and wildlife safety in the park, see our Yellowstone National Park Wildlife: Animals You’ll Spot, Where to Best View Bison, Bears, Elk, Wolves, and Wildlife Safety next.