Letters From the West

Grizzlies wake up in Yellowstone and other areas

A grizzly bear foraging (U.-S.Fish and Wildlife Service Photo)

A grizzly bear foraging (U.S.Fish and Wildlife Service Photo)

Grizzly bears are emerging from hibernation in the Greater Yellowstone ecosystem and they may find fewer people bothering them as they forage for dead elk and other carcasses that sustain them during the early spring.

Since Yellowstone hasn’t plowed the roads the only major area of conflict will likely be along the northern highway from Mammoth Hot Springs to Cooke City, which is open all year. The Black Canyon area outside of Gardiner usually has lots of elk carcasses, which attract bears.

Park officials are warning hikers, skiers and snowshoers to stay in groups of three of more, make noise on the trail and carry bear spray. Bears are one of the hazards you don’t face in Yellowstone in the winter.

Bears will sometimes react aggressively when surprised while feeding on carcasses and you don’t have to be in the park to get in trouble. Grizzlies hibernate in eastern Idaho in Island Park as well as in the Selkirks up North.

Rocky Barker is the energy and environment reporter for the Idaho Statesman and has been writing about the West since 1985. He is the author of Scorched Earth How the Fires of Yellowstone Changed America and co-producer of the movie Firestorm: Last Stand at Yellowstone, which was inspired by the book and broadcast on A&E Network. He also co-authored the Flyfisher's Guide to Idaho and the Wingshooter's Guide to Idaho with Ken Retallic. He also was on the Statesman’s team that covered the Sen. Larry Craig sex scandal, which was one of three Pulitzer Prize finalists in breaking news in 2007. The National Wildlife Federation awarded him its Conservation Achievement Award.

Posted in Letters from the West