BOZEMAN – Federal officials have announced the first grizzly bear sighting in Yellowstone National Park this year after a pilot spotted the bear from the air on Saturday.
The pilot, who was assisting with wildlife studies at the time, said the bear was interacting with wolves at a carcass around the northern end of the park, park officials said in a statement on Tuesday.
The sighting is the first of the year, though tracks have been spotted several times over the past two weeks, officials said. Last year, biologists reported the first sighting on March 7 near Grand Prismatic Spring.
Park visitors are urged to carry and know how to use bear spray, hike or ski in groups of at least three and make noise on trails, officials said. Visitors should also stay on maintained trails and keep food, garbage and other attractants in bear-proof storage boxes.
Male grizzly bears emerge from hibernation in early March, while female grizzly bears and their cubs emerge in April and May. Bears leaving hibernation can act aggressively while feeding on carcasses, park officials said. The animals eat the carcasses of dead elk and bison.
“When bears first emerge from hibernation, they look for carcasses at lower elevations and spring vegetation in thermal meadows and south-facing slopes or nourishment,” biologist Kerry Gunther said.
Restrictions and closures went into effect March 10 at some bear management areas around the park. Restrictions apply to Mary Mountain Trail, Richard’s Pond, Gneiss Creek and Lake Spawn. Closures apply to the Firehole, Blacktail, Antelope and Two Ocean areas.
Further limits are scheduled go into effect in other areas throughout the upcoming months.
“From the deepest backcountry to the boardwalks around Old Faithful, Yellowstone National Park is entirely bear country,” officials said.
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