Yellowstone is fortunate to have a healthy population of Grizzly bears (the population has rebounded from darker times, here’s a short history). The Park biologists work in conjunction with a diverse set of stakeholders each year to establish a sound bear management plan.
There are a few basic rules we can follow to help keep this population thriving:
- Know what bears are in the area, and how to identify them
- Stay vigilant, complacency kills
- Maintain 100 yards between yourself and any bear
- Travel in groups
- Make noise frequently while hiking
- Keep human food away from bears (and all animals, for that matter)
- Carry bear spray
Always have a second and third choice for hikes: the Park superintendent can close areas to minimize bear/human contact. We went to Yellowstone Park last weekend planning to hike the Beaver Ponds out of Mammoth, but the trail was posted as closed. The sign at the Sepulcher Mountain Trailhead (not the sign in the banner – Bunsen Peak) included the reason (recent bear activity) and a date range. Continuing on the trail would have been a violation of CFR Title 36 §2.1 and could have jeopardized the health or safety of ourselves and the bear(s) in the closed area.
Before journeying into the backcountry, refer to dates and locations of bear closure areas on this Yellowstone National Park bear management page. Obey the closures and mind the restrictions.
If you’re planning an overnight stay in Yellowstone’s backcountry, it is crucial to read through their official 2015 Backcountry Trip Planner. The 12-page guide includes information on backcountry permits and reservations, hiking in bear country, backcountry preparedness, regulations, and an excellent map detailing every backcountry site available in the park.