Blame it on the groundhog perhaps, but bears have begun to emerge from their dens in Yellowstone National Park.
A grizzly bear was sighted February 9th, late in the afternoon. It was seen scavenging on the body of a bison, somewhere in the central area of the Park.
Hikers, skiers, snowshoers, and snowmobile drivers should exercise caution when venturing out, now that bears have started stirring. Travel in groups of three or more, stick to trails, make noise to announce their presence, and stock up on some bear spray.
And if you see a bear anywhere in the Park, you should report it as soon as possible to the nearest ranger station or visitor center.
After hibernation ends, bears will venture out in search of food. Usually, in Yellowstone, they find it in the form of elk or bison carcasses, killed in winter. They will act more aggressive around a food source, especially if you inadvertently surprise them.
That said, the danger of a bear attack is very minimal, if you take the following precautions.
Visitors are required to keep 100 yards between themselves and black and grizzly bears at all time. Solitary travel is discouraged in bear country. If you find yourself face to face with an aggressive bear, be sure to use your bear spray if it comes within 60 feet of you or your party. Keep in mind, however, that bear spray is and should be the last line of defense. You should exercise caution and prudence before you whip out the spray.
A reminder as well that while firearms are permitted in Yellowstone National Park, you are not allowed to fire them.
Visitors picnicking in Yellowstone should take extra care to dispose of any food waste or containers. Campers should be sure and bear-proof their food supply. And both picnickers and campers should take extra care to clean up any barbecues or grills they bring/use. Bears have a strong sense of smell, which helps them immensely in the wild when foraging for food, but is far less helpful when you want to keep your campsite from becoming Bearville.
Finally, when traveling through the Park, in case of bears, keep your binoculars or telephoto lens handy. Bears are still majestic, and a lot less dangerous, at 100 yards and a bear sighting is surely a highlight of any trip to Yellowstone.