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Coexisting with Wild Bears

 

Living with Wild Bears

Jackson Hole and the surrounding Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem is home to healthy populations of both black and grizzly bears.

For many, the possibility of experiencing a bear in the wild is a compelling reason to plan a visit to the area. The very fact that an iconic species like a grizzly bear is able to persist here speaks to Wyoming’s wildness and helps make Jackson Hole such a unique travel destination!

Grizzly bears once roamed across wide swaths of the American West.  Their vast range once extended east to the Mississippi, west to the coast of California, north to Alaska and south to Arizona. While “grizzly country” is dramatically diminished today, the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem serves as one of the last strongholds for this emblematic creature.

While we are fortunate to share our landscape with wild bears, it’s important to remember that life in bear country requires special precautions. It’s on us to keep bears wild and people safe.

What You Can Do?

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• Make noise and be alert on trails.

• Travel in groups of four or more when possible in the backcountry

• Carry bear spray.

• Never leave food and attractants unattended.

Grizzly Bear Ecology

Click here to learn more about the fascinating ecology of grizzly bears.

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Grizzly & black bear differences

Click here to learn the difference between a grizzly and a bear.

So what does responsible coexistence look like when paying a visit to bear country?

1. Practice proper bear protocol on trails

While bear attacks on humans are extremely rare best-practice travel in bear country will reduce your chance of a negative encounter. Remember, all of Teton County is bear habitat and bear encounters can occur even on popular hiking trails.

• Carry bear spray and know how to use it.

• Make noise when visibility is limited, such as when hiking through dense vegetation.

• Travel in groups of four or more if possible, especially in the backcountry.

2. Practice proper food storage

Bears sense of smell is believed to be over 2,000 times more powerful than human’s. As opportunistic omnivores, bears can tolerate a wide range of food sources. Bears that come into conflict with humans over human food sources can become habituated and lose their fear of people. Habituated individuals can become a danger to humans and are often euthanized. Remember “A fed bear is a dead bear”.

• Never leave food sources unattended while hiking, camping, or picnicking, unless stored in a vehicle or bear-resistance container.

Utilize bear-resistant storage containers or “bear hangs” while recreating in the backcounty.

• Never leave trashcans overflowing, even in the town of Jackson where human-bear conflicts occur on a yearly basis.

Proper trash storage in bear country

3. Give bears space

Bears are wild creatures which existed in the Jackson area for thousands of years. If you encounter a bear on a trail stay safe, and respect its “wildness” by giving the bears at least 100 yards of space.

Hiking in bear country

TETON COUNTY BLACK BEAR CONFLICTS
Human-bear conflicts over garbage occur in the town of Jackson, primarily during fall, when bears are putting on fat for hibernation, and primarily involving black bears. Help keep bears wild and people safe by making sure garbage is securely stored, ideally in a bear-resistant container.

The usage of bear-resistant containers can dramatically reduce human-bear conflicts over garbage. Outdoor garbage containers in Grand Teton and Yellowstone National Park all specially designed to be bearproof.