CODY - Recent bear sightings and reports of bear tracks observed in the snow in the upper North Fork and South Fork Shoshone River valleys are clear indications that bears are emerging from their dens.
According to large carnivore section supervisor Mark Bruscino, it is not unusual for some bears to emerge at this time of the year. “Typically, males bear emerge from their dens in mid-March and early April, while females and young of the year cubs emerge in late April and early May,” said Bruscino.
Bears wander over big game winter ranges in early spring searching for winter killed deer and elk. With yet another mild winter, early emerging bears may find it difficult to find food and this could bring bears into conflict with people.
Bruscino stated that in Wyoming, there were approximately 219 human-bear conflicts reported last year in the Jackson, Pinedale, Lander, and Cody areas. In most conflicts, bears did not interact with people, rather they obtained human foods, livestock or pet foods, garbage, or bird seed from developed areas.
According to Bruscino many of those were related to improperly stored food and garbage. For those living in black bear or grizzly bear country, Bruscino recommends keeping garbage, livestock feed, and barbeque grills stored properly and bird feeders and dog bowls kept empty after dark.
Those who are recreating in bear country this time of year also need to be aware. The competitive nature of antler hunting has some antler hunters beginning their search in early March. However, because bears concentrate on big game winter ranges in early spring, the Game and Fish Department does not recommend antler hunting in grizzly country until after spring green-up in early May.
When hiking, avoid having problems with bears by being cautious and alert. Make noise as you travel so bears can hear you. Learn to recognize areas of heavy bear use based upon tracks, scats, and diggings. If you smell a carcass, avoid it. Flocks of magpies, ravens, or jays often indicate a carcass is nearby. Remember, when bears scavenge large animals they often cover what they can’t eat with brush or dirt and may stay close by to defend it from other bears for several days.
Commercially available bear spray is effective in stopping aggressive bears. Use bear spray only as a deterrent and as a last resort to avoiding a physical encounter. Spraying an area or personal property with bear spray to repel bears is not recommended.
(Contact: Tara Teaschner (307) 527-7125)