What to do when bears start emerging from hibernation.
Incredibly, March is already here and we’re slowly but surely crawling towards spring. Spring brings many welcome changes: the thaw, wildflowers, longer days, and warmer temperatures. It also brings a few challenges for residents and recreational users throughout the west, none more significant than the emergence of bears from hibernation. When bears exit their dens is highly variable and dependent primarily on environmental conditions. In the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem, for example, grizzly bears can emerge anytime from the first week of February to the last week of May, with males typically leaving earlier then females (Haroldson et al., 2002). Thus, we can reasonably expect for bears to be active very soon, if not already!
Of course, living and playing in bear country comes with a number of responsibilities. However, a few simple lifestyle changes can go a great way in helping people and bears stay safe. Here are a few reminders and tips to help you prepare for life (again) with Ursus arctos horribilis and Ursus americanus:
- Pull the bear spray out of storage! Check the expiration date & keep it somewhere visible so that you remember to take it with you when recreating.
- Take down the bird feeders. In many places, this is required by town ordinance or law.
- Properly store trash, food, and other attractants.
- Don’t leave pets outside overnight.
- Adhere to seasonal closures in national parks, forests, and other public lands.
- Recreate in groups & make noise.
- Know what to do if/when you encounter a bear.
- Be wary when traveling on trails, roads, or pathways. Bears are weak after emerging from hibernation, and these melted out surfaces provide easy movement and access to vital grazing opportunities.
- Steer clear of areas with evidence of recent bear activity (tracks, scat, carcass, etc).
- If you’re having something scented shipped to you (food, dog food, cleaning products, soap, etc) that could attract bears, plan to be home when it is delivered or have it delivered to a post office.