Bear Safety Tips to While Visiting Yellowstone National Park
A long history
Everyone knows about Yellowstone – if it’s not television or the Internet, surely you’ve heard of it via newspapers or some other type of media. This wildlife gem is spread across three states of America (well, specifically – one percent is in Idaho, three are in Montana and the majority of it, or 96% to be exact, is located in Wyoming). Nevertheless, it represents a timeless jewel of nature and a tourist attraction that dazzles several million people from all around the world every year.
However, as is the case with most national parks in the world, Yellowstone too is home to numerous dangers that tend to erupt when disturbed. Bears are one such danger and while they are inquisitive and curious by nature, they do not tend to attack unless provoked. In fact, the Yellowstone National Park took great pride in the fact that there have been zero bear attacks within the park’s borders since 1986. Unfortunately, in 2011 a man was killed by a grizzly bear, thus terminating the 25 year long accident – free period that separated Yellowstone from numerous other national parks in the world.
Bear Safety Tips:
Before getting down to business, it is important to mention that both black bears and grizzly bears have a home in Yellowstone and just like all wild animals, they are very territorial and don’t take kindly to surprise visitors. Although the park is designed to separate the natural habitats of wild animals, including bears, from parts intended for tourists and visitors, you should know that occasional encounters still occur, although extremely rarely. The point is – your safety can never be 100% guaranteed, which is why you, as well as every single person visiting this national park, should rely mostly on following several rules in order to minimize the risk of surprising either some cubs, or worse – a Momma bear.
If it does happen
First things first: let’s start with the worst case scenario. If you happen to surprise or run
into a bear, the LAST THING you should do is RUN. You’d be wrong to think that bears are slow because of their size; in fact, even sprinters that compete in the Olympics don’t have anything on a charging bear – when completely zeroed in on a target, a fully grown bear can reach speeds in excess of 44 feet/second, or in other words, 30 miles per hour. Even if you happen to see a bear that’s relatively far away from you and you get noticed, again – DON’T RUN! Bears, even non – aggressive ones, will most likely chase after you if you start running. Instead, if a bear becomes aware of your presence and does not begin to act aggressively, simply back away very slowly. If , on the other hand, you come across a bear and somehow manage to remain undetected (by some miracle), again – slowly go back and find another path or trail to your destination.
Don’t underestimate them: bears are highly intelligent and have a clever way of dealing with a potentially threatening situation. They are known to bluff by charging towards a perceived threat and then stopping or sharply turning away at the last moment. In such situations it is advised to stand completely still (yes, standing still should be easy to do when you see a 200-pound Goliath running towards you…right) and wait until the bear turns or stops before backing away very slowly.
If the worst possible thing does happen and a bear starts acting aggressively or even makes physical contact, the best thing you can do is – lie down on the ground (actually, drop down as fast as you can). Yes, the myth is true: lying to the ground face down with your hands clasped behind your neck is the recommended course of action in case of a bear attack. Complete silence and lack of any motion are crucial in order to avoid injury and worse outcomes as any resistance will surely enrage and enhance the aggressiveness of the bear. Before any movement, it is crucial to carefully listen and examine the surroundings before actually taking a look in order to make sure that the bear has left and you’re no longer in any danger.
If you don’t want it to happen
Now that you know what to do if you actually happen to encounter a bear, let’s focus on the precautions you need to take in order to avoid such a situation.
Pepper spray for bears is a good way to protect yourself when faced with an aggressive
bear, but only if used according to strict directions.
Forget about climbing trees – if an adult grizzly or a grizzly cub doesn’t get you, a black bear certainly will; these are all skillful climbers and they have no problem climbing any tree for food. In addition, if you’re not sure that a bear will chase you, don’t climb a tree because this act will likely provoke the bear to go after you.
Logically, do not store food, waste or utensils in the open; either use food – storage containers at campgrounds or use a vehicle with hard sides (like a car, for example). Also, since bears tend to act very aggressively if they feel that their food source is in jeopardy, try avoiding carcasses of animals while walking or hiking.
Since the number one cause of injuries suffered in bear attacks refers to the bears being caught off guard and surprised, it makes sense to sing, shout and make loud noises in order to alert the bears of your presence on beaten trails and paths in the Park. Therefore, hiking at dusk, dawn or after dark are all a big no – no.
Finally – following, approaching, crowding or surrounding any wildlife (and especially bears) is very ill-advised, just as much as blocking or crossing a bear’s line of travel. Also, it is recommended that you keep a minimal 100 yard distance from bears at all times, with the exception of such cases that include you being in the safety of your vehicle while a bear peacefully moves by.