Bears' Holiday Picnic has Park Officials Concerned
Contact: Nash, (307) 344-2010
Contact: Vallie, (307) 344-2012
Rangers in Yellowstone National Park are watching two grizzly bears to see if they become aggressive after getting human food over the weekend.
The sow and cub were foraging along the East Entrance Road near Sylvan Pass on Sunday, creating a large bear jam. The pair is often seen and photographed by visitors, and a have lost much of their fear of people.
While walking past the Eleanor Lake Picnic Area, the bears apparently smelled food. The family eating at the picnic table left the food out rather than put it safely away inside their vehicle. Visitors then took pictures of the bears while they ate the food off the table.
The Eleanor Lake Picnic Area is temporarily closed. If the bears return to the area seeking food, they will be hazed with cracker shells or bean bag rounds.
Once bears get human food or garbage, they usually become aggressive in their efforts to get it again. This can result in property damage or even injury to people. When bears become a threat to human safety, they may have to be captured and euthanized.
“Breeding age females are especially critical to maintaining a viable grizzly bear population,” said park bear management biologist Kerry Gunther. “The potential loss of this mother and cub from the ecosystem due to inappropriate human behavior would be a real tragedy.”
Park regulations require people to stay a hundred yards – the length of a football field – away from black and grizzly bears at all times. Visitors are also reminded to keep food, garbage, barbecue grills and other attractants stored in hard sided vehicles or bear-proof food storage boxes. This helps keep bears from becoming conditioned to human foods, and helps keep park visitors and their property safe.
Bear sightings should be reported to the nearest visitor center or ranger station as soon as possible.
Did You Know?
Prior to the establishment of the National Park Service, the U.S. Army protected Yellowstone between 1886 and 1918. Fort Yellowstone was established at Mammoth Hot Springs for that purpose.