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Wyoming bears are starting to wake up and become active

A Teton grizzly bear. (Wyoming Game and Fish Department)

By Breanna Ball, Wyoming Game and Fish Department

GILLETTE, Wyo. — Bears are emerging from their winter dens in Wyoming. The bears’ spring emergence serves as a reminder for outdoor recreationists and homeowners to take the initiative to avoid conflicts.

“Taking a few simple precautions can help anyone avoid a potentially dangerous encounter with a black or grizzly bear,” Wyoming Game and Fish Department Large Carnivore Conflict Coordinator Brian DeBolt said. “We want people to stay diligent to avoid any potential bear conflicts.”

Bear Wise Wyoming is a resource for recreationists, outdoor enthusiasts and anyone who lives in bear country. DeBolt said everyone has a role in putting bear-safety practices in place this spring.

For people who live in bear country — black or grizzly — keep garbage, livestock or pet feed and birdseed properly stored and unavailable to bears. Barbeque grills should be kept clean and stored in a garage or shed when possible. This limits attractants that can draw them to areas where people live or camp.

“The majority of the people do an excellent job of securing attractants away from bears. Usually, folks just simply forget, so we want to remind them how important it is to always make sure everything is stored unavailable to bears all the time.” DeBolt said.

Those who recreate in bear country also need to be aware of the potential for encounters. When recreating in bear habitat carry a defense and be alert. The main goal is to not have a surprise encounter with a bear. Hike in a group and make noise as you travel so bears can hear you. Learn to recognize areas of heavy bear use by knowing how to identify tracks, scat and diggings, and if you smell a carcass or see scavenging birds, avoid the area. Remember, bears may stay near a carcass to defend it.

Commercially-available bear spray is an effective deterrent if confronted by a bear. Carry bear spray in a readily accessible manner, make sure you know how to use it and that the spray is EPA-approved. Use bear spray only as a deterrent.

Game and Fish strives to minimize conflicts between people and large carnivores, as well as quantifying and evaluating how situations occur. It is critical the public notifies Game and Fish if a conflict arises as soon as possible.

“In most conflict situations bears do not interact with people, rather they obtain unsecured human foods, livestock or pet foods, garbage or birdseed,” DeBolt said. “We greatly appreciate the public’s communication with Game and Fish to swiftly work to resolve conflicts. If we are notified quickly, the Game and Fish can take action to deter ongoing conflicts, which is good for people and bears.”

To learn more visit the Bear Wise Wyoming website.