Tips to stay safe as bear sightings increase in area

Chase Anderson

More stories from Chase Anderson

December 15, 2022

Photo courtesy: Jozi Simpson

A grizzly bear charges down a hill in Sunlight Basin, northwest of Cody. Many precautions can be taken to avoid dangerous situations with grizzlies and other bears that populate Wyoming.

As winter fades to spring in Wyoming, hiking trails and campsites are beginning to reopen. The introduction of warm weather however, awakens hibernating bears.

During the spring and summer, Wyoming experiences an influx in visitors. Tourists come to enjoy the state’s various wilderness areas including Yellowstone National Park or the Cloud Peak Wilderness area. 

With more people accessing wilderness areas comes more trash, leftovers and scents that are all enticing to bears.

“In 2007, we were camping in Muddy Creek in our camper and making pancakes as we always do,” junior Jace Bohlman said. “We had extra batter so we decided to make a small, plain pancake for our dog Sage. While we were eating, we noticed a neighboring camper walking down to our site. He had a stern look on his face so we became concerned. We opened the camper door to go meet [the man] and low and behold, a grizzly bear was on our doorstep.” 

Sometimes people think that nature is free land, but it really belongs to the animals and wildlife.

— Senior Jozi Simpson

The U.S National Park Service monitored 728 bears in Yellowstone Park in 2019.  Though bear attacks aren’t typical, on average there is at least one recorded bear attack per year in Yellowstone specifically. Because of this, it is important to remain vigilant in bear country.

“I think it’s important to understand what you’re getting yourself into [when in bear country],” senior Jozi Simpson said. “Anywhere you go, it’s important to understand the culture and [bear country] truly is a different culture.”

The NPS recommends many different ways to stay safe in bear country including hiking in groups, being loud to let your presence be known, securing food away, staying calm and carrying bear spray.

“I think a lot of people carry guns but don’t know how to use them,” Simpson said. “That’s why I think bear spray is important and knowing how to use it as well.”

Now, more and more places encourage the use of bear spray. Some national parks even offer places where hikers and campers are able to rent cans of bear spray for their trip.

It is important to remember that national parks and wilderness areas contain wild animals. Remembering to be vigilant and respectful in these areas can help nature-goers avoid dangerous conflicts with wildlife.

“Understanding that you are in [the animal’s] territory and you are not invited means you need to be very respectful of their land and what they are doing,” Simpson said. “Sometimes people think that nature is free land, but it really belongs to the animals and wildlife.”