Spring is just around the corner, and in Yellowstone National Park that means it’s time for grizzly bears to begin emerging from hibernation.
If the past few years are an indication, the first grizzly bear sighting of 2022 could occur any day, despite cold temperatures.
In 2019, the first known sighting occurred March 8. The bear was spotted between Canyon Village and the Fishing Bridge. Paw prints from another grizzly bear were discovered days later between Mammoth Hot Springs and Norris Junction.
In 2020, the first sighting was logged March 7 near Grand Prismatic Spring in the Midway Geyser Basin.
“Now that bears are emerging from winter dens, visitors should be excited for the chance to view and photograph them, but they should also treat bears with respect and caution,” Kerry Gunther, the park’s bear management specialist, said after the sighting was announced.
In 2021, the first sighting was logged March 13 by a pilot participating in a wildlife study over an undisclosed location. The bear was interacting with wolves that were feeding on a large animal carcass.
“When bears first emerge from hibernation, they look for carcasses at lower elevations and spring vegetation in thermal meadows and south-facing slopes for nourishment,” Gunther explained.
Male grizzly bears are typically first to emerge from hibernation, beginning in early March. Momma bears with cubs leave their dens in April and early May.
Although wintry weather might persist in and around the park for the next several weeks, visitors are urged to exercise caution.
“Hikers, skiers, and snowshoers should travel in groups of three or more, carry bear spray, and make noise,” Gunther cautioned.
According to Yellowstone National Park, the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem grizzly bear population is an estimated 728 bears. About 150 grizzly bears occupy territory inside or partially inside the park.
–Grizzly bear images are courtesy of Yellowstone National Park