SPOTTING A BLACK BEAR or a Grizzly can be what makes your trip to Yellowstone Country. It can also be what breaks it – if you’re not prepared, a surprise run-in can go quickly awry.
Last week, Jim Holstein of Yellowstone Tour Guides came to talk to Big Sky employees about being bear aware. He shared some pretty heady stories – getting bluff charged by grizzlies, encountering crowds of people just feet away from a mama bear and cubs – and tips on how to keep bear sightings in the realm of wondrous instead of dangerous. Here’s what we took away:
1) Always carry bear spray, and keep it readily at hand – bear spray is only as good as your ability to use it
2) Know how to use that bear spray (just don’t practice on your friend during a morning trail run)
3) Follow the Four or More rule – hike with a buddy, or better yet, buddies at all times.
4) Be on the lookout for telltale bear signs: poop and prints. Animal carcasses are also a good indicator that hungry bears may be nearby.
5) Make noise as you travel – use a bear bell, talk loudly with your fellow hikers, yell things like “Hey, Bear!” at the top of your lungs.
6) Cook any meals at least 100 yards from any backcountry campsites
7) Store any food or game carcasses (!), at least 100 yards from any backcountry campsites.
8) Don’t sleep in the same clothes you cook in – stash them with your food for the night.
During my trail adventures around Big Sky, I’ve crossed paths with plenty of wildlife, from almost literally running smack dab into a moose, to taking a pleasant jog with Big Sky’s resident fox. Bears are no exception, and I’ve encountered the furry beasts on many occasions without incident. But that doesn’t stop me from wearing a bear bell, running with my iPod on speaker mode, and carrying bear spray in-hand. I may look a little over-the-top decked out, but no one can say I’m not bear aware.
Don't take it from us - check out what the National Park Service recommends for people to stay bear aware in Yellowstone National Park. Find more informfrom the Center For Wildlife Information.
Recent bear sightings around Big Sky Resort. While sightings are common, attacks are not. Keep it that way by following Bear Aware protocol.