Grizzly bear

Yellowstone National Park announced in March that it had recorded its first grizzly bear sighting of 2021. (Jim Peaco/NPS)

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The first grizzly bear sighting in Yellowstone National Park this year occurred over the weekend, federal officials announced on Tuesday.

A pilot spotted the grizzly bear from the air on Saturday, Yellowstone officials wrote. The bear was interacting with wolves at a carcass around the northern end of the park. The pilot was assisting with wildlife studies at the time.

The grizzly sighting is the first of the year, though tracks have been spotted several times over the past two weeks, according to officials. Biologists saw a grizzly bear for the first time in 2020 on March 7 near Grand Prismatic Spring.

Park officials are urged visitors to carry and know how to use bear spray, hike or ski in groups of at least three and make noise on trails. Yellowstone visitors should also stay on maintained trails and avoid exploring the park at dusk, dawn or night.

All food, garbage, barbecue grills and other attractants should be stored in hard-sided vehicles or bear-proof storage boxes, officials wrote.

Park visitors who encounter bears should stay at least 100 yards from the animals and report sightings as soon as possible to a park ranger. People should not run away from bears.

In Yellowstone, male grizzlies emerge from hibernation in early March, while females and their cubs come out in April and early May.

Bears leaving hibernation can act aggressively while feeding on carcasses, park officials wrote. They eat the carcasses of dead elk and bison.

“When bears first emerge from hibernation, they look for carcasses at lower elevations and spring vegetation in thermal meadows and south-facing slopes or nourishment,” said Kerry Gunther, the park’s bear management biologist, according to a news release.

On March 10, restrictions and closures went into effect at some bear management areas around the park. The restrictions include area closures, trail closures, minimum group sizes, day use only, or no off-trail travel.

The affected areas have many elk and bison carcasses, which attract bears.

Restrictions apply to Mary Mountain Trail, Richard’s Pond, Gneiss Creek and Lake Spawn. Visitors also may not access the Firehole, Blacktail, Antelope and Two Ocean areas. Further limits will go into effect in other areas throughout the upcoming months.

“From the deepest backcountry to the boardwalks around Old Faithful, Yellowstone National Park is entirely bear country,” park officials wrote.

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Helena Dore can be reached at hdore@dailychronicle.com or at 582-2628.

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