Unlike the last two years which produced abundant crops of whitebark pine seeds, this year few cones were produced by the high elevation trees.
Due to the low yield whitebark pine crop, we are expecting an increase in human-bear encounters in the backcountry this fall as bears seek alternative foods common at lower elevations. In the last week Park and Forest officials have observed a significant increase in bear activity at lower elevations near trails, roads, and developments where bears are foraging for berries, bison carcasses, digging ant hills, and ripping open logs for ants. Berry production has been especially good this year. In addition, apple trees have been highly productive this year. However, since berry producing shrubs and apple trees are generally found at lower elevations more frequently inhabited by people, we expect human-bear encounters to be more common this fall.
Whether enjoying a day with friends hunting on National Forest System lands or hiking on your public lands remember to follow food storage guidelines. These guidelines have been in place for many years in Yellowstone National Park, the Gallatin National Forest, and the Beartooth Ranger District of the Custer National Forest and are intended to help keep both you and bears safe.
When hiking on National Park lands or hiking or hunting National Forest System lands, carry bear spray, hike in groups of 3 or more people, be alert for bears at all times, and make noise so you don’t surprise bears. If you encounter a bear, do not run, slowly back away to put distance between you and the bear. This often diffuses the confrontation. If the bear charges, stand your ground and use your bear spray. In most cases the bear will break off the charge or veer away. If the bear makes contact, drop to the ground face down on your stomach, with your hands clasped behind your neck and lie still. Make sure the bear is gone before moving.
When camping in the backcountry, hang all food and garbage from food storage poles or bear boxes that are provided at every Yellowstone Park backcountry campsite and some National Forest campsites. Food should be hung at all times except during preparation and consumption. If a bear approaches your campsite, yell and bang pots, pans, or other objects to discourage it from entering.