Two people were treated for injuries after a backcountry bear encounter Thursday morning in Yellowstone National Park.
A group of four people was a few miles down the Cygnet Lakes Trail southwest of Canyon Village when they saw an approaching grizzly bear cub-of-the-year about 11:30 Thursday morning. A sow grizzly then appeared at very close range and charged the group.
Two of the hikers immediately discharged their canisters of bear spray and the sow and cub left the area after an encounter which lasted about a minute.
All four members of the group hiked out to the trailhead under their own power. One person was treated at the scene, while the second injured hiker was transported by ambulance to an area hospital with bite and claw wounds. All four have asked that their identities not be released.
Yellowstone bear biologists say the sow’s behavior is consistent with purely defensive actions taken after a surprise encounter with people. This was the first report of any bear-caused human injuries in Yellowstone this year. The incident remains under investigation.
Yellowstone regulations require visitors to stay 100 yards from black and grizzly bears at all times. The best defense is to stay a safe distance from bears and use binoculars, a telescope or telephoto lens to get a closer look. These hikers were heeding the park’s advice to hike in groups of three or more, make noise on the trail, keep an eye out for bears and carry bear spray. Bear spray has proven to be a good last line of defense, if kept handy and used according to directions when a bear is approaching within 30 to 60 feet.
There had been no recent reports of grizzly bear activity in the area. As a precaution the Cygnet Lakes Trail and the surrounding area have been temporarily closed. In addition, the park has closed the nearby Mary Mountain area to any off trail travel.