Safety in Bear Country
Hiking and camping restrictions are occasionally in effect as a
result of bear activity. Never camp in an area that has obvious
evidence of bear activity such as digging, tracks, or scat. Odors
attract bears, so avoid carrying or cooking odorous foods. Keep a
clean camp; do not cook or store food in your tent. All food,
garbage, or other odorous items used for preparing or cooking food
must be secured from bears. Backcountry campsites have food poles
from which all food, cooking gear, and scented articles must be
suspended when not being used. You
will need to bring at least 30 feet of rope to hang your food on the
food poles. Treat
all odorous products such as soap, deodorant, or other toiletries in
the same manner as food. Do not leave packs containing food
unattended, even for a few minutes. Allowing a bear to obtain human
food even once often results in the bear becoming aggressive about
obtaining such food in the future. Aggressive bears present a threat
to human safety and eventually must be destroyed or removed from the
park. Please obey the law and do not allow bears or other wildlife
to obtain human food.
Sleep a minimum of 100 yards (91 meters) from where you hang, cook,
and eat your food. Keep your sleeping gear clean and free of food
odor. Don’t sleep in the same clothes worn while cooking and eating.
Considering bears’ highly developed sense of smell, it may seem
logical that they could be attracted to odors associated with
menstruation. Studies on this
are few and
inconclusive. If a woman chooses to hike or camp in bear country
during menstruation, a basic precaution should be to wear internal
tampons, not external pads. Used tampons should be double-bagged in
a zip-lock type bag and stored the same as garbage.
If you are involved in a conflict with a bear, regardless of how
minor, report it to a park ranger as soon as possible. Another’s
safety may depend on it. Exceptional combinations of food, shelter,
and space draw grizzlies to some parts of Yellowstone more than
others. In these Bear Management Areas, human access is restricted
to reduce impacts on the bears and their habitat. Ask at ranger
stations or visitor centers for more information.
All garbage must be carried out of the backcountry. Do
not wash yourself, clothing, or dishes in lakes, ponds, rivers, or
streams. Bring a trowel and bury human waste six to eight inches
(15-20 cm) below ground at least 200 feet (60 m) from water sources
or campsites. (A minimum distance of 100 feet is required). Similar
distance standards should be used for the disposal of wastewater.
General Safety Concerns
Should you drink the water? Intestinal infections from drinking
untreated water are increasingly common. Waters may be polluted by
animal and/or human wastes. As
a safeguard against Giardiasis, other parasites and bacteria, we
recommend that you boil, filter, or chemically treat all drinking
It is illegal to travel off trail in thermal areas. Don’t take
chances in backcountry thermal areas: scalding water underlies thin,
breakable crusts; pools are near or above boiling temperatures. Each
year, visitors traveling off trail have been seriously burned, and
people have died from the scalding water. No swimming or bathing is
allowed in thermal pools.
Removing, defacing or destroying any plant, animal, or mineral is
prohibited. Leave historical and archeological items in place.