Yellowstone National Park

Bear Safety
Gorp.com
A grizzly in Lamar Valley, Yellowstone National Park
A grizzly in Lamar Valley, Yellowstone National Park (Drew Rush/National Geographic/Getty)

Common sense advice that's often ignored: 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. Most backcountry campsites have food poles from which all food, cooking gear, and scented articles must be suspended when not being used. 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; hang clothing worn while cooking and eating in plastic bags.

Considering bears' highly developed sense of smell, it may seem logical that they could be attracted to odors associated with menstruation. Studies on this subject 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 refuse must be carried out of the backcountry. Human waste must be buried 6 to 8 inches (15 to 20 centimeters) below the ground and a minimum of 100 feet (30 meters) from a watercourse. Waste water should be disposed of at least 100 feet (30 meters) from a watercourse or campsite. Do not pollute lakes, ponds, rivers, or streams by washing yourself, clothing, or dishes in them.


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