Author Topic: Grizzlies in Yellowstone and Glacier  (Read 2248 times)

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Offline jamawani

Grizzlies in Yellowstone and Glacier
« on: March 26, 2022, 06:09:27 pm »
A Montana man was killed this week just north of Yellowstone.
Most likely by a grizzly bear - probably a bear just coming out of hibernation.

The victim was an experienced outdoorsman.
He probably came upon the bear suddenly.
Sows are especially defensive of their cubs just after hibernation.
And all bears are ravenously hungry just coming out of hibernation.
They do eat winter kill and roadkill.

This man may have done everything right, but he was still killed
Last summer, a cyclist was killed in the small Montana community of Ovando.
It seems that her group had used poor food handling and storage techniques.

I've lived in Wyoming and Montana for 30+ years.
I've camped - usually solo - in bear country from Wyoming to Alaska.
I am horrified reading some cyclists' journals when I see the risks they take.
Cooking in their tents because it's raining.
Eating in their tents because the mosquitos are thick.

I am actually more comfortable camping in the backcountry in Alaska than Wyoming.
Because grizzlies and other bears are still hunted there and have an innate fear of humans.
Most Yellowstone and Glacier bears have little fear of humans.

In addition, grizzly populations have increased greatly in the past 25 years.
They were nearly wiped out in the early 1970s after parks stopped allowing feeding.
The National Park Service cut them off cold turkey and they lacked foraging skills.
But now populations are such that some areas may have reached capacity.
Human/bear conflicts have increased significantly in the past 10 years.

So, let me take a moment to remind people - especially those not from the Rocky Mountains -
of a few crucial safety practices when cycling through grizzly country.


A) If you plan to camp only at designated campgrounds:

1. Never. Ever. Cook or eat in your tent. Not in Wyoming. Not in Kansas. Not in New Jersey.
If you have cooked and eaten in your tent, consider getting another tent.
You may not be able to smell the peanut butter and jelly, but bears can.

2. Nearly all national park and national forest campgrounds in bear country have bear boxes.
Use them. Put everything with any odor in them immediately. Toiletries & water bottles, too.
Place your tent upwind from the area where you will be cooking.

3. Prior to arriving, try to keep food and toiletries in specific panniers.
If food items have been in all your panniers at one time or another, then put them in the bear box, too.

4. Bears are curious and may know, already, that packs and panniers often contain food.
Keep as clean of a camp as possible - day and night - so bears have little reason to check out your campsite.

5. If the people in neighboring campsites leave food and coolers out, say something to them.
Sometimes people can get defensive with you, but rangers will fine people for doing so.
Maybe use a little fibbing and say you were threatened with a $100 fine the day before.

6. Forest service and park service rangers do haze and/or remove problem bears regularly.
So, if you stay in a developed campground, you should have minimal concerns - - -
Provided you use safe camping techniques.

B) If you plan to random camp or backcountry camp -

1) Follow all of the above, plus -

2) Backcountry camping in Yellowstone and Glacier is magnificent, but challenging.
You must get a reserved backcountry campsite. Usually, some are available the morning of.
Nearly all campsites have a bear pole. Verify. And you will near 50+ feet of lightweight climbing rope.
(Which also comes in handy as a clothesline, a tarpline in case of a quick rain storm, etc.)

3) Keep a triangular camp with your tent upwind 200 yards, cooking and bear pole 200 yards apart.

4) If you are random camping on national forests - know the rules.
Random camping is prohibited in Yellowstone N.P and Glacier N.P.
Random camping is prohibited in many national forest areas adjoining national parks.
Bicycles are prohibited in wilderness areas.

5. If random camping, know how to hang your food, how to select a tree -
Or carry a bearproof cannister or ursack.
And practice hanging your packs BEFORE you head out. (Trust me.)

6. Some areas may require cannisters because of poor hanging for many years.
Hanging your pack from a branch is worthless - probably too low or a bear can climb up.
The single tree tie-off is better than nothing, but bears have learned to chew through the diagonal cord.

Remember, that a jar of peanut butter is a huge calorie and fat food source for little effort.
Once bears discover human food they quickly become habituated and usually have to be destroyed.
The most dangerous bears are those looking for human food.
Don't give them the opportunity.

Offline BikeFreak

Re: Grizzlies in Yellowstone and Glacier
« Reply #1 on: March 26, 2022, 07:18:01 pm »
I do understand the problems with bears and have bicycled in the areas too.

My understanding is, that American outdoor culture often involves driving to a remote campground with a car, set up camp, fire up the barbecue and start frying some big chunks of meet, bacon, maybe some fish from the nearby river or lake. All that grease and meat will smell miles away, even for humans. Then in the evening they might dump the grease, the bones, fish remanings "somewhere" since there is no trash can. And go to sleep in their tents. I fully recognize this is a problem. I think the bear practices target especially those campers. Correct me if I'm wrong.

However, if you are a cyclist I believe no matter what, how much care you take, there will always be some odors. 6 hours earlier you might have spilled a drop of juice or soda on your pants, maybe you were at a family restaurant and a drop of grease came into contact with your pants unnoticed. For some reason a bread crumb entered your pocket. You ate a chocolate bar and put the wrap in your pocket where a tiny amount of chocolate came in contact with the pocket fabric before you could find a bin.

I get the feeling, the only way to prevent bear attacks is to run around naked all day long, shower in cold water with no soap and no shampoo to keep the up the "human odor", never eat and never brush teeth with tooth paste.


PS: If I had a bear in my camp at 3am in the morning I would not be able to sleep anymore.

Offline hikerjer

Re: Grizzlies in Yellowstone and Glacier
« Reply #2 on: March 28, 2022, 05:09:07 pm »
Excellent comments from jamawani.  I've hiked and biked in Yellowstone and Glacier for four decades and never had a "negative" encounter with any bear, although I have come across them, or they've come across me, on numerous occasions. Bear attacks are so rare that they are blown entirely of proportion by the press and the public. I mean, who doesn't love a horrifying bear story?. Of course, they happen, but the chances are slim.  That's not to say that you shouldn't be aware, but if you follow the advice above, you should be fine. Of course, a freak accident could happen, but then it could with lighting and a tornado as well. Actually, it's probably more likely.  While cycling in Yellowstone or Glacier, I'm much more concerned with RV rearview mirrors than I am with bears.
« Last Edit: March 28, 2022, 05:14:21 pm by hikerjer »

Offline ray b

Re: Grizzlies in Yellowstone and Glacier
« Reply #3 on: March 30, 2022, 07:34:37 pm »
Excellent refresher as the bears start a new year.
As I recall, only one cyclist has been killed while riding - that was a ranger out fishing, who literally ran into a grizzly.
“A good man always knows his limitations.”

Offline hikerjer

Re: Grizzlies in Yellowstone and Glacier
« Reply #4 on: March 31, 2022, 09:02:15 pm »
"As I recall, only one cyclist has been killed while riding" - Well, there was that woman riding the GDT that was mauled and killed in her tent in Ovando, MT last July.

Offline ray b

Re: Grizzlies in Yellowstone and Glacier
« Reply #5 on: April 01, 2022, 08:37:46 pm »
I said, while riding.

I came through Ovando a short time after that incident. The unfortunate adventurer was in her tent with her food. After the bear visited the tent the first time, she moved the food to the "jail," where folks can sleep (hard shelter), but underestimating the danger, she stayed in her tent.
“A good man always knows his limitations.”

Offline Ty0604

Re: Grizzlies in Yellowstone and Glacier
« Reply #6 on: April 07, 2022, 08:13:42 pm »
I don’t carry much food but when I do I store it in opsak bags inside of a ratsack. In non-bear areas it also protects my food against raccoons and other rodents. I’ll never forget the night I came out of the shower at a state park in Mississippi to find the raccoon family eating all my food. I was alone and miles from anywhere after dark.

Never had a bad experience with a bear. Had a few blacks in Glacier and a few browns in Yellowstone, one of them at camp.

If I’m camping near an RV I’ll sometimes make friends with the folks and ask to store my food inside of one of their outside accessible compartments if no bear boxes exist.

While even more rare, a cyclist was attacked and killed by a cougar (mountain lion, puma, panther….) outside of North Bend, WA in 2018.

My bear spray stays in my closet water bottle cage when I’m in wooded areas.
Instagram: tyjames0604


Offline hikerjer

Re: Grizzlies in Yellowstone and Glacier
« Reply #7 on: April 07, 2022, 10:44:54 pm »
Interesting comments and opinions on this. Regardless, if you ever even get to see a grizzly in the wild, consider it a privileged experience.  They are truly a magnificent animal.

Offline FlaSpin

Re: Grizzlies in Yellowstone and Glacier
« Reply #8 on: July 09, 2022, 08:48:53 am »
I'm a bit late to the party.

Thanks for the advice concerning grizzly bears. It has been a long time since I've been in that region. Down here in South Florida we have one rule concerning alligators:

1. Stay out of the water

I cycled thru Yellowstone many years ago. Yes, I recall being made aware of the grizzly's presence, and bear boxes were available and all of that, but it seemed more of an abstract concern. If I ever make it out there again, my concerns will be much more practical.

Thanks again.

Offline KF8MO

Re: Grizzlies in Yellowstone and Glacier
« Reply #9 on: July 27, 2022, 11:07:27 pm »
My wife and I live in Alberta, and spend a lot of time in the Canadian Rockies both backpacking and bicycle touring. It is important to be conscientious in bear country. It's not hard to do, it's just important to be consistent about it. On the bike, our front panniers contain our food, cooking stuff, and toiletries. No food or food-related items ever go in the rear panniers or the BOB trailer bag. (We ride a tandem and pull a trailer.) We never eat in the tent. That's true whether we're in bear country or not, so our stuff never picks up food odors. Over-the-top stuff like worrying about clothes you wore while eating – yeah, no. (Unless you have bacon grease on your shirt.) We do keep the BOB bag in the vestibule of the tent, out of sight, though. Bears recognize coolers by sight, and a duffel bag may look enough like a cooler that if a bear can see it, s/he may "investigate". After which there wouldn't be much left!

The bear spray does stay within reach, too.