WAPITI — Reports of grizzly bear sightings at lower elevations east of Yellowstone National Park have begun to trickle in to wildlife officials, and food storage regulations on several national forests went into effect late last week.
Temperatures this week are expected to climb into the 50s and higher.
“I’ve had a few reports of grizzlies from both the South Fork and North Fork over the past couple weeks,” said Andy Pills, a wildlife biologist with the Shoshone National Forest. “It’s probably a good time to start paying attention. Our food storage regulations went into effect on March 1.”
As of Thursday, a seasonal order requiring that food and other attractants be stored in ways making them unavailable to bears on the Shoshone and Bridger-Teton national forests went into effect.
Attractants include pop and beer, canned goods, toothpaste, lip balm, game meat, garbage, dog food and livestock feed, among other items.
Pills said such attractants must be suspended 10 feet high and four feet from a post or tree, or stored inside a bear-resistant container, a vehicle or hard-sided trailer.
“Typically, you get some activity from adult males around this time of year,” Pills said. “They naturally don’t stay in the dens as long as the females do, especially females with cubs, and they’re usually a little sluggish at first.”
Mark Brucino, a bear management conflict supervisor with the Wyoming Game and Fish Department, said he has received three reports of grizzly tracks at lower elevations along the North Fork of the Shoshone River on the Shoshone National Forest.
He said it’s typical to get a few early bears out at this time of year, males in particular. Females with cubs don’t generally emerge until late April or early May, he said.
“They’re pretty lethargic and there’s not a lot to eat,” Brucino said. “The first thing they do is take advantage of winter kill, but it’s been a mild winter, so there’s probably not much out there.”
Brucino said early bears may also try to kill weakened or injured animals.
“It’s not a great time of year for them to find food,” he said. “They do a lot of laying around. It takes time for them to get their metabolism to ramp up.”
Brucino said the same food storage rules now in effect on the Shoshone and Bridger-Teton national forests also apply to Wildlife Management Areas such as Sunlight Basin.