In the Grand Tetons National Park, two times visitors in their cars were getting too close to a grizzly bear, so she charged them. The bear did not hurt anyone, but charging from a grizzly bear is definitely not something anyone wants to happen. Visitors viewing grizzly bears (and wolves) are supposed to maintain a minimum distance of one hundred yards. The problem is visitors don’t know the distance rule and even when they do sometimes they break it to get close enough for an exciting experience and to try to take pictures.
Being charged by a wild grizzly bear when you have moved too close is actually a fortunate event compared with being attacked. Two hikers in Yellowstone this month surprised a female grizzly bear with cubs when they were walking. The mother bear charged and then attacked, resulting in the death of one hiker. What often triggers a bear attack is being surprised by humans in bear habitat. It appears most national park visitors are not aware of what distance to maintain and that they are supposed to constantly make noise to signal their presence to any wild bears in the area where they are hiking.
Another issue is the traffic jams caused by people in cars when they see a grizzly next to the road and want to have a bear sighting. These traffic jams are blocking the movements of the bears, an act that is against the park’s rules and punishable with fines of $100 to $5,000. Some people have actually tried to feed the grizzlies in the Grand Teton National Park, which is one of the worst things to do, because the bears then begin to associate food with people and may learn to approach people to get more food, which creates dangerous situations for the bears and humans. Problem bears are relocated repeatedly, but sometimes they are also killed because they have developed an appetite for human food. In the case of the Grand Tetons park rangers have to intercept the human food drivers throw out of their cars, so the bears don’t ever get it. Including Yellowstone National Park, there may be as many as 1,000 grizzlies in the region. The Tetons national parks receives about 500,000 visitors per year. A volunteer Wildlife Brigade has been formed to keep the bears protected from the large number of vehicles and curious visitors.
Image Credit: Mila Zinkova