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Essential Bear Safety in Yellowstone National Park, WY

Essential Bear Safety in Yellowstone National Park, WY

Written by: , September 08th, 2023
Categories: Tips

Yellowstone Bear Safety

Whether you’re heading to Yellowstone National Park to go hiking, fishing, wildlife viewing, or simply to take photographs, it is critical that you carry bear spray (and know how to use it!) The video below shows you the best practices when carrying and using bear spray.

All of Yellowstone is bear habitat—from the deepest backcountry to the boardwalks around Old Faithful. Remember these things when traveling and hiking in Yellowstone:

  • Keep at least 100 yards (93 m) from bears at all times and never approach a bear to take a photo.
  • Never feed bears. Bears that become dependent on human food may become aggressive toward people and may result in the bear being euthanized.
  • If a bear approaches or touches your car, honk your horn and drive away to discourage this behavior.
  • Make sure you know what areas are closed for bear management.

"A Bear Doesn't Care"

If you’re exploring beyond the developed areas. The engaging National Park Service campaign, A Bear Doesn’t Care, encourages Park visitors to carry bear spray and to get educated on bear safety. Visit the NPS webpage for more information about hiking in bear country.

Recent data collected by park researchers revealed that only 28% of visitors to Yellowstone’s backcountry carry bear spray – a product that is more than 90% effective in stopping an aggressive bear. It’s the most effective deterrent when combined with other best practices – being alert, hiking in groups of three or more, and not running if you encounter a bear.

You’ll find the posters in retail outlets, ads in magazines, and images on social media that include local celebrities carrying bear spray while recreating in Yellowstone. The campaign features our long-term employee and winterkeeper, Steve Fuller, and the Yellowstone Association Executive Director and bear attack survivor, Jeff Brown – along with other celebrities– sharing the message that bear spray is essential for safety in bear country.

Winterkeeper Steve Fuller Yellowstone National Park A Bear Doesn't Care Poster

For more than 40 years, Fuller has cared for our lodges in the Canyon Village area while pursuing his photography. He is among only a handful of folks who remain year-round in the interior of Yellowstone. During the winter he maintains infrastructure and removes deep snow from the rooftops of hundreds of cabins and lodging facilities.

The campaign poster of Fuller features his image with the words, “A bear doesn’t care how long you’ve worked here.”

On the campaign poster of Brown, his image is featured above the words, “A bear doesn’t care if you know what to expect.” In 1986, before bear spray was available, Brown was attacked by a grizzly in Glacier National Park. On Brown’s poster, his sleeve is rolled up to reveal a long maul scar.

Jeff Brown Yellowstone A Bear Doesn't Care Poster

Campaign posters are available to view or download here.

Keep in mind that by carrying bear spray you are not only protecting yourself and your companions, but also contributing to bear conservation in Yellowstone by reducing potential bear-human conflicts. Just carrying bear spray doesn’t make you immune from bear encounters either. The first line of protection is always your own appropriate behavior.

You can rent bear spray inside Yellowstone or at a location on your way. Be aware if you purchase the spray and are flying home, it cannot be checked, carried on, or shipped USPS. To recycle bear spray, stop by any hotel front desk, ranger station, camping store, or visitor center to learn more.

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Want to experience Yellowstone in-depth? See what makes Yellowstone National Park a great place to work for a season or longer!