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Bears in Yellowstone? Bear spray needed?

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Jul 6th, 2011, 03:57 PM
  #1
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Bears in Yellowstone? Bear spray needed?

We (2 adults) will be in Yellowstone in late August, early September for 8-9 days. We will generally drive around, but we also intend to do some easy hiking. I read that anywhere off the road in Yellowstone you are actually in a remote area in bear country.

How concerned should we be about a bear encounter? Should we get bear spray? I read about some bear spray rental services, is there any in Billings? I suppose bears are still active at that time of the year. Actually, I hope they are, since I would love pictures – from a distance, of course
I am really not panicking, just want to be prepared, as I really don’t know what to expect. Thanks
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Jul 6th, 2011, 04:04 PM
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You are bringing up an age-old question.

I was there last year and saw a couple of bears.

I've seen some people with bear spray. Since it's expensive (maybe that's the reason) a very small percentage have it with them.

I've seen people just hiking, singing, with bells on their belts, etc, etc.

You have to do what you're comfortable doing.
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Jul 6th, 2011, 05:02 PM
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If you are out and about with all the tourists near the road, then no.

If you hike more than a couple of miles into the park, then maybe.

If you take a several mile hike, I definitely would.


I had no plans to rent the spray but did when I was at Glacier. We were staying in a cabin in a semi-remote location and it made me more comfortable to have it. We took it with us into Glacier and didn't feel a need for it while we were doing the tourist stuff. We were considering the short hike at Many Glacier and decided against it. When the boat picked up new riders, a couple was still shaking with the excitment of encountering a bear on the trail. This was a trail with heavy traffic. The bear followed them down the trail until they met up with more people. The bear still followed but more slowly. When there were a total of 6 people in the group, the bear turned and ambled off into the woods.

Keep in mind, you are in their habitat. There were at least a couple of deaths last year in Yellowstone. One was a hiker 5 miles into the trail and then campers in a campground just outside the park boundary. Of course, bears (and bison) don't know where the park boundary line is.
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Jul 6th, 2011, 05:13 PM
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Talk about bad timing ... "Grizzly bear kills hiker in Yellowstone National Park" ... from LA Times article today:

"A hiker in Yellowstone National Park was killed by a grizzly bear Wednesday morning after he and his wife surprised a sow and her cubs on a popular trail."

http://latimesblogs.latimes.com/gree...onal-park.html

I worked in Y-stone two summers while in college and during those summers bears mauled a couple of campers in disputes over food but didn't kill them. I did long wilderness hikes, about half the time alone, on days off and never thought of taking bear spray, but was real careful about making enough noise not to startle a bear and camping clean. My two closest wildlife encounters were with moose in the fall when they were rutting, but no harm, no foul.

One real dumbass tourist was killed by a buffalo (bison) while I was there ... unhappy with the images he was getting with his camcorder he handed it to his wife and asked her to film while he went up to the resting buffalo and kicked it in the butt to get it moving. The buff pounded the crap out of the guy ... no charges were filed against the buff.

If you've read the LATimes article by now you may have noticed this: "It was the first bear-caused human fatality in Yellowstone in nearly 25 years, according to park officials."

So better odds you'll die in a car accident or lightning strike, but still there's always a chance.
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Jul 6th, 2011, 08:16 PM
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We've been to Yellowstone many times--usually in July and hardly ever see a bear. The year we were there in June there were a lot more bear sightings. We were told when it starts getting hot, they go to higher elevations which fits our experience. So, it may depend on the temps when you are there.
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Jul 7th, 2011, 05:59 AM
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Ok, I think we need to hope for the best (no close encounter with a bear), but be prepared. Yesterday’s attack is a little bit scary, so we’ll probably invest in some bear spray. We are flying United, and they do not allow the spray in the checked baggage, so that means we will have to buy it there.

We are landing in Billings, MT and spending the first night in Red Lodge. Is there a place in Billings or red Lodge where we can purchase bear spray, or rent a can that we can then return in Jackson Hole? Thanks.
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Jul 7th, 2011, 07:00 AM
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Hi,

Just came back from this trip, I believe Cabela's sells Bear Spray (one right in Billings off the highway to Red Lodge), did see some some signs along the way advertising the stuff, but I would only buy it if you are doing heavy duty hikes in YNP.

BTW, the Beartooth Highway from Red Lodge is amazing, hope you enjoy it as much as we did!
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Jul 7th, 2011, 08:10 AM
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We’re definitely not planning any long, heavy duty hikes, but would love some short, easy ones. I assume the roads and trails around the geysers are pretty populated, although at the end of August crowds might be thinner. What about the rim trails around the canyon, to see the waterfall?

Wildlife photography is very important, and I know that those opportunities are not where lots of people are present. How do I balance this with being safe? Are there any ranger led hikes?

owlwoman, thanks for the Cabela's info. We will probably stop by, and get our spray can (just in case).
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Jul 7th, 2011, 09:46 AM
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At the bottom of this article are several tips on how to avoid bear problems ... if you want to be REALLY careful then buy two cans of spray and practice with the first, seeing how far it shoots and the effects of wind.

http://travel.usatoday.com/destinati...focus/175962/1
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Jul 7th, 2011, 11:13 AM
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A friend of mine, who does a lot of wilderness hiking by herself, attaches jingles bells to her boot laces, so that she's making noise and warning any nearby critters someone's coming.
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Jul 7th, 2011, 11:19 AM
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"...attaches jingles bells to her boot laces, so that she's making noise and warning"

Which reminds me of the old joke -
How do you tell the difference between black bear and grizzly scat?

Black bear scat has lots of berries and squirrel fur in it.
Grizzly bear scat has little bells in it and smells like pepper.

You can buy souvenirs in Yellowstone with variations of that joke.
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Jul 7th, 2011, 11:33 AM
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Starrs - I'll have to tell my friend that one. I doubt she'll find the humor in it, but I had a laugh.
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Jul 7th, 2011, 11:59 AM
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One way to get your photogtaphy in and avoid bears is to hike on high density trail: Jenny Lake, Mt Washburn, Geyser Bsin, etc.

For wildlife get out early or a little before dusk and keep you eyes open in Hayden or Lamar Valley or Signal Mtn in Grand Tetons.

Or take advantage of others seeing them first. Whenever there's a car parked on the side of the road it usually means they spotted something.

Wolves are a very different issue. Some people just sit all day over a meadow with a spotting scope waiting to see a wolf. Not me.
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Jul 7th, 2011, 12:55 PM
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Myer,
Thanks a lot for the link and the wildlife viewing tips. I hope to see a lot, but will not push my luck in the woods.
Would love to see wolves, but sitting and waiting is not our thing…we will be fine if we come back without seeing them.

Stars, that’s so funny
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Jul 7th, 2011, 01:31 PM
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Jack Hanna has some advise for you. Check the CBS video.

http://www.nowpublic.com/culture/jac...o-2644961.html
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Jul 7th, 2011, 01:49 PM
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xwy99--The trails you are thinking of taking are fairly busy, and bears probably shouldn't be a problem. That being said, a few years ago, we were surprised by a bear on the Jenny Lake trail. There were lots of people on the trail as it was midday. The bear (thankfully a black bear) climbed a tree to get a good look at us and then took off. I never would have thought we would see a bear on that particular hike.
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Jul 7th, 2011, 02:49 PM
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Also, be smart. The woman who encountered the bear in Glacier was slathered in Shalimar. I'm not sure why he didn't run the other way (in disgust) but I really think he followed her and her husband trying to figure out what that smell was.

I don't know what it is about Shalimar, but its wearers seem to spray on 10x the amount needed. The strength of the scent even overpowers patchouli - and that's saying something

Leave the perfumes at home.
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Jul 7th, 2011, 02:51 PM
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That couple made two serious mistakes. First they didn't make enough noise to warn the bear of their presence. Clap your hands in thick cover or sing or talk, but make noise ... bells don't carry far enough, I feel.

Second, NEVER run from a bear unless it's a few feet to a vehicle or building. Bears can outrun a racehorse, and running just makes them want to chase. Stand your ground, lift your arms overhead to look bigger and talk to them in a deep voice so they know what you are ... and if knocked down then cover your head and play dead and they'll most likely leave once you are no longer seen as a threat, which is what happened with the woman in the attack described above.
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Jul 7th, 2011, 03:42 PM
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All, thanks a lot. I guess the reason I am so confused about this “bear thing” is because I have no sense of what busy means in Yellowstone at the end of August. I know there are supposed to be fewer people…but fewer than what?

Also, I saw pictures, I saw the boards around the geysers, and pictures of the canyon waterfall. But do you have to hike through the woods to get to the waterfall view point? I would love to see it with the rainbow, which seems to be from a specific viewpoint in the morning…

We will not be foolish, that’s for sure, and no perfume (and no makeup), I promise. I think we’ll be fine
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Jul 7th, 2011, 08:24 PM
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We were there at that time of year a couple of years ago and are going back again this year. We only saw one bear (actually a mother and two cubs)on our way from the airport (near Jackson Lake Lodge) to Yellowstone. Any time you see something you want to take a picture of stop -- don't figure you will see it again later. In the spring/early summer the bears are everywhere. Not sure exactly what this year may bring since the snow was there so long.

There are always people around the geyser areas and Canyon. (and yes you get great view of the falls at Canyon from the viewpoints next to the roads and walking down some of the rim trails --these are not in the woods). You don't have to go too far away from the canyon to be in the backcountry though, but chances are you won't be doing that. Like they said, if you find yourself on a trail alone for a while just be sure and make a lot of noise especially when going around a bend where you can't see what is on the other side. We got bear spray once and didn't use it. (in fact we kept it in our backpack which is really dumb -- you need to have it ready to use). We actually had trouble finding it in the park (it was around Labor Day and they were all sold out). But when we went through West Yellowstone they were selling it in the gas station, so if you can find it before you enter the park it is probably better. Will be interesting to see how much they have left by the time we get there. We plan to get some this year also. We just gave it to the rangers in the Tetons when we left.

What is this rainbow everyone is talking about?
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