|With extremely dry conditions this year, the Wyoming Game and Fish Department reminds people to be cautious when recreating in grizzly and black bear country.
Bear forage is poor in much of the state, causing the animals to search for food in campgrounds or human homes near the bear's natural habitat. During low natural food years such as this, bears will forage in lower-elevation river valleys.
"Last year's drought combined with the dry conditions this year make the potential for conflicts and encounters relatively high," said Brian Debolt, G&F bear management officer.
Cabin owners and campers are advised not to leave any food outside, including dog food, and to invest in bear-proof trash containers. Barbecue grills should also be returned to vehicles or other secured spots after use. It is also suggested campers refrain from cooking very aromatic foods outside, such as frying bacon and fish.
Backpackers are also requested to cook and eat their meal one mile before their sleeping destination. In addition to packing food in odor-proof containers, in drought years it is also suggested backpackers hang their food from trees to be less detectable to black bears.
"Keeping food away from bears, not only is for human protection, but also for the bears' well being," DeBolt said. "Once a bear repeatedly exhibits no fear of humans from getting food rewards, it may be shot in self-defense or have to be killed to prevent an attack."
Recreationists should become familiar with area food storage regulations and follow them closely to avoid bear encounters. All food, including pet food, horse grain and garbage should be secured in approved containers or suspended 10 feet high. Hikers are also encouraged to be with a partner or group, make noise, be aware of bear tracks and scat, avoid animal carcasses, never approach a bear and particularly in grizzly country carry an accessible, EPA-approved canister of pepper spray.
For more information on bear safety, visit your local U.S. Forest Service or G&F office.
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