News Release: Yellowstone National Park increases protection for bears and visitor safety by implementing changes to two bear management areas

TheMountainRabbit

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News Release: Yellowstone National Park increases protection for bears and visitor safety by implementing changes to two bear management areas

Skiers spot Yellowstone’s first grizzly bear of 2024

bear walking on the edge of a snow bank
Grizzly boar walks along the edge of Blacktail Ponds (NPS / Jacob W. Frank)
MAMMOTH HOT SPRINGS, WY – To protect bears and increase visitor safety, Yellowstone National Park will create a new bear management area (BMA) in Hayden Valley, which will prohibit off-trail travel July 15-Sept. 15. The park also decommissioned an existing BMA in the Firehole River area. Additionally, skiers observed the first grizzly bear of 2024 on March 3.

Changes to Two Bear Management Areas

Yellowstone is implementing a new 16,453-acre Hayden Valley BMA, located on the west side of the Grand Loop Road in Hayden Valley in the central part of the park. In this BMA, Mary Mountain Trail will remain open for recreational travel; however, off-trail travel will not be allowed from July 15-Sept. 15 each year.

Hayden Valley provides prime habitat for grizzly bears, especially during the summer when high concentrations of bears can be found scavenging on bison carcasses. Park biologists observed as many as 23 individual grizzly bears on a single bison carcass. Since 1970, eight of the last 10 grizzly bear-inflicted human injuries (bites to fatalities) in Hayden Valley occurred in the area that will be the Hayden Valley BMA.

To provide recreational opportunities, Yellowstone decommissioned the 20,670-acre Firehole BMA, located in the west side of the park, due to fewer ungulate carcasses and wildlife conflicts occurring in this area. By decommissioning the Firehole BMA, the public will have access to Midway Geyser Basin Overlook, Fairy Falls, and Mystic Falls trails, which were previously closed to all recreational access between March 10 and the Friday of Memorial Day weekend.

Yellowstone wildlife biologists establish BMA’s in locations where grizzly bears are known to seasonally concentrate because of a high density of elk and bison carcasses. In these areas, certain recreational activities may be limited at specific times of year to reduce encounters between bears and humans. Learn more about BMA’s at Bear Management.

First Grizzly Bear Sighting of 2024

On March 3, visitors skiing on the Specimen Ridge Trail in the north-central part of the park observed the first grizzly bear of 2024. The first bear sighting of 2023 occurred on March 7.

Male grizzlies come out of hibernation in early March. Females with cubs emerge in April and early May. When bears emerge from hibernation, they look for food and often feed on elk and bison that died over the winter. Bears will react aggressively to encounters with people when feeding on carcasses.

All of Yellowstone National Park is bear country: from the deepest backcountry to the boardwalks around Old Faithful. Protect yourself and the bears people come here to enjoy by following these guidelines:
  • Prepare for a bear encounter by carrying bear spray, knowing how to use it and making sure it’s accessible.
  • Stay alert.
  • Hike or ski in groups of three or more, stay on maintained trails and make noise. Avoid hiking at dusk, dawn or at night.
  • Do not run if you encounter a bear.
  • Stay 100 yards (91 m) away from black and grizzly bears. Approaching bears within 100 yards is prohibited. Use binoculars, a telescope or telephoto lens to get a closer look.
  • Store food, garbage, barbecue grills and other attractants in hard-sided vehicles or bear-proof food storage boxes.
  • Report bear sightings and encounters to a park ranger immediately.
  • Learn more about bear safety.
Bear spray has proven effective in deterring bears defending cubs and food sources. It can also reduce the number of bears killed by people in self-defense. While firearms are allowed in the park, the discharge of a firearm by visitors is a violation of park regulations.

Source: https://www.nps.gov/yell/learn/news/24008.htm
 
The BMA map doesn't appear to be updated on the website yet, but very curious to see what it looks like. Similar restriction to the Gallatin BMA, but significantly shorter time period.

EDIT: Looks like the map is updated now - pretty much where I expected it to be. Glad the restriction isn't longer, but not entirely surprised by this.
1710429892702.png
 
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News Release: Yellowstone National Park increases protection for bears and visitor safety by implementing changes to two bear management areas

Skiers spot Yellowstone’s first grizzly bear of 2024

bear walking on the edge of a snow bank
Grizzly boar walks along the edge of Blacktail Ponds (NPS / Jacob W. Frank)
MAMMOTH HOT SPRINGS, WY – To protect bears and increase visitor safety, Yellowstone National Park will create a new bear management area (BMA) in Hayden Valley, which will prohibit off-trail travel July 15-Sept. 15. The park also decommissioned an existing BMA in the Firehole River area. Additionally, skiers observed the first grizzly bear of 2024 on March 3.

Changes to Two Bear Management Areas

Yellowstone is implementing a new 16,453-acre Hayden Valley BMA, located on the west side of the Grand Loop Road in Hayden Valley in the central part of the park. In this BMA, Mary Mountain Trail will remain open for recreational travel; however, off-trail travel will not be allowed from July 15-Sept. 15 each year.

Hayden Valley provides prime habitat for grizzly bears, especially during the summer when high concentrations of bears can be found scavenging on bison carcasses. Park biologists observed as many as 23 individual grizzly bears on a single bison carcass. Since 1970, eight of the last 10 grizzly bear-inflicted human injuries (bites to fatalities) in Hayden Valley occurred in the area that will be the Hayden Valley BMA.

To provide recreational opportunities, Yellowstone decommissioned the 20,670-acre Firehole BMA, located in the west side of the park, due to fewer ungulate carcasses and wildlife conflicts occurring in this area. By decommissioning the Firehole BMA, the public will have access to Midway Geyser Basin Overlook, Fairy Falls, and Mystic Falls trails, which were previously closed to all recreational access between March 10 and the Friday of Memorial Day weekend.

Yellowstone wildlife biologists establish BMA’s in locations where grizzly bears are known to seasonally concentrate because of a high density of elk and bison carcasses. In these areas, certain recreational activities may be limited at specific times of year to reduce encounters between bears and humans. Learn more about BMA’s at Bear Management.

First Grizzly Bear Sighting of 2024

On March 3, visitors skiing on the Specimen Ridge Trail in the north-central part of the park observed the first grizzly bear of 2024. The first bear sighting of 2023 occurred on March 7.

Male grizzlies come out of hibernation in early March. Females with cubs emerge in April and early May. When bears emerge from hibernation, they look for food and often feed on elk and bison that died over the winter. Bears will react aggressively to encounters with people when feeding on carcasses.

All of Yellowstone National Park is bear country: from the deepest backcountry to the boardwalks around Old Faithful. Protect yourself and the bears people come here to enjoy by following these guidelines:
  • Prepare for a bear encounter by carrying bear spray, knowing how to use it and making sure it’s accessible.
  • Stay alert.
  • Hike or ski in groups of three or more, stay on maintained trails and make noise. Avoid hiking at dusk, dawn or at night.
  • Do not run if you encounter a bear.
  • Stay 100 yards (91 m) away from black and grizzly bears. Approaching bears within 100 yards is prohibited. Use binoculars, a telescope or telephoto lens to get a closer look.
  • Store food, garbage, barbecue grills and other attractants in hard-sided vehicles or bear-proof food storage boxes.
  • Report bear sightings and encounters to a park ranger immediately.
  • Learn more about bear safety.
Bear spray has proven effective in deterring bears defending cubs and food sources. It can also reduce the number of bears killed by people in self-defense. While firearms are allowed in the park, the discharge of a firearm by visitors is a violation of park regulations.

Source: https://www.nps.gov/yell/learn/news/24008.htm

You sure know how to make a guy's day @TheMountainRabbit !

Time for a Scatman rant, so put your earplugs in if you don't want to listen. :) This will probably be an unpopular view, but I've never been one to care much about that.

I've been day hiking in Hayden Valley for over three decades now and I don't plan to stop. It is my favorite location in the Park. A long day hike up Trout Creek on the old Stagecoach Road to Mary Lake with four options from there - to go north to Cygnet Lakes on the northern end of the old Plateau Trail, or south to Beach Lake and on to West Thumb on the southern portion of the Plateau Trail, or continue west along Nez Perce Creek on the western portion of the Mary Mountain Trail, or loop back east on the eastern portion of the Mary Mountain Trail are some of the best day hikes in the Park in my opinion.

To encounter all the wildlife the park has to offer. From grizzlies to black bears, herds of elk and bison, an occasional deer or two, wolves and coyotes, all types of water fowl. I've been fortunate enough to see a boar grizzly try to run down an elk deep in the valley, and a pack of wolves sizing up a lone bull bison. Hobbled bison hoping for another day before wolves discover their dilemma. Howling wolves that have caused one of the herds of bison to stampede. Multiple occasions of sitting and listening to the wolves howl. The air filled with the honks of Canada Geese, or the prehistoric sounds of all the sand hill cranes that I've stirred up back in the valley.

Not sure what to make of the numbers that are supplied in the article. How many fatalities occurred in the valley, as opposed to bites or maulings? How does this relate to the rest of the Park since 1970? Did some of the eight occur after the dump was closed on Trout Creek and bears were moving from human garbage as a food source to natural food sources, or are the majority of these encounters more recent? How many were on trail, and how many were off-trail? I know of two that have taken place on the Mary Mountain Trail itself, one of which was a fatality as I ended up in the incident report for that one. I believe another took place in the eastern portion of the valley, again on trail, which doesn't appear to be in the new BMA. I want to know the exact locations of these encounters.

Another question that I have is how does one determine when deep in the valley if you are even on the Mary Mountain Trail? Bison trails are more pronounced than the official trail on the western end of the valley. Is the Park Service going to go in and upgrade and clearly mark the trail on the west end? Doubtful in my book! Are you on the trail or off? Is there a buffer? Within ten feet of the official trail are you considered on trail? Twenty feet? Ridiculous!

Hayden Valley is the heartbeat of Yellowstone to me, and I plan on feeling its pulse for years to come. It rejuvenates my very soul when I spend time there. Nature at its best.

I have told my wife that when the time comes for me to leave this earth, I want her to drop me off at Hayden Valley and let me wander off to meet my demise. I can't think of a better resting place for my old bones to call home. So you younger forum members, in 30 or 40 years I hope you run across some Scatman bones while you are enjoying all Hayden Valley has to offer.

:scatman:
 
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You sure know how to make a guy's day @TheMountainRabbit!
I immediately thought of you when I saw this - thanks for sharing your thoughts. They largely echo my own.

I'd be interested to get a real (not PR) look at the thought process for this from Gunther or another of the park's biologists. My cynical view is that it's a way to shortcut enforcement of policies that should already be in place, but are impossible to enforce at current funding.

Example: A couple years ago I was there w/ my wife when a group (seemingly intentionally) disturbed an active wolf den in this area - no ranger w/ any authority showed up for almost 3 hours despite multiple radio calls from park volunteers. Myself and a couple others watched through scopes as this happened. My understanding is that shortly after the wolves relocated the den, but all or most of the pups did not make it. I understand that it's a big park, but no available ranger in Hayden Valley in July? That's a problem. (That's not even to speak of what has happened to the backcountry ranger corps...)
 
A Justification for closing people access to areas.

And we have a bear sighting here already
 
So disappointing! But not surprising as I think this is a compromise to the problems they are having up there with the uneducated and unexperienced casual visitors to the park and increased animal interactions. I have an aunt who is a professional photographer that spends the spring/summer/fall up there, and I've been stunned by some of the stories she has shared of the stupid things people do. Just like rabbits example, I've seen plenty of the "are you kidding me" moments. The funny thing is, its hardly ever once you get off the main road a few miles where the experienced and prepared people are. Like Scat, it makes me sad and frustrated when I think of the magical moments I've experienced through there and not being able to go off trail in the summer months. Looks like it will be on the calendar for Sept 16th from now on! Just got to roll with the punches I guess!!

one of which was a fatality as I ended up in the incident report for that one.
You casually slipped that in ha ha! That might be a good story to tell sometime!
 
Don't tell Scat he's prepared....
 
Sad to read. Since 1970, 10 humans have been injured or worse in Hayden Valley, and 8 of them within this new management area? In 54 years, 8 people have been injured or worse within the newly-established Hayden Valley Management Area boundary? Unless the trend is sharply more injuries per Hayden Valley visitor, or significantly more wildlife disturbance per season, that should not be considered a problem that needs a shutdown like this. For anyone with any knowledge of staying safe in bear country Hayden Valley is an excellent opportunity to experience Yellowstone.

I feel that a better solution is a buffer beginning 100 yards from the road and extending 1/2 mile away from the road section within Hayden Valley that humans are not allowed. In addition, the limitation to stay on the Mary Mountain Trail (MMT) for the first 2 miles. The buffer will allow humans to hike up to the first bluffs along the road to view wildlife and then encounter a 1/2 mile-wide closed area. The ultimate effect of this is to corral 99%+ of human use along that stretch of road. The limitation to the MMT will impact few people but discourage the casual hiker who doesn't travel more than a mile from the road system, which is a lot of the visitors. If you are willing to hike farther than a couple miles along the MMT or go off-trail at the south end of the closure, then Hayden Valley is yours to explore.

Visibility in Hayden Valley is typically excellent with countless views across the broad open landscape. The upside of this is that seeing a grizzly from a good distance is possible and even likely, therefore reducing the chance of a close encounter that may trigger an attack. The downside is that a grizzly (especially sows with cubs) can be disturbed from greater distances as their ability to detect humans reaches farther out.

BUT, unfortunately, wildlife and natural resource management is mostly people management and humans are the least predictable animal in wild areas. Therefore, land management agencies need to over manage humans to limit our impacts on our natural areas. This new management area indeed seems way excessive, and probably is for groups such as the one that visits this forum. But, in order to control the typical Yellowstone visitor, management decisions like this can feel required. I recognize, of course, the typical Yellowstone visitor will not leave the pavement, but with ever increasing visitation numbers, the managers will always feel the need to increase regulations, whether necessary, burdensome, unfair, ridiculous, or not.

And yes, this one is ridiculous.
 
Gosh, the park management at it again. Have seen this thru the years whereby they like to restrict the most wildlife productive areas in the park. There were certain areas where in years gone by that loved to go in the spring only with the wildlife everywhere then later it became restrictive. Years ago would go back into the back parts of Pelican Velley in the spring and it was wonderful! This is why thru the years would go back into the Teton Wilderness, the Absarokas, and some of the National Forest Country ... less regulations and much much more freedom. Now would get back into the Thorofare sometimes in mid to late May or the beginning of June with it being absolutely spectacular. In the early years, the 80s, would report my bear sighting to the wildlife authorities as trying to do what was right. Later I kept my bear and wolf and such sightings to myself. For how many times since then have thought if they knew then they would close those areas also at that season. For myself it is remarkable that they have left the Thorofare open for use in the spring, National Forest side, and other areas I know of. Onetime heard a bear management person talking about how they should close off and no human use allowed on all the cutworm moth sites and Absaroka Mountain Peaks in the summer because of the bears. It made me soooo mad to think they were even considering this. Guess there are people in the Park, Forest, and Wildlife Management who would Absolutely Love Love to restrict us human two legged to being only in our cities and towns and along some road in certain seasons where we can all be closely monitored and controlled. To that I say No No No! Anymore I do Not trust them in management. And anymore keep how many of my wildlife experiences to myself. If they only really knew, then how many other favorite wild places would they close to human use in some season. In my life have seen so many incredible things and much more to see. Maybe there will come a day to experience a place that is wild and outside some town or city will be against the law. If that day comes then will be an Outlaw I guess for have to have the wild places closeby. An quote from the movie the 'Mountain Man' do love ... Remember the first time you saw the Tetons, you could travel a year in any direction with just your rifle, live good and easy, and say 'Sir' to nobody. There is still places way back in those mountains where this can still be the case with the Grizzles ever closeby. And if one really knows the old skills, one can still disappear in these Yellowstone and Absaroka environs. How much do I trust the Grizzlies then any of the them in Park, Forest, or Wildlife Management it seems. And more do trust them then it seems most people . Live Free or Die!
 
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Kmat...... Spot on
 
Onetime heard a bear management person talking about how they should close off and no human use allowed on all the cutworm moth sites and Absaroka Mountain Peaks in the summer because of the bears. It made me soooo mad to think they were even considering this.
I am a quintessential, straight-laced rule follower - but if they do this, they might as well come lock me up now. My annual trips to these areas are what I live for. (Apologies to my wife and children.) Absurd, too, since I have never run into another party near any of them during peak moth feeding, besides the most well-known (Younts) and only once even there.

Fortunately there's no way they could enforce it anyway. Never seen a single Forest Service employee - much less a ranger - anywhere near there.
 
Yes Mountain Rabbit as like you, many of these Absaroka Mountain areas, would see nobody for days and days. And near Younts Peak, have never seen a ranger there. And in other wildlife rich areas that I know of, nobody is around at those times. In my opinion, an excuse to control people.

If they make these restrictions, then Why Not restrict wildlife managers and researchers also from these areas at that time also. But they are the managers, the VIPs and they will be able to access. This makes me sooooo mad and if they restrict us then they should be restricted also!

One of my biggest complaints in this backcountry was when I was way back in these wildlife rich areas enjoying it all and no no one else was closeby. Then here came these wildlife researchers buzzing around nearby in their planes to look for the wildlife. How much were these ones like some annoying mosquito. They would always do a loop over me to investigate myself. And everytime they would be only so many feet off the ground it seems. And from what I have heard from pilots, violating the law by being so close to the ground. And hereby with their plane harass the wildlife far more then I could ever have done.
 
Late to the party on this one, but my humble opinion is that these zones are set up so that when someone gets in trouble for being out there the park can say, well, you were in a closed zone so it isn't our fault. In other words, to protect against lawsuits.
 
They should just call it what it is -- the "Hayden Valley People Management Area."

I'd be curious to know how many people actually wander out into the heart of the valley each year -- not counting the areas near the road.

I'm with @scatman and @TheMountainRabbit on this one. There may be a future news report of a group of rogue scallywags busted for an epic day hike in the middle of Hayden Valley. I'm sure we can count on @Bob to cover our bail money. :)
 
As a person who is starting to visit this area more and befriend other hikers (and forum users) familiar with it, and who was really looking forward to recreating safely and carefully in these areas, this makes me very sad.
 
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