Federal, state and nonprofit organizations are working together this month to reduce conflicts between grizzly bears and people in Jackson, Wyo. and the surrounding area.
Through educational presentations and distribution of bear deterrent spray to hunters, the groups hope to avoid encounters that might result in injury or death to either people or bears, according to a statement released by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.
The National Elk Refuge in Jackson partnering with the the Wyoming Game & Fish Department to present a free educational program at the Jackson Hole & Greater Yellowstone Visitor Center, located at 532 N. Cache Street in Jackson, on Thursday, November 14 from 3:30 to 5 p.m. The program will highlight grizzly bear management in the greater Yellowstone acosystem. Game and Fish presenters include Dan Thompson, Large Carnivore Management Section Supervisor from the Lander Regional Office and Mike Boyce, Large Carnivore Biologist from the Jackson Regional Office.
The biologists will distribute bear education materials from 3:30 – 4 p.m., followed by the 9–minute video Yellowstone Grizzly Bears: A Success Story. The film, produced by the state wildlife management organization, tells the story of the once–dwindling population of grizzly bears in the region. The video shares the collaboration and cooperation of grizzly bear management by multiple state and federal agencies. Following the film, the biologists will answer questions and lead a discussion with attendees.
Yellowstone Grizzly Bears: A Success Story
The National Elk Refuge has partnered with the Greater Yellowstone Coalition this fall to provide bear–deterrent pepper spray for licensed hunters during the 2013 Refuge elk and bison hunting programs. With the help of local board members and supporters, GYC purchased and donated 250 canisters of bear spray to the Refuge for distribution. The purpose of the program is to educate hunters in the field who are interested in bear spray and would not otherwise use it as part of their own personal safety.
Elk and bison hunting seasons on the National Elk Refuge run through December 15 and January 12, respectively.
The canisters are available on a first–come, first–served basis for licensed hunters in the field who do not own or are not carrying bear–deterrent spray. Law enforcement officers will provide bear spray canisters to hunters in the field who are interested in participating in the voluntary program; the canisters will not be distributed from other locations. In addition to the bear spray, law enforcement officers will carry informational materials that explain bear spray’s effectiveness and best practices for its deployment.
The bear spray program was prompted by an expanding grizzly bear distribution and recent sightings on the National Elk Refuge this summer. On August 21, a sow grizzly bear and three cubs were spotted scavenging on bison carcasses. The following week, a single adult grizzly bear was seen crossing Highway 89 from the Refuge. These two events represent the first two documented occurrences of grizzly bears on the Refuge in two decades.
“We are encouraging hunters to take the proper precautions because we expect to see more bear activity on the Refuge as the grizzly range expands,” said Refuge manager Steve Kallin. “This program is an important part of a larger effort to educate hunters, with the goal of preventing dangerous encounters and improving safety for hunters and bears.”
Bear–deterrent pepper spray is also available for purchase from many outdoor retailers in Jackson as well as at the Jackson Hole & Greater Yellowstone Visitor Center. Proceeds from sales at the Visitor Center are returned to the National Elk Refuge in support of educational programming.