If A Grizzly Is Attacking You In Yellowstone, It Is Illegal For You To Shoot It

Sorry, but if you’re attacked by a grizzly in Yellowstone, it is against the law for you to shoot it. Reaching for bear spray could be your best legal option as you can’t even point a firearm at wildlife there.

Mark Heinz

July 10, 20234 min read

Angry grizzly 7 10 23
(Cowboy State Daily Staff)

It’s illegal to even so much as point a firearm at a wild animal in Yellowstone Park, so bear spray would be the only allowable defense in case of a bear attack.

While it’s legal to carry firearms both open and concealed in Yellowstone, it’s not legal to brandish, aim or shoot them — at animals, people or even targets.

“It is unlawful to point, display or discharge a firearm in the park,” Park Service spokeswoman Linda Veress told Cowboy State Daily. “If a firearm is discharged against wildlife, we would investigate the incident.”

The penalties of any firearms-related violation in Yellowstone Park would depend upon the outcome of an investigation into the incident, she said.  

Slapped With $5,600 Fine For Wounding Bear

Meanwhile, a Canadian judge rejected a hiker’s defense claim that he blasted a black bear with a shotgun in one of Canada’s national parks because he was “scared,” according to reports.

Edmonton, Alberta, resident Serge Painchaud, 42, put to the test similar bans against firing weapons in his country’s national parks and lost, according to reports.

Painchaud was breaking Canadian law by even carrying a shotgun into Jasper National Park last year. He fired two blasts at a black bear there. Park rangers called in to investigate the scene found blood from the bear, but couldn’t locate the animal, according to reports.

During recent court proceedings, he tried to argue that he felt “scared” for his life because the bear was threatening him. A judge didn’t buy that story and slapped Painchaud with roughly $5,600 in fines, adjusted to U.S. dollars.

Illegally killing or wounding wildlife carries similar penalties on this side of the border. Some illegal, or even accidental killings of grizzlies have recently resulted in fines in the $5,000 range.

Use It As A Club, Maybe?

Yellowstone allows people to have firearms in their vehicles, and even to carry them on their persons in some places. But people can’t fire them, even for target practice, within the park, according to breakdown of Yellowstone gun regulations published by Outside Magazine.

The Yellowstone firearms rules were established mostly because so many hunters and other firearms owners travel through the park from the gun-friendly states of Wyoming, Montana and Idaho.

But the strict rules against firing the weapons would leave someone carrying a firearm with little legal option, other than perhaps to use it as a club against a bear, moose or other large, angry critter.   

The Park Service recommends that people carry bear spray for defense against possible animal attacks in Yellowstone, Veress said. The agency offers information and tips for the proper use of bear spray and how to stay safe in grizzly country.

Violent Park Quarrel Sparked Gun Threats

Yellowstone’s gun regulations also could have come into play during a recent violent quarrel between two groups of people.

The verbal donnybrook started when a man yelled “hey, idiot” at another park visitor who strayed from the safety of a boardwalk near some thermal pools.

In video of the incident shared with Cowboy State Daily, a man from one of the quarreling parties apparently threatens to shoot members of the other party.

And toward the end of the video, a member of that party can be heard saying that he wants to retrieve his firearm from his vehicle, because he felt endangered by the other man’s threats.

Nobody in the video appears to actually have or brandish a weapon.

Mark Heinz can be reached at mark@cowboystatedaily.com.

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Mark Heinz

Outdoors Reporter