It’s not unheard of for bears to emerge from their dens for brief winter adventures, and bears have demonstrated that recently with reports of sightings at Jackson Hole and near Yellowstone Park.
One report from Jackson Hole Mountain resort of a black bear galloping across some ski slopes there was verified.
Reports and social media postings about winter grizzly activity near West Yellowstone and Gardiner, Montana, couldn’t be verified.
It’s entirely possible for bears to be out any month of the year, Montana bear biologist Jennifer Fortin-Noreus has told Cowboy State Daily.
So, especially in the remote high country, there’s really no time of year in Wyoming when people shouldn’t be “bear aware,” she said.
Ski Slope Bear
A black bear caused a stir at Jackson Hole Mountain resort last week after a skier reported it running about on some of the ski slopes there.
Resort spokesman Eric Seymour confirmed the bear sighting, but told Cowboy State Daily that he didn’t know any further details.
That bear apparently behaved itself. No reports of it causing trouble came into the Wyoming Game and Fish Department, said Marke Gocke, the agency’s Jackson region spokesman.
“It's not that unusual to get a report of a bear making a foray out of the den during the winter, especially during a period of warm weather like we've had recently,” he told Cowboy State Daily.
“It sounded like it was a relatively brief encounter fairly high up on the mountain where the bear just wanted to head for the trees and wasn't seen again. So, no conflict and pretty normal bear behavior. I haven't heard of any additional sightings,” Gocke added.
Giving a tongue-in-cheek response to a report earlier this winter of a black bear tearing across a busy ski slope in California, former ski and snowboard instructor Paul Ulrich of Pinedale offered this advice: “Find another skier and purposely drive them into the snow.”
West Yellowstone Grizzly Report Can’t Be Confirmed
There also was recent social media chatter of grizzly activity on the Montana side of Yellowstone National Park near the communities of Gardiner and West Yellowstone.
A photo of a large grizzly, apparently out for a stroll on a stormy winter night last month, couldn’t be verified.
There was evidence of some grizzly activity in the park’s interior around New Year’s, Park Service large carnivore biologist Dan Stahler told Cowboy State Daily.
“Ther is no documentation (of the most recent reported grizzly incident) from anyone on our YNP team that monitors for this,” he said.
“The last verified report was griz tracks found on New Year’s Eve during the day between West Thumb and Old Faithful. But nothing recent. I bet those are just rumors and old photos,” he added. “These rumors seem to happen most years.”
Absaroka Front Bears Wake Up First
Game and Fish also hasn’t gotten an unusual amount of reported winter bear activity, Dan Thompson, the agency’s large carnivore specialist, told Cowboy State Daily.
However, some bears could start coming out of hibernation next month.
“We haven't had any unusual or extra bear activity with the warm weather,” he said. “Any bear that would poke his or her head out now for a walkabout would have difficulty finding food, so there would be no reason to stay out. The evolutionary reason a bear sleeps is because of this lack of abundant foods in areas that experience a ‘real winter.’
“We usually start to pick up some bear activity in March in some of the lower elevations on the Absaroka front.”
Mark Heinz can be reached at email@example.com.