Potential for conflicts with Grizzlies increases as Wyoming hunters move into the field

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By Mark Heinz, Public Lands and Wildlife Reporter

Hunters are heading out into the field just as Wyoming’s grizzly bears are trying to fatten up for winter, and that can spell trouble.

Archery hunters, in particular, do everything people are told not to do in bear country. That includes things like sneaking upwind. Or sit under cover and use calls that mimic the sounds made by elk, a species of grizzly prey, according to the Wyoming Department of Fish and Game.

Hunters also wear clothing or sprays that mask their human scent. And they tend to be most active at dawn and dusk, which is the best time to catch big game outdoors.

The advice Game and Fish and other agencies often give to hikers and campers in Bear County is to be loud. And, to avoid moving at dawn and dusk, lessen the chances of scaring a bear.

bears getting fat

Grizzlies at this time of year go into “hyperphagia”. That means they’re trying to gorge themselves on as many high-calorie foods as possible, Dan Thompson, a specialist in large carnivores at Game and Fish, said in an email to Cowboy State Daily. They need to accumulate extra fat before going into hibernation.

“Some bears will start to go to sleep in October, and most bears will go to sleep before Thanksgiving,” he said.

Some grizzlies can stay active later in the fall and early winter, if they can find reliable food sources.

Some bears will hang out in rocky alpine areas, Thompson said. They circle the rocks and feast on the moths that have taken refuge there. In September, that food supply begins to dwindle, and many grizzly bears begin to wander down to lower elevations. There, the remains of hunter kills can provide a smorgasbord of bruin, Thompson said. Grizzlies find the soft tissues and internal organs of big game particularly attractive. If a game animal has been gutted, it is best to move the rest of the carcass away from the casing pile before cutting the meat.

Hunters must take all edible portions of a big game carcass, including the loin and loins, in accordance with Fish and Game regulations.

“Our decades of study of bears have shown their adaptability and flexibility to eat healthily and stay plump when they enter their dens,” Thompson said. “We appreciate the cooperation of hunters and recreationists in notifying Game and Fish of any conflict or bear activity.”

Best Practices for Safe Hunting

Hunters should be on the lookout for areas that could be hot spots for grizzly food sources, such as berry patches or places where squirrels have hidden whitebark pine nuts, according to the Game and Fish program “Bear Wise “.

The presence of ravens or other scavengers can alert hunters to places where bears have claimed a carcass or other carrion, according to Bear Wise. Hunters should also be careful moving through thick brush or dead wood, because those are the kinds of places bears like to nap after they’ve had their fill.

Hunting in teams is best, because one hunter can keep an eye out for approaching bears while the other tries to call out a moose or chop up a big game carcass, according to Bear Wise.

If a hunter’s kill must be left unattended, the carcass should be placed where it can be seen from a distance. Returning hunters may stay behind and look for bears or signs of bears before moving on. If it’s apparent that a bear has claimed the carcass, it’s best to back off, rather than try to challenge the grizzly for loot, according to Bear Wise.

Hunters should also carry some form of defense, such as bear spray. It is an extremely powerful mace or pepper spray designed to thwart large aggressive predators. Firearms are another option. Archery hunters in Wyoming may carry firearms to defend against bears. They cannot use those weapons to shoot game animals, according to Fish and Game regulations.

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