The Wyoming Game and Fish Department urges hunters and other backcountry users to be cautious when recreating in bear country, and to carry and know how to use bear spray.
“As bears become more active and hunters begin to pursue game in the field, we anticipate that there will be an increase in human-bear encounters,” said Tara Teaschner, Cody information and education specialist for Game and Fish Department.
“As hunters, we do exactly the opposite of what we would have most recreationists do to avoid bear encounters—you might say that hunters are pre-disposed to encounters,” Teaschner said.
Hunters typically move quietly, camouflage their bodies, mask their human scent, are active at dawn and dusk, and use game calls to mimic bear prey. “All of these behaviors make hunters successful, but at the same time, there is an inherent risk of attracting bears or bumping into one,” Teaschner said.
“If you hunt in bear country, being prepared for an encounter and knowing what to do when you encounter a bear should be as automatic or routine as packing an extra jacket so that you are prepared for inclement weather,” Teaschner said.
To improve the odds of minimizing conflicts, Teaschner suggests the following:
• Carry a bear deterrent and know how to use it. Many aggressive bears have been deterred through the use of bear spray. Hunters should carry bear spray where it can be reached and know how, and when, to use it.
• Always hunt with a partner and stay within sight of each other.
• Remain alert and watchful for bear activity; avoid “tunnel vision” while pursuing game.
• Learn to recognize bear sign such as scat, tracks, and diggings.
• Know where seasonal food sources are present and either avoid or be especially cautious in those areas.
• Be aware that the presence of ravens and other scavengers is a good indication that carcasses or entrails are nearby and a bear may be in the area. Avoid these areas if possible.
• Retrieve game animals as quickly as possible and watch for approaching bears when field dressing and quartering.
• If game must be left on the ground overnight, separate the carcass from the entrails when field dressing and place the carcass in an area that can be viewed from a distance.
• When retrieving game, make noise; use binoculars to search the area for bears and to determine if the game has been disturbed by bears prior to walking in on the carcass.
• Be aware that bears often daybed near food sources.
If a bear has claimed your carcass, leave the scene and report the incident to Game and Fish.
“Human safety has to be a person’s number one concern in any bear encounter,” Teaschner said. “Bear spray is an effective deterrent and I encourage all hunters to consider carrying and, when appropriate, using bear spray.”
“Firearms have been used successfully in self-defense situations and using one as a deterrent is a personal choice,” Teaschner added. “No matter what type of deterrent a person chooses, it is essential that a person has practiced and can use the deterrent in sudden, high stress situations.”