Yellowstone National Park reported its first 2020 sighting of a grizzly bear on Saturday, according to a news release.

Biologists saw the bear from the air during a radio telemetry flight near the Grand Prismatic Spring, just one day before 2019's first sighting.

"Now that bears are emerging from winter dens, visitors should be excited for the chance to view and photograph them, but they should also treat bears with respect and caution," said Kerry Gunther, the park’s bear management biologist.

Male grizzlies emerge from hibernation in early March.

Females with cubs emerge in April and early May.

After they come out, they look for food and often feed on elk and bison that died during the winter. Sometimes, bears will react aggressively while feeding on carcasses.

All of Yellowstone National Park is bear territory from the deepest backcountry to the boardwalks around Old Faithful, and it again urges visitors to protect themselves and the bears by following these guidelines:

  • Carry bear spray, know how to use it, and make sure it’s accessible.
  • Stay alert.
  • Hike or ski in groups of three or more, stay on maintained trails, and make noise.
  • Avoid hiking at dusk, dawn, or at night.
  • Do not run if you encounter a bear.
  • Stay 100 yards away from black and grizzly bears. Use binoculars, a telescope, or telephoto lens to get a closer look.
  • Store food, garbage, barbecue grills, and other attractants in hard-sided vehicles or bear-proof food storage boxes.
  • Report bear sightings and encounters to a park ranger immediately.

Gunther said many visitors think bears are ravenously hungry and more likely to attack people for food after emerging from hibernation.

But almost all bear attacks result from surprise encounters when hikers startle bears at close distances and the bears react with defensive aggression, she said.

While firearms are allowed in the park, the discharging a firearm is a violation of park regulations, according to the news release. Bear spray has proven effective in deterring bears defending cubs and food sources. It can also reduce the number of bears killed by people in self-defense.

Yellowstone restricts certain visitor activities in areas with a high density of elk and bison carcasses and lots of bears, and those restrictions will begin in some areas on Tuesday.

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