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Available foods will bring bears to lower elevations this fall

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Unlike the last two years, which produced abundant crops of whitebark pine seeds, this year few cones were produced by the high elevation trees.

Due to this, park officials are expecting an increase in human-bear encounters in the backcountry this fall as bears seek alternative foods common at lower elevations. In early September, park and Forest Service officials observed a significant increase in bear activity at lower elevations near trails, roads, and developments where bears are foraging for berries, bison carcasses, digging anthills, and ripping open logs for ants.

Berry production has been especially good this year, as have apple trees. Because berry producing shrubs and apple trees are generally found at lower elevations more frequently inhabited by people, human-bear encounters are projected to be more common.

When hiking on National Park lands or hiking or hunting National Forest System lands, carry bear spray, hike in groups of three or more people, be alert for bears at all times, and make noise so you don’t surprise bears.

If you encounter a bear, do not run. Instead, slowly back away to put distance between you and the animal. This often diffuses the confrontation. If the bear charges, stand your ground and use your bear spray. In most cases the bear will break off the charge or veer away. If the bear makes contact, drop to the ground face down on your stomach with your hands clasped behind your neck, and lie still. Make sure the bear is gone before you move.

Park and Forest officials remind recreationalists to follow food storage guidelines intended to help keep both people and bears safe. When camping in the backcountry, hang all food and garbage from food storage poles or bear boxes, which are provided at every Yellowstone Park backcountry campsite and in some National Forest campsites. Food should be hung at all times except during preparation and consumption.

If a bear approaches your campsite, yell and bang pots, pans, or other objects to discourage it from entering.

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