Visitors in Yellowstone National Park saw and reported the first grizzly bear seen this year in the park on Friday, according to a news release.

The visitors saw the large bear between Canyon Village and Fishing Bridge.

Grizzly tracks were reported between Mammoth Hot Springs and Norris Junction on Monday, too.

In 2018, the first grizzly bear sighting occurred on March 7.

Male grizzlies emerge from hibernation in mid-to-late March. Females with cubs emerge in April and early May.

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

Park officials say all of Yellowstone is bear country from the deepest backcountry to the boardwalks around Old Faithful.

They urge visitors to protect themselves, and the bears, by following these guidelines:

  • Prepare for a bear encounter.
  • 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.
  • Learn more about bear safety.

Kerry Gunther, the park’s bear management specialist, said visitors care about the conservation of bears and observing them in the wild.

"Reduce human-bear conflicts by preventing bears from getting food and garbage, hiking in groups of three or more people, carrying bear spray, and making noise in blind spots on the trail," Gunther said.

While firearms are allowed in the park, the discharge of a firearm by visitors is a violation of park regulations.

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.

The park restricts certain visitor activities in locations where there is a high density of elk and bison carcasses and lots of bears.

Restrictions began in some bear management areas on Sunday.

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