Grizzly bear

A grizzly bear roams through Yellowstone National Park in this National Park Service file photo. 

(AP) — Biologists have recorded a grizzly bear sighting in Yellowstone National Park, marking the first of the year in the park.

Biologists saw the bear Saturday near Grand Prismatic Spring, a hot spring in northwestern Wyoming.

The sighting came one day before the first sighting of 2019, park officials said.

Male grizzly bears routinely come out of hibernation first beginning in March, and females with cubs emerge in April and May, experts said.

Park visitors should be cautious around bears as they will be hungry and could act aggressively when feeding, biologist Kerry Gunther said. Officials recommend visitors travel in groups and carry bear spray as a precaution.

The park could enforce visitor restrictions in areas where there are more carcasses and where more bears are likely, officials said. Those restrictions could start Tuesday in some areas.

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Recreationists in southwest Montana reported having more encounters with grizzly bears in 2019 than in recent years.

Montana’s portion of the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem saw 18 potentially dangerous encounters between humans and grizzly bears mostly in non-residential areas last year. In those encounters, five people were injured and two adult bears were killed. Fortunately, none of the human injuries were fatal.

Last year’s 18 incidents happened in the Madison, Gravelly, Absaroka and Beartooth mountain ranges, with 14 of them occurring after Sept. 1.

Most attacks from grizzly bears happen in surprise close encounters with people. Grizzly bears often attack defensively when encountering people in dense brush or timber, at the site of an animal carcass or when cubs are present. 

Grizzlies have expanded well beyond recovery zones and become more densely populated in southwest Montana. 

–FWP