Camping With Bears In Yellowstone Park
Frontcountry campsites (the ones you drive into) may be reserved in advance in some cases and do not require a "Use Permit"----see my yellowstone camping and hotels page for more detailed information on Yellowstone Park campgrounds and other lodging.
Backpack Camping in Yellowstone Park
designated backcountry campsite has a maximum limit for the number
of people and stock allowed per night. The maximum stay per campsite
varies from 1 to 3 nights per trip.
Backcountry camping permits in Yellowstone may be obtained only in person and no more than 48 hours in advance of your trip. Call (307) 344-2160 for more information. Permits are available at most ranger stations and visitor centers. In order to obtain the best information on trail conditions, permits should be obtained from the ranger station or visitor center nearest to the area where your trip is to begin. The Backcountry Use Permit is valid only for the itinerary and dates specified. Backcountry travelers must have their permits in possession while in the backcountry.
Camping in bear country, especially with grizzly bears in the area, requires certain precautions. In areas of North America where grizzly bears are common, federal regulations require campers to suspend food from trees or to use bear proof food box's.
Hiking and camping restrictions in Yellowstone National Park are occasionally in effect as a result of bear activity. Never camp in an area that has obvious evidence of bear activity such as digging, tracks, or scat.
Odors attract bears, so avoid carrying or cooking odorous foods. Keep a clean camp; do not cook or store food in your tent. All food, garbage, or other odorous items used for preparing or cooking food must be secured from bears.
Never spray "bear spray" on your tent or surrounding area. In testing, bears were attracted to items sprayed with "bear spray".
Most backcountry campsites in Yellowstone National Park have food poles from which all food, cooking gear, and scented articles must be suspended when not being used. Treat all odorous products such as soap, deodorant, or other toiletries in the same manner as food. Do not leave packs containing food unattended, even for a few minutes.
Allowing a bear to obtain human food even once often results in the bear becoming aggressive about obtaining such food in the future. Aggressive bears present a threat to human safety and eventually must be destroyed or removed from the park. Please obey the law and do not allow bears or other wildlife to obtain human food.
Food bags should be hung a minimum of 10 feet from the ground
and a minimum of 4 feet horizontally from any post or tree. Garbage
should also be treated the same as all other food items, and suspended
or secured in a bear proof container. Deposit human waste at least
200 yards from camp.
campsite out carefully before spending the first night. If you
do find garbage or other food items on the ground left by the
previous campers, it would be recommended that you increase the
distance you set your tent from the cooking area at least double.
Remove and secure any garbage left behind by the previous irresponsible
campers and report the incident to the nearest Yellowstone Park
Ranger Station on your return.
Dealing With Bears in Camp
If you are involved in a conflict with a bear, regardless of how minor, report it to a park ranger, or local fish and game agency if outside a national park, as soon as possible. The next campers safety may depend on it.
combinations of food, shelter, and space draw grizzlies to some
parts of Yellowstone more than others. In these Bear Management
Areas, human access is restricted to reduce impacts on the bears
and their habitat. Ask at ranger stations or visitor centers for
If you have a bear come into camp late at night keep in mind that this is different from a surprise encounter during the day while hiking. If a bear comes into camp, you must treat this encounter seriously and react aggressively. Bears that come into camp have more than likely obtained a "reward"...... food, in the past and have lost all fear of humans, and could possibly be looking at you as a potential food source, or could be a young bear out on its own for the first time.
"Grizzly bears usually enter camping areas at a walk and at night. Before an attack, a person seldom sees any signs of aggression." Writes, Dr. Stephen Herrero in his book "Bear Attacks, Their Causes and Avoidance". Individuals who have aggressively yelled at the bear, banged pots and pans, or thrown rocks or other objects to distract the bear generally have then had time to move away to safety or, they drove the bear away with the first yell, and aggressive action.
in a group. Bears are more reluctant to attack a group of people
than they are one lone person.
to minimize the dangers associated with a bear encounter in camp
Should you drink the water? Intestinal infections from drinking untreated water are increasingly common. Waters may be polluted by animal and/or human wastes. When possible, carry a supply of water from a domestic source. If you drink water from lakes and streams, bring it to a boil first, or filter it with one of many portable water filters that are available on the market to reduce the chance of infection.
natural water sources in Yellowstone Park should be considered
contaminated with giardia, which is transmitted via fecal-oral.
Mountain men called it "beaver fever". Basically, giardia is a
microscopic organism which lays dormant in cold water until a
warm blooded mammal drinks or ingests it. The organism then attaches
itself to the lower intestine and feeds off of you (the mammal)
and produces eggs, which are then deposited by wild mammals, or
you in or near cold mountain streams or rivers. Only 6-8% of humans
receive the worst symptoms with extreme cramps, diarrhea, sweating,
etc.......The remainder of the human population end with little
or no effects and are just carriers of the organism. Boiling or
filtering water prior to drinking will reduce the chances of infection.
take chances in back-country thermal areas. Scalding water underlies
thin, breakable crusts; pools are near or above boiling temperatures.
Each year, visitors traveling off trail have been seriously burned,
and people have died from the scalding water. No swimming or bathing
is allowed in thermal pools, except at the natural hotspring located
between Mammoth and Gardiner, Montana.
Removing, defacing or destroying any plant, animal, or mineral is prohibited. Leave historical and archeological items in place.
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