After attacks, a renewed focus on bear safety

BILLINGS, Mont. (AP) — Wildlife agencies in the Northern Rockies go to lengths to warn people of the dangers of grizzly country — from signs advising hikers to carry Mace-like bear spray to radio ads that warn hunters to take care when stalking elk in bear habitat.

But after two hikers were fatally mauled in Yellowstone National Park over the summer, officials acknowledge their drive to make visitors "bear aware" is not reaching everyone. As a result, park officials, bear biologists and others say that in coming months they plan to sharpen a bear safety message that was already under review in hopes of preventing future maulings.

"We thought we were doing pretty good," said park biologist Kerry Gunther, pointing to a 30-year average of one bear-caused human injury annually in Yellowstone. "Maybe we were getting lucky."

Many bear education campaigns focus on saving the animals themselves, part of a broader effort to recover a species once nearly wiped out by hunting and other pressures. Slogans such as "a fed bear is a dead bear" highlight the increased likelihood of bears becoming nuisances — and getting euthanized — if they get used to eating human food or garbage.

With the success of the recovery efforts, Yellowstone's grizzly population has now grown to about 600 bears. Those animals are pushing into new areas of Montana, Wyoming and Idaho, where officials also are seeing attacks. There have been about 10 bear encounters that have resulted in human injuries across the region this year, including one Sunday in Grand Teton National Park, officials said. Such incidents have forced agencies to broaden the public safety side of their message.

Also growing is the size of the crowd that message needs to reach: Yellowstone National Park last year hosted a record 3.6 million visitors, and millions more visited five adjacent national forests and nearby Grand Teton National Park.

Among some of those visitors, said University of Wyoming sociology professor Patricia Taylor, "there isn't a real fear of bears or appreciation of how strong they are."

"People will say, 'We want a bear to come to the campground. We want to see it,'" she said.

Both victims of this summer's mauling deaths had visited the park previously. Officials said that indicated they had received at least some exposure to trailhead signs and other information describing how to avoid and respond to bear attacks.

Among the advice commonly offered is to travel in groups, make noise while hiking, carry bear spray — and know how and when to use it.

By contrast, one of the summer mauling victims was alone. Neither was carrying bear spray. And in one case investigators said the victim and his wife may have triggered the attack when they ran, yelling, from an approaching mother grizzly with cubs.

The head of the federal government's grizzly recovery program, Chris Servheen, said that being told what to do around a bear is not enough. Servheen said people in bear country also have to be mentally prepared to take action. He likened that to military training designed to ensure soldiers can react without hesitation to threats, and recommended people conduct practice bear encounter drills so they're comfortable taking out their bear spray, using it if needed and calmly backing away.

Still, nothing can guarantee a safe outcome. A 32-year-old hunter was injured by a bear Sunday afternoon in Grand Teton and, by all accounts, had been following recommendations — including carrying bear spray and dropping to the ground and covering his head. Other details in the attack, including the extent of the hunter's injuries, are not clear.

Both victims in the fatal maulings in Yellowstone fell into the loose category of "day hikers" who might enter the park's backcountry but not camp overnight. However, the most intensive bear safety talks — including instruction on food storage and what to do when charged — are heard by that small percentage of park visitors who spend the night in the wilderness. In 2010, that included slightly more than 45,000 visitors, or just over one percent of the park's total.

Backcountry campers must get a permit and go through what Yellowstone's chief ranger, Tim Reid, described as a rigorous system for teaching them how to have a safe trip. "We're very successful in getting our message across on two of the cardinal rules: food storage and bear awareness and avoidance, and the need to carry bear spray as a preferred deterrent," Reid said.

"Then there's the rest of the world," Reid added — the day hikers. How to reach that much larger group is one focus of the drive to sharpen the region's bear safety message.

Reid suggested it won't be easy. Many of Yellowstone's visitors come from overseas, creating language barriers. Others who pass through the park for only a day or two balk at paying about $50 for a can of bear spray they won't have much use for at home.

The University of Wyoming's Taylor last year surveyed more than 600 Grand Teton visitors to gauge public awareness of bear safety protocols. Most showed at least a basic knowledge of food storage guidelines meant to keep hungry bears away. Almost all correctly answered that running from a bear can trigger aggression in the animal.

Three percent of those surveyed fell into the "clueless" category with no knowledge at all about food storage rules. And more than 12 percent — or about one in eight people — said they knew so much about bears that they could predict when a bruin would turn aggressive.

"That's extraordinary to me," Taylor said. "I'm 60 years old. I've been a backpacker since I was 28 going into backcountry sites. I don't think you can know."

___

Online:

Bear safety information: http://www.nps.gov/yell/planyourvisit/bearenc.htm

Loading...

Editor’s note:Yahoo Philippines encourages responsible comments that add dimension to the discussion. No bashing or hate speech, please. You can express your opinion without slamming others or making derogatory remarks.

  • Aquino appeals to Indonesia one more time to keep Filipina alive
    Aquino appeals to Indonesia one more time to keep Filipina alive

    Philippine President Benigno Aquino said he made one last appeal to the Indonesian government to spare a Filipina among nine prisoners set to be executed for drug trafficking on Tuesday as she could be a vital witness in prosecuting drug syndicates. It was Aquino's third personal appeal, after the Indonesian attorney general rejected the Philippines' request on Monday for a second judicial review of the case of Mary Jane Veloso, who her lawyers say merely served as an unknowing mule to drug …

  • Cheapest motorcycles in the Philippines under PhP 40,000
    Cheapest motorcycles in the Philippines under PhP 40,000

    Are you hunting for an affordable motorcycle which you can use for personal use or a family service vehicle? Carmudi PH presents to you some of the cheapest motorcycles in the Philippines today. These budget friendly motorbikes will surely not hurt your pockets, and you may even buy them on the spot instead of monthly […] The post Cheapest motorcycles in the Philippines under PhP 40,000 appeared first on Carmudi Philippines. …

  • Indonesia gears up for executions as families wail in grief
    Indonesia gears up for executions as families wail in grief

    Indonesia made final preparations Tuesday to execute eight foreigners by firing squad, as family members wailed in grief during last visits to their loved ones and ambulances carrying white coffins arrived at the drug convicts' prison. Relatives of Myuran Sukumaran and Andrew Chan, the Australian ringleaders of the so-called "Bali Nine" heroin trafficking group, arrived at Nusakambangan prison calling for mercy for their loved ones, with Sukumaran's sister collapsing in grief. They are among …

  • Labor Day heat index may heat feverish levels

    Temperatures could soar on Labor Day this Friday, with the "init factor" reaching the 40°C level in some areas of the country. Labor Day is a holiday in the Philippines, though many Filipinos are expected to go out to the streets to call for better working conditions. The so-called "init factor" or "heat index" gives the apparent temperature, taking into account the actual air temperature as well as other factors such as humidity. State weather agency PAGASA's Tuesday heat index indicated …

  • How Indonesia executes death row inmates
    How Indonesia executes death row inmates

    Indonesia is expected to soon execute by firing squad a group of nine convicts, most of them foreigners, for drug offences on the prison island of Nusakambangan in Central Java. The executions, which will be the second round under President Joko Widodo, have drawn international criticism and sparked diplomatic tensions with Australia, the Philippines, Nigeria and Brazil, which have nationals on death row. The group also includes a citizen from Indonesia. Recruits for the firing squad are …

  • Nine await mass execution in Indonesia, as foreign hopes for reprieve fade
    Nine await mass execution in Indonesia, as foreign hopes for reprieve fade

    By Kanupriya Kapoor CILACAP, Indonesia (Reuters) - Nine drug traffickers met their families for what could be the final time at an Indonesian maximum security prison on Tuesday, after Jakarta rejected international pleas for clemency and ordered their mass execution to proceed, possibly within hours. The death penalties imposed on eight foreigners and an Indonesian have been condemned by the United Nations, and strained ties between neighbours Australia and Indonesia. "We're hoping for a …

  • Isuzu PH announces new President
    Isuzu PH announces new President

    Isuzu Philippines Corporation (IPC) formally announced the appointment of Hajime Koso as the new president replacing outgoing president Nobuo Izumina, who will be assigned as the Director of Isuzu Body Corporation, an affiliate of Isuzu Motors Limited (IML) in Japan. A native of Okayama Japan, the 57 years old executive has been working for IML for 35 […] The post Isuzu PH announces new President appeared first on Carmudi Philippines. …

  • Pacquiao sees fist of God delivering win over Mayweather
    Pacquiao sees fist of God delivering win over Mayweather

    Filipino boxing hero Manny Pacquiao is confident he can beat American arch-rival Floyd Mayweather in Las Vegas on Saturday with the power of God, after abandoning a life he said was packed with sin condemning him to hell. Pacquiao is in top form both in mind and spirit after he traded his boozing, gambling and womanising ways for a devout life of prayer, his spiritual adviser, Jeric Soriano, told AFP in a recent Manila interview. Except the world got to him," Soriano said of Pacquiao's …

POLL

Should Aquino be held accountable over the Mamasapano operations?

Loading...
Poll Choice Options