Yellowstone Forever

April 13, 2011

Bear Safety: Be Part of the Solution

Bears have been in the news quite a bit over the past year, but for all the wrong reasons. Bear-human conflicts in the greater Yellowstone area not only jeopardize human safety, but also put bears at risk and compromise the great progress made in bear conservation. Fortunately, the Yellowstone Park Foundation has become part of the solution, and so can you.

A Tragedy That Could Have Been Prevented

Black Bear at Yellowstone LakeMany people know the safety warning "A fed bear is a dead bear" and would never dream of purposely feeding a wild bear.  But bears are smart and resourceful creatures; if there is food to be found, they will often find it, whether it's in a tent, or a car, or a cooler.  And once a bear starts to associate humans with food, it likely leads to disaster.


For instance, last June a habituated black bear needed to be captured and euthanized by Yellowstone National Park staff.  The adult female bear had been frequenting a highly visited area near Yellowstone Lake, including Bridge Bay Campground, the Gull Point Picnic Area, and Lake Village. The bear had gotten into human food, and on one occasion ripped open an occupied tent in the campground.  She had also been following and approaching hikers on the nearby Elephant Back Trail.  Several times, park staff attempted to scare the bear out of the area using a shotgun to shoot bean bag rounds and cracker shells. Because these efforts proved unsuccessful, the decision was made to capture and euthanize the bear.


“This was a difficult decision to make, and was very tragic. But we did what was necessary to protect visitors,” said Kerry Gunther, Yellowstone’s Bear Management biologist. “It was apparent that the bear was associating the scent of humans with food, and had lost her natural fear of humans, which led to increasingly aggressive behavior. It's possible that better access to bear boxes may have prevented this situation altogether." 

Creating Bear-Safe Campgrounds

Grizzly testing bear box

Preventing bears from obtaining human foods is the foundation of Yellowstone National Park’s Bear Management Program.  Bears that become conditioned to human food often become more aggressive about trying to obtain it, and can damage property or injure people in the process.    

According to Gunther, the use of “bear boxes” is a proven method to prevent bears from becoming conditioned to human foods.  These large, bear-proof food storage containers are easy to use, and are highly effective.


The most likely place for a bear to become conditioned to human food in Yellowstone is at a roadside campground. The problem is that less than 25% of the campsites in roadside campgrounds currently have bear boxes where food can be stored safely.


Thanks to Friends of Yellowstone, like you, the Yellowstone Park Foundation has already raised enough funds for the Park to purchase and install 50 rugged bear boxes at priority campsites.  We are continuing this effort in the hopes of installing boxes at 100% of sites in the campgrounds most likely to attract curious bears.


The 30-cubic-foot boxes are made of 12-gauge steel, with rustproof hinges and latches, to withstand the abuses of weather, as well as animals. They are attached to thick metal poles which are set into the ground with cement.

Sponsor a Bear Box

Bear box by BearSaverThe Yellowstone Park Foundation offers individuals and groups a unique opportunity to Sponsor a Bear Box.  For every $1,500 we raise, Yellowstone will install a bear box in a Park campground.


With a contribution of any amount toward the purchase of a bear box, you’ll have the satisfaction of knowing that you are playing a direct role in making Yellowstone safer for both bears and visitors. As a $1,500 sponsor, you will also receive special benefits and recognition, including your name engraved on a small plaque that is permanently affixed to the Bear Box. 



Learn more about the Sponsor a Bear Box program>>


Make your donation to Sponsor a Bear Box today>>



Bear box photo, top: Testing bear boxes at the Grizzly & Wolf Discovery Center. Photo courtesy of NPS.

Bear box photo, bottom: Courtesy of BearSaver


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