Prepare to enter bear country

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Yellowstone National Park is only a short drive away from Billings, Montana, where OWAA hosts its conference in July. Those visiting the area should make sure to visit our nation’s first national park, but you should come prepared. Yellowstone is grizzly country. It is up to us as photographers, writers and tourists to take responsibility for our own safety. Remember, wildlife, plus distance, equals safety. This is especially true for bears. You should always pay attention, whether watching wildlife roadside, or out on the trails. Here are a few other tips for hiking in Yellowstone and the surrounding area.

  • Hike in groups of three or more.
  •  Make noise. You don’t need to yell, but keep the conversation flowing to avoid accidentally sneaking up on a bear on the trail.
  •  Carry bear spray. Counter Assault is offering OWAA members bear spray for $25, compared to the $55 it costs in stores. Stop by the Be Bear Aware booth at Breakout Day to buy yours, as well as a box to mail it home.
  • Know how to use your bear spray. Before venturing into bear country, practice removing the safety and spraying it. Make sure you are upwind and no one is near where you spray. Chuck Bartlebaugh with Be Bear Aware will also offer bear spray demonstrations at the Breakout Day booth.
  •  Avoid hiking near sunrise or sunset. This is when wildlife, including bears, are most active.
  • Pay attention to your surroundings and look for signs of bear activity like scat, claw marks on trees, or paw prints. ♦

— By Chuck Bartlebaugh, Be Bear Aware

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