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Grizzly Bear Safety
Mountain-Prairie Region
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Grizzly Bear Safety

A Grizzly bear is walking across a road
Information icon Photo by Jackie Skaggs, USGS Public Affairs Officer. Source

How to Keep People and Bears Safe

The most common human-bear conflicts involve unsecured attractants, such as garbage and human food. Protect yourself and bears by staying alert and following these guidelines:

  • Never approach bears, always remain at least 100 yards (300 feet) away, or about the length of a football field
  • Practice ethical wildlife viewing by remaining a safe distance and never disturbing natural behaviors
  • Never feed, leave food for, or make food accessible to bears
  • Store food, garbage, barbecue grills, and other attractants in locked hard-sided vehicles or bear-resistant storage boxes
  • Carry bear spray, know how to use it, and make sure it is accessible
  • Hike or ski in groups of three or more, stay on maintained trails and make noise
  • Avoid hiking at dusk, dawn, or at night
  • Do not run if you encounter a bear
  • Instead of traditional bird feeders, set up birdhouses or birdbaths, plant native flowers, or set up hanging flower baskets for hummingbirds
  • Keep chickens and other small livestock properly secured using electric fencing or keep them inside a closed shed with a door
  • Report bear sightings, encounters, and conflicts immediately to your state or tribal wildlife management agency

A blue card with a black silhouette of a bear. Text reads I pledge to #KeepBearsWild. USFWS logo appears in the top-left corner.

Take the Bear Aware Pledge! View Full Screen.

A blue card with a yellow silhouette of a bear. Text reads: I pledge to keep bears wild. Never approach bears and stay at least 300 feet away; Practice ethical wildlife viewing; Never feed bears; Store food, garbage, and other attractants in a bear-resistant place; Carry bear spray and know how to use it; Avoid hiking alone, stay on maintained trails, and make noise; Avoid hiking at dusk, dawn, or at night; Do not run if you encounter a bear; Do not interrupt bear activities; Know and follow public land regulations. USFWS logo appears in the top-left corner.

Take the Bear Aware Pledge! View Full Screen.

Learn More About Grizzly Bears

Grizzly Bear 863 "Felicia" »

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (Service) recognizes that seeing a grizzly bear can be a memorable experience, yet it can also be a dangerous one without proper precautions. We need the help of the public to keep bears wild and people safe. Approaching, disturbing, feeding, or unethically viewing grizzly bears is likely to have negative and dangerous outcomes for both bears and people. We remind visitors and residents in bear country to remain vigilant in grizzly bear country. Most grizzly bear conflicts can be avoided by practicing the basic bear safety guidelines. Approaching, feeding, or otherwise disturbing grizzly bears not only poses a significant threat to humans and bear safety – these behaviors are also a federal offense under the Endangered Species Act (ESA).

A grizzly bear attempts to cross a busy road croweded with vehicles and people standing around watching the bears

People and cars dangerously close to a grizzly bear on U.S. Highway 26/287, creating unsafe conditions for people and wildlife. Credit: Todd Stiles/U.S. Forest Service. View Full Screen.

Are there plans to kill grizzly bear 863, known as “Felicia”?

There are no plans to kill grizzly bear 863. Euthanasia is a management tactic of last resort. It is the goal of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and our partners to avoid this scenario. The public can help by following common sense bear safety practices and giving space for managers to conduct hazing operations.

Can you ticket people engaging in irresponsible behavior at Togwotee Pass?

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service does not have jurisdiction over the roadway or the land in this area. The roadway is the under the jurisdiction of Wyoming state agencies and the land surrounding it is the jurisdiction of the U.S. Forest Service.

Can the Service lower the speed limit or close the road?

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has no control over the roadway or speed limits; these are within the purview of the Wyoming Department of Transportation, among other agencies. We do not believe it would be feasible for them to close a highway that is the only connection to rural areas.

What about a volunteer group solution?

The Service and partners have determined this option is not viable due to significant safety concerns. Highway 26/287 is a major arterial highway for western Wyoming. The agencies involved concur that any attempt to facilitate viewing would encourage unsafe conditions along this already busy highway. Road hazards include blind curves, hills, significant speeds, and tractor-trailer traffic that cannot stop quickly. Other considerable hazards include confrontations with the public and safety of volunteers; Wild animals are unpredictable, especially a grizzly bear with cubs. While the bears have not displayed aggressive behavior to date, we cannot predict future behavior. The best ways for the public to help is to avoid the area and exhibit responsible wildlife viewing behaviors - and spread this message to others in the community. Wildlife managers will continue to patrol the area to monitor behavior of the bear and people and conduct intermittent hazing to reinforce 863’s avoidance of people and vehicles.

Why are the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and partners hazing grizzly bear 863?

The Service and partners are hazing grizzly bear 863 to move her and her cubs away from the dangerous situation being caused by humans on and adjacent to Highway 26/287. Even with intensive multi-agency effort to curb or direct human behavior, visitors and photographers continue to approach this female grizzly with cubs at extremely unsafe distances.

If humans stop only in legal highway pullouts, and remain in vehicles, hazing would not be necessary. However, when humans stop, exit vehicles, and approach bears on foot, the risk increases that grizzly bears, especially sows with cubs, will charge humans. This poses a significant threat to human life.

Once a bear charges or attacks a human in that manner, it is much more likely that a decision could be made that relocation or euthanization could be necessary – actions that we want to avoid. Our goal is to ensure the continued safety of people and the bears. If people passing through the area remain in legally parked vehicles to observe the bear, neither humans nor bears are likely to be injured.

Additionally, Highway 26/287 is a major arterial highway for western Wyoming and is a primary route for locals, tourists, and commerce. Traffic on this route, including semi-trailer trucks, is high speed and it is extremely hazardous for bears and people when people are parked illegally along the highway. There is grave concern for human and bear safety given the fact that this area is not a national park with slower speeds and single jurisdiction with more management and personnel options.

Grizzly bear 863 has not shown aggressive behavior before. Why is hazing needed?

Hazing is needed to teach the bear that spending time near the roadway and interacting with humans is not in her best interest. When she is present in that area, humans are stopping to observe and sometimes acting irresponsibly in the vicinity. We understand the thrill of observing wildlife up close, but grizzly bears are unpredictable and dangerous. Leaving the safety of your vehicle when bears are near and approaching a grizzly bear on foot is life-threatening behavior. If humans follow the recommendations for their safety, both humans and bear 863 will be safer.

Prior behavior is not a predictable indicator of a wild animal’s future behavior, especially a grizzly bear with two young cubs like 863. It is probable that she would defend them vigorously, yet no one can predict exactly how close is too close to trigger this type of defense behavior. Staying in a vehicle is safest for humans and bears.

Escalating human behavior, including approaching dangerously close, attempts at feeding, illegal parking, and dangerous driving on the pass are all factors that may pressure grizzly 863 to act outside of her normal behavior.

Our goal, together with all the agencies working on this effort, is first to prevent any dangerous encounters from occurring so further management would not be necessary, and second, to teach this bear that habitually remaining in this area is not advantageous to her.

What is hazing?

Hazing is the use of non-lethal, non-injurious methods to change an animal’s behavior. In this operation, examples of these methods include loud noise devices (such as “cracker” or “screamer” rounds), and projectiles such as paintballs, and bean bags from a shotgun. Projectile methods are only directed at large areas of fatty tissue, such as the bear’s rump, in order to avoid injury. Projectiles are not used on cubs.

What else has been done to help solve the safety issues on Togwotee Pass? 

The Service and our partners have been reminding the public of grizzly bear safety and ethical wildlife viewing practices for several months, including posting signage, visitor contacts, mobile information kiosks, roadside message boards, in addition to media interviews and press coverage. Our partner agencies have also taken enforcement actions when enough resources are available. These actions have not yet been able to provide enough impact on human behavior to rectify grizzly bear 863 from becoming habituated to the road.

What happens if 863 continues to frequent the roadside after this hazing effort?

We hope to see a change in grizzly bear 863’s behavior so that she becomes more wary of vehicles and humans and stays away from the highway. However, if we see no change in her behavior and no change in the dangerous human behavior we have observed, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service will consider relocating her and the cubs to a different location among other strategies. Given 863’s current behavior, we are not planning for euthanasia at this time.

What can the public do to help grizzly bear 863?

The main way the public can help protect grizzly bear 863, and all grizzly bears, is to keep a safe distance. A best practice is to observe from your legally parked vehicle. If you leave the safety of your vehicle, under no circumstances should you approach the bear. It is imperative that you remain at least 100 yards (300 feet), or about the length of a football field, away from grizzly bears. Practice ethical wildlife viewing by remaining a safe distance and never disturbing natural behaviors. Never feed, leave food for, or make food accessible to bears. Obey all traffic signs and roadway markings. Stop only in paved, designated pull-outs and not in the highway right-of-way. Drive carefully and slowly, watch for wildlife on and near highways and roadsides. Listen to all directions of public safety and wildlife management officials, and never approach or interfere with hazing operations.

The mission of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is working with Others to conserve, protect, and enhance fish, wildlife, plants and their habitats for the continuing benefit of the American People.
Last modified: October 21, 2021
All Images Credit to and Courtesy of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Unless Specified Otherwise.
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