Bear Activity


Both hunters and Refuge staff have recently reported sightings and both bears and bear tracks in Refuge hunt areas.

Photo Credit: Mark Gocke Photography

Grizzly bears have been sighted on the National Elk Refuge, including designated elk and bison hunting areas. 

Grizzly bears may seek out gut piles from field-dressed animals during the hunting season. During Refuge hunting seasons, the availability of carcasses and gut piles may bring grizzly bears and hunters into close proximity, including in heavily-used hunt areas. Some bears will vigorously defend gut piles. This behavior should be expected in bear country, and it underscores the risk to bears and humans associated with hunting in grizzly country.

Please keep in mind that you may encounter bears – including those feeding on gut piles – at any time and in any location. Hunters should be vigilant, especially in areas with limited visibility due to shrubs, trees, and other cover as bear encounters can happen very quickly with little forewarning. Be alert for the presence of bears at all times. Do not leave a carcass unattended, and be extra alert when field dressing your elk or bison. 

Though carrying an accessible can of non-expired bear spray is not a requirement of your Refuge hunting permit, it is strongly recommended. Bear spray is an effective deterrent that is specifically designed to deter aggressive or charging bears. Personal defense pepper spray is not the same as bear spray. Bear spray labels will clearly state it is for stopping charging or attacking bears.