The first bear sighting of the year was reported early Wednesday morning when a park employee saw a grizzly bear between Mammoth Hot Springs and Tower-Roosevelt, according to a news release from the National Park Service.

Though it is the first bear seen in the park this year, bear tracks have been seen since Feb. 22.

Park staff saw two more grizzly bears scavenging carcasses in the northern part of the park later Wednesday morning.

Bears look for food when the emerge from hibernation, often feeding on elk and bison that died over the winter. Bears will sometimes react aggressively while feeding on carcasses.

Yellowstone National Park -- all of it -- is bear country. Park officials encourage visitors to stay safe by following these guidelines:

  • Prepare for a bear encounter.
  • Carry bear spray, know how to use it and make sure it's accessible.
  • Stay alert.
  • Hike or ski in groups of three or more, stay on maintained trails and make noise. Avoid hiking at dusk, dawn or at night.
  • If you encounter a bear, do not run.
  • Stay 100 yards away from black and grizzly bears. If you want to get a closer look, use binoculars, a telescope or telephoto lens.
  • Store food, garbage, barbecue grills and other items that might catch bears' attention in hard-sided vehicles or bear-proof food storage boxes.
  • Learn more about bear safety.

"Yellowstone visitors care deeply about preserving bears and observing them in the wild," says Kerry Gunther, bear management specialist for Yellowstone National Park. "Carrying bear spray is the best way for them to participate in bear conservation because reducing potential conflicts protects both people and bears."

Firearms are allowed in the park, but any discharge of a firearm by visitors would constitute a violation of park rules.

The park restricts certain activities in locations where there is a high density of elk and bison carcasses and lots of bears. Restrictions in some bear management areas went into effect March 10.

Visitors are encouraged to report bear sightings and encounters to a park ranger immediately.