Backcountry spring skiing? Be bear aware, FWP says

Posted at 11:03 AM, Mar 30, 2021
and last updated 2021-03-30 13:31:34-04

High-country skiing in the spring - it's a Montana tradition.

But as you enjoy a bluebird day, Montana Fish, Wildlife & Parks reminds skiers they need to be aware of bears waking up from hibernation. Skiing places us in closer proximity to bears that are emerging from dens.

When traveling in avalanche terrain, prepare by reading the avalanche forecast, and carrying a beacon, probe, and shovel. FWP says now it's time to carry bear spray as well because bears are waking up. Grizzlies and black bears are up and moving across their respective ranges.

In addition to carrying bear spray, be sure to travel in groups, be aware of our surroundings, and make noise.

Here is more information on bear denning in the Yellowstone Ecosystem, from the National Park Service:

"In the Yellowstone ecosystem, grizzly bears tend to dig or locate dens on the mid to upper one-third of 30°-60° slopes with northern exposures between 6,562-10,006 ft, =8103 ft (2,000-3,050 meters, =2,470 m) in elevation (Judd et al. 1986). Pregnant females den at higher elevations than other females and male bears (Haroldson et al 2002). Black bears locate or excavate dens on 20°-40° slopes (=27.8°) with northerly aspects between 5,800-8,599 ft, =7,346 ft (1,768-2,621 meters, =2,239 m) in elevation (Mack 1990). There are several different types of dens utilized by bears. Black bears tend to excavate dens, den under windfalls, in hollow trees or caves, and in previously occupied dens (Jonkel 1980). Grizzly bears tend to excavate dens at the base of large trees often on densely vegetated north-facing slopes. This is advantageous in the Yellowstone ecosystem due to prevailing SW winds which accumulate snow on northerly slopes and insulate dens from temperatures which often drop as low as -40°F to -60°F (-40°C - -51°C) (Craighead and Craighead 1972; Jonkel 1980; Vroom et al. 1980). Most dens are dug in sandy loam soils with some occurring in clay loam and rocky silt soils (Judd et al. 1986)."