The Wyoming Game and Fish Department announced on Wednesday that it has documented grizzly bears in some new areas this spring, as bear populations continue to grow and individual bears expand their ranges. Brian DeBolt, bear biologist for the Game and Fish, said there have been unusual movements of grizzlies this spring.

DeBolt recalled a grizzly which was observed 15 miles south of Daniel Junction, another observed east of Meeteetse and a grizzly photographed approximately nine miles southwest of Lander. Sightings can be helpful in documenting the expansion of grizzly bears as the effort continues to remove the Yellowstone Ecosystem population from federal protections under the Endangered Species Act.

"Seeing grizzlies in new places every year is another indication that this species is doing well, continuing to grow, and expanding its range. Because grizzlies are still on the Endangered Species List, Wyoming has very limited authority to make management decisions related to grizzly distribution and abundance."
-WGFD Director Scott Talbott

According to DeBolt, who helps alleviate the conflicts associated with bears, dispersal of sub-adult and young adult males this spring is common and bears may travel long distances, commonly 20 miles, in search of home ranges and mates. Along with growing populations, prolonged winter conditions and late elk dispersal from winter range may be responsible for grizzly bear movements the Game and Fish considers unusual.

The grizzly bear population in Yellowstone continues to grow at a rate of 4-6 percent each year, with a most recent population estimate of 601 bears according to the Game and Fish.

"It is important that everyone recreating, living or working in bear country become bear aware. This includes being observant and able to distinguish between grizzlies and black ears, identifying bear tracks, watching for bear sign such as scats, and keeping all attractants unavailable to bears through proper storage techniques."
-Scott DeBolt, bear biologist

The Wyoming Game and Fish has a web page dedicated to grizzly bear management which offers education and reports. There is also a bear identification quiz which can be accessed by clicking here.