One sure sign that fall is just around the corner is that some animals are beginning to leave the high country for lower elevations.
The most obvious change in Yellowstone occurs in Mammoth Hot Springs. Typically, several large bull elk venture into the Mammoth area in the fall to compete for the attention of cow elk. Bulls are much more aggressive toward both people and vehicles this time of year and can be a threat to both people and property. Several vehicles are damaged by elk every year, and on occasion people are charged by elk and are injured.
A dedicated group of park staff and volunteers can be seen patrolling the Mammoth Hot Springs area when elk are present, attempting to keep elk and visitors a safe distance away from each other. Park regulations require visitors to stay a minimum of 25 yards - the length of two regular school buses - away from most large animals.
Grizzly bears and black bears are moving to higher elevations to feed on this year's abundant crop of whitebark pine seeds, in order to store the calories they need to sustain themselves during winter hibernation. They may be encountered along roads through mountain passes or on some hiking trails.
Park regulations require people to stay a minimum of 100 yards - the length of a football field - away from bears and wolves at all times. If you see a bear along the road, move off the road and park on the shoulder or in a pullout and stay in your vehicle to watch the bear. In any case, use your binoculars, telescope, or telephoto lens to get a closer look at the bear rather than walking toward the bear.
Visitors are reminded to keep food, garbage, barbecue grills and other attractants stored in hard-sided vehicles or bear-proof food storage boxes when not in immediate use. Bears that get human food or garbage usually become aggressive in their efforts to get it again. This can result in property damage and on rare occasion injury to people. When bears become a threat to human safety, they may have to be captured and euthanized.
Fall also brings changing weather conditions. Along with some temporary closures due to fire activity, visitors are encouraged to stop at a visitor center or ranger station for the latest update on trail conditions and park regulations before setting out on the trail. A reminder, a permit is required to stay overnight in the backcountry.
Hikers and backpackers are encouraged to travel in groups of three or more, make noise on the trail, and keep an eye out for bears. Bear pepper spray has proven to be a good last line of defense if you keep it handy and use it according to directions when the bear is within 50 feet. Be extra vigilant if a sign on the trail says a bear has been frequenting an area, and if an area is posted closed due to bear activity, stay out!
Bear sightings should be reported to the nearest visitor center or ranger station as soon as possible.
Glacier National Park Trails