We have a large number of wild animal neighbors here in Grand Teton National Park and the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem. Even if you can’t see them, or haven’t encountered them, that doesn’t mean that they aren’t there.
The “Big Five” - Bears (Grizzly and Black bears), Elk, Moose, Bison, Wolves - are always a big attractant for tourists and residents alike. Do not approach wildlife- no matter how calm or "nice" they appear, they are wild animals. Park regulations dictate a minimum distance of 100 yards for Bears and Wolves, and a minimum distance of 25 yards for Elk, Moose, and Bison.
For Bears especially, the danger of having animal attractants out in the open is very real. Bears will open/destroy just about anything to get to food. If they learn where to find human food, this will create a habit for them, and they will become aggressive the next time they are stopped from getting human food. Never feed wildlife - if a fox, coyote, squirrel, bird etc. appear to be begging for food do not feed them.
When driving, do not stop in the middle of the road to view wildlife - use pullouts to avoid blocking traffic. Extreme caution should be used when driving at night. Animals on the roads are difficult to see, and certain species are more active at night. Drinking and driving is never acceptable. It not only puts your own life at risk, but the lives of other employees, visitors, and wildlife.
Black bears and grizzly bears thrive in Grand Teton National Park. You may encounter a bear anywhere at anytime. Some of the most popular trails pass through excellent bar habitat, so be familiar with the following bear safety information before hiking or camping in the park.
Do not surprise bears! Make noise when you are hiking or away from your vehicle. Bears will usually move out of the way if they hear you approaching. Calling out (such as Hey Bear) and clapping your hands at regular intervals are good ways to make your presence know.
Hike in Groups
Typically, larger groups of people make more noise and appear more formidable to bears. So try to travel in groups of three or more.
Bear spray has proven to be effective in deterring attacks by temporarily aggravating the bear's respiratory system and mucus membranes. Keep bear spray immediately available on your belt or your pack's waist strap, not inside your pack. Personal sized self defense pepper spray is not effective for deterring bears. If you do not personally own bear spray, check with the village office or ask a friend.
If a bear approaches or charges you, do not run! Most bear attacks result from surprise encounters when a bear is defending her young or a food source, such as a carcass. Some bears will bluff their way out of a threatening situation by charging, then veer off or stop abruptly. Bear experts recommend standing still until the bear stops and then slowly backing away.
If you are attacked, drop to the ground and lie completely flat on our stomach. Spread your legs slightly and clasp your hands over the back of your neck. Do not move until you are certain the bear has left.
The smaller counterparts to the Big Five - Mule Deer, Coyotes, Fox. It is equally damaging to have them approach or for you to approach them. If they exhibit begging behavior, do not feed them! This will create aggressive behavior, and can lead to serious injury..
Ravens (those black birds you think are crows, but aren’t) should not be fed. Ravens are problem- solvers. If they see zippers or latches on exposed luggage, backpacks and beverage coolers, they will open them, and eat/destroy whatever they can find. The same is true for paper or plastic bags. Stay with your bags!
Yellow-bellied Marmots are also a huge pest animal. They are smaller, and look less dangerous, but have become aggressive if given food. Uinta Ground Squirrels (Whistle-pigs), squirrels, and chipmunks must also not be fed for the same reasons.
Yellow Bellied Marmot
Unita Ground Squirrel/Whistle Pig
Please keep the following items indoors and where animals will not be attracted to them
- Food and beverage items
- Coolers, food and beverage containers, even if empty
- Grills/cooking equipment even if they are clean
- Trash/trash bags
- Open or full/overfull trash containers
- Herbs and other edible, non-native plants
- Scented items like shampoo, lotion, perfumes, sunscreen, bug spray
- Pets and pet-related items
- Any other items not listed which could attract animals.
If you are new to Grand Tetons and the GYE, here are some animal/plant facts.
Wyoming has the largest antelope population of any state in the U.S. We also have the largest single elk herd in the world!
Fauna - We have 300+ species of birds, 22 species of rodents, 17 species of carnivores (including black and grizzly bears), 16 species of fish, 6 species of hoofed animals, 6 species of bats, 6 species of amphibians, 4 species of reptiles, 3 species of rabbits/hares, and numerous invertebrates.
Flora - 7 species of coniferous trees, 900+ species of flowering plants - can you find them all this summer?
6 National Forests , 4 National Parks & Monuments (including Grand Tetons and Yellowstone!), and 16 State Parks
Wyoming State Flora & Fauna