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First Sightings of Bears This Season Reported in Yellowstone

Bears are emerging from hibernation.

It's been a harsh winter for the American west, but apparently the bears of Yellowstone have gotten cabin fever because the first sightings of the season are coming in.

The Billings Gazette reports the first confirmed bear sighting of the year came in Wednesday morning. Bear tracks were seen as early as February 22, but the grizzly bear sighting was the first between Tower-Roosevelt and Mammoth Hot Springs.

Two more grizzlies were seen later the same day scavenging on carcasses. There is still snow in many parts of the park. Perhaps that's why the first confirmed sightings are a little later than normal this year. The first confirmed bear sighting last year was February 23.

Officials are using the sightings to remind the park's early-season visitors to walk or ski in groups of three and carry bear spray.

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

Visitors are reminded to properly store food and keep 100 yards away from all bears. They also remind visitors that while one can carry a firearm in the park, firing one would be in violation of park rules.

The park has started renting out bear spray in recent years for visitors who don't own their own. The park is asking visitors to report bear sightings to rangers right away.