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June 19, 2012 7:52 am

EDITORIAL: Stay safe this summer

Written by Tessa Schweigert

The summer season is in full swing in Park County, as evidenced by the myriad of events last weekend — Jake Clark’s Mule Days, Plains Indian Museum Powwow, Clark Jubilee, Wyoming American Legion Auxiliary Girls State and the Field of Honor, to name a few.

As the summer season officially begins with the summer solstice Wednesday, it’s a wonderful time for residents to enjoy Wyoming and its many opportunities outdoors. Thousands of tourists will visit in the months ahead to do the same.

As you head out into the beautiful landscapes surrounding the Basin, remember that we share our rugged mountains and dense forests with wildlife, including hundreds of roaming grizzly bears.

In the past two summers, four people have been killed by grizzly bears in the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem, including two hikers in Yellowstone National Park last year.

The Wyoming Game and Fish Department recently issued a reminder that grizzly and black bears are becoming increasingly active in lower elevations. Grizzlies have found their way into populated areas in recent years, including one bear that took a liking to cracked corn stored at Heart Mountain in 2010.

Mark Bruscino, the game department’s large carnivore section supervisor, says bears have been very active in the past several weeks along valley floors and front country areas around Cody.

Landowners can do their part by securing anything that may attract bears, including livestock feed, garbage and pet food.

Those venturing into bear country should always carry bear spray, hike in groups and make loud noises to alert bears or other animals of your presence. Watch for signs of bear activity, such as tracks and scat, and use extra caution along creeks and rivers, the Game and Fish Department encourages.

Each summer sees encounters between humans and bears and other wildlife. It’s inevitable.

Last week, the Tribune reported about a man who apparently came into close contact with a wolf in Yellowstone. While the circumstances around the incident remain vague, the reported encounter is another reminder that visitors need to be cautious around all wildlife and stay on marked trails.

The National Park Service requires people to remain at least 25 yards away from large animals. That minimum is quadrupled to 100 yards around predators such as wolves and bears.

As you head outdoors this summer, remember, too, how Wyoming’s weather can switch. Last summer’s deadliest storms washed away roads and dangerously churned lakes. Always check weather forecasts and be prepared for shifting weather patterns.

Wyoming offers so many opportunities for hiking, camping, fishing, boating, climbing, sightseeing and just being in the outdoors. These days will go by quickly, so take advantage of the summer season and your surroundings safely.

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