No, it isn’t an episode of The Yogi Bear Show – this is for real! According to a story from the Associated Press,
Yellowstone’s grizzly bear population may be more aggressive towards humans due to the scarcity of whitebark pine nuts, their normal food supply. Two people have been mauled by grizzlies this year already, making it the deadliest summer on record.
The nuts of the whitebark pine cones are the main food source for grizzlies in the Yellowstone areas, and this year the nuts are few and far between. High-altitude whitebark trees are being ravaged by beetles at an alarming rate; in some areas, more than 70 percent of trees have been killed. As the weeks go by, the grizzlies will be looking to add more and more weight in preparation for hibernation, meaning they will be looking for alternative protein sources. You guessed it – meat.
“Pack your bear spray: there’s going to be run-ins,” U.S. Geological Survey grizzly researcher Chuck Schwartz told the AP.
Officials say that the most attack-prone areas are most likely going to be outside Yellowstone National Park, in the fringe areas of the bears’ natural habitat. The most at risk to attack? Hunters, ironically enough. Hunters, even though they are armed, exhibit behavior that attracts bears the most – they sneak alone at dawn and dusk making elk calls.