U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service

05/13/2024 | Press release | Distributed by Public on 05/13/2024 18:39

Wildlife Partners Urge Responsible Behavior on Togwotee Pass

MISSOULA - The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Wyoming Game & Fish Department, U.S. Forest Service, Wyoming Highway Patrol, and Teton County Sheriff Department are again urging the public to practice responsible wildlife viewing behavior and obey traffic laws to ensure safety for both people and grizzly bears. Approaching bears and/or parking on the highway is not only illegal but also poses significant risks, especially with grizzly bears, whose behavior can be unpredictable, particularly with offspring.

People and cars dangerously close to a grizzly bear near Togwotee Pass on U.S. Highway 26/287, creating unsafe conditions for people and wildlife. Credit: Todd Stiles/U.S. Forest Service

Please adhere to responsible wildlife viewing practices and Wyoming traffic laws:

  • Never approach bears, always remain at least 100 yards away from wildlife;
  • No stopping, standing, or parking on or along the highway per Wyoming Title 31(31-5-504(a)/(i)/(J), 31-5-102(a)(vii), 31-1-101(a)(viii), and 31-5-102(a)(xl));
  • Do not feed or make food accessible to wildlife;
  • Respect all signs, laws, and regulations;
  • Cooperate with law enforcement and wildlife officials - never interfere with management operations.

While partner agencies acknowledge the awe of seeing a grizzly bear, adhering to responsible wildlife viewing guidelines and obeying traffic laws is crucial in maintaining the wildness of bears and ensuring human safety. Approaching, encircling, or blocking bears' paths at close distances can create opportunities for dangerous conflicts. These behaviors also contribute to habituating bears to human presence and road traffic, further escalating the risk of dangerous encounters, leading to potential conflicts and management actions.

Wildlife managers have invested significant time and resources to prevent conflicts and keep bears away from roadside habitats. Prior efforts have included intensive hazing, using trained Karelian bear dogs, and staff monitoring the highway from dawn to dusk. Managing people that stop in the Togwotee Pass area remains a significant challenge for wildlife managers and law enforcement agencies. Continued unethical viewing practices or conflicts may require further management actions, such as capturing and relocating bears.

Please help keep bears wild and people safe by following the Bear Aware guidelines provided by the Interagency Grizzly Bear Committee.