The Interagency Grizzly Bear Committee is rolling out a pilot program of trail signage to reduce conflict between humans and bears in the Teton Valley area.
Signs warning mountain bikers of potential bear encounters are now placed on Mill Creek and on the Great Western Trail at the top of Pine Creek Pass, two trails where there is heavy bike travel and frequent bear sightings.
This is a first effort in an expanded plan of the IGBC, which includes representatives from the US Forest Service, National Park Service, Bureau of Land Management and state wildlife agencies. The action is in response to increased numbers of trail users and more interactions with bears.
One incident that prompted this was the death of an off-duty Forest Service ranger last year. He was mountain biking in Montana near Glacier National Park when he ran into a grizzly, which attacked and killed him.
“We’ve had case after case,” said Gregg Losinski, who is a chairman of the IGBC as well as an Idaho Fish and Game conservation educator.
Losinski worked on a similar project in Slovakia, which is also seeing heightened mountain biker-bear conflict. A video of a grizzly chasing a cyclist in Slovakia went viral earlier this year. Getting the signs installed there required less bureaucratic effort than in the states.
“The amount of détente coming up with this simple verbiage was incredible,” said Losinksi.
He stressed that it’s especially important for mountain bikers to be vigilant and follow the posted advisories because they’re moving much faster than hikers. He also advised that riders carry bear spray on their persons and keep it easily accessible, not on their bikes.
“People in the Teton area need to know they’re always in griz country,” he said. “They don’t realize that the Big Holes are griz country, that the whole Snake River corridor is. They’re coming back.”
The committee is also installing signs on Forest Service land in the Palisades, in Island Park and in Harriman State Park.
“We don’t want people to be afraid, just be aware,” he said.