The bear population in Wyoming is increasing this year and bears are now roaming around some new areas in the state.

Brian Debolt, Bear Management Officer for the Wyoming Game and Fish Department, says that the unusual movements of bears in Wyoming this year is both due to an increase in bear population and the winter weather.

"It was just kind of a unique winter with lots of snowfall. The snow melt was late, so the distribution of ungulate and bears was unique this year," said Debolt. "But also, these unique bear sightings are also a function of an increase in bear population."

Debolt says that they are seeing bears in areas where they haven’t seen them before.

"We had a bear east of Meeteetse down on the Gooseberry Drainage- that is far away from what we consider occupied grizzly bear habitat," said Debolt. "We had another grizzly bear that was actually kind of West of Pinedale, and then we did document a grizzly bear southwest of Lander this year-which is again unusual."

The Yellowstone population continues to grow at a rate of four to six percent each year and Debolt also points out that documenting these sightings is helpful in the effort to remove the bears in the Yellowstone Ecosystem population from the protections of the Endangered Species Act.

Debolt says people should be aware that they are seeing bears in new areas and take the necessary precautions. Do not approach a bear or a dead carcass, store food away from bears, keep a clean camp, hike in groups, carry pepper spray and avoid hiking during dusk and dawn hours when bears are most active.