Black bears fattening up on berries close Grand Teton road

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CHEYENNE, Wyo. (AP) — Black bears are on the move in Grand Teton National Park, and the reason is berry simple.

Park officials have closed most of a 7-mile-long gravel road accessing the south end of the park for two days now. The reason: Eight black bears feeding on hawthorn berries in the area.

Typically park rangers watch to make sure tourists keep a safe distance when potentially dangerous wildlife hang out near roads. Other than that, they seldom intervene. That goes for grizzly bears, which are bigger and deadlier than black bears and numerous in Grand Teton.

Eight bears, however, is just too many for the public to be safe in the wooded area alongside Moose-Wilson Road, park spokeswoman Denise Germann said Thursday. "It's hard for our employees to manage that chaos," she said.

Black bears — except for the occasional one that gets a taste for people food left outside by careless campers — seldom cause serious problems in Grand Teton or nearby Yellowstone National Park.

Grizzlies are another matter. Grizzlies have attacked two people — killing a hiker in Yellowstone and injuring a hunter about 15 miles west of the park — within the past month.

Also, wildlife officials killed a grizzly that had repeatedly broken into buildings in northeast Idaho.

So far, no grizzly bears have shown up to Grand Teton's hawthorn berry buffet.

Each fall, bears eat all they can to fatten up before winter, but this year's crop of huckleberries in Grand Teton wasn't so great. Park officials suspect plentiful hawthorn berries are drawing black bears to Moose-Wilson Road.

A small portion of the park including the Laurance S. Rockefeller Preserve east of Moose-Wilson Road also has been closed due to the bears. Trails west of the road remain open. Park officials also closed the road, off and on, because of bears last fall.

"We want to be able to have it available because we know that visitors and locals enjoy driving that road, riding that road, running the road — whatever that may be," Germann said. "And this time of year, it's great for wildlife viewing."

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