You’re bound to see some wildlife during your vacation! The Black Hills are teaming with black-footed ferrets, prairie dogs, marmots, bison, bighorn sheep, mountain goats, antelope, mule deer and elk. Additionally, there are a whopping 200 species of native birds! However, what about bears??
There were no “reports” from 1960 to 2001.
However, locals have been saying for years that bears are here and always have been, mostly keeping to themselves in the mountains. Supposedly, black bears and grizzlies were common in the late 1800s but were pushed out by hunting and destruction of their habitat. Officially, there still aren’t any bears residing here, only migrating through.
There are 11 sightings of bears in the Black Hills.
That’s this summer alone! If we didn’t have bears before, it’s fair to say we do now. The sightings have ranged from the Lead Country Club to one Spearfish resident’s backyard. Spearfish has also seen an unusual number of mountain lions within city limits this year. Keep in mind, the Black Hills see something like 3 million tourists every summer and more than 250,000 people live here year-round. That makes your odds of seeing a bear in the Black Hills something like 0.00033%.
What to do if you see bears in the Black Hills?
It’s important to take bear safety precautions when hiking or camping, in the rare event of a bear nearby. This includes keeping items in bear-resident containers, keeping a clean camp, hiking during daylight hours, and maintaining a safe distance if you do encounter a bear. You can also purchase bear repellant, however, the smell may actually attract bears if you spray it without need.
Off the record, it will probably be the coolest day of your life if you’re able to see a bear in the Black Hills, assuming you live to tell us about it.