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State Begins Issuing Citations For Cars Stopped On Highway Near Togwotee Pass For Wildlife Sightings

Charles Preston

Despite a multi-agency effort to provide safe viewing of grizzly bears on U.S. Highway 26 near Togwotee Pass, individuals are still illegally parking and creating unsafe situations for the bears and people.

For the past couple of summers, a grizzly bear and her cubs have frequented the side of the highway. So often that wildlife photographers and enthusiasts send notifications that the bear is out. This creates a situation where up to 100 cars are parked along the highway.

Dan Thompson, Wyoming Game and Fish large carnivore supervisor, said it's a state highway system, not a national park setting. That means traffic can't be stopped for a wildlife jam. Plus it's a problem for the semi trucks that need to drive through as well. Officials are now giving out citations for stopping illegally.

But that's not stopping people from stopping, said Thompson.

"The issue that we're seeing is the second that there's not a presence of some type of enforcement agency with authority, if the bears are roadside, whether it's explicitly stated that you will get a citation, people are going up there, and stopping and taking pictures," said Thompson. "We've had multiple people tell us that they don't care, they'll take the risk of getting a citation."

Thompson said this is a safety issue for the bears and humans. So the department is hazing the bears to try to stop them from getting so close to the road. They are using packer shells and horns.

"The one spot the bear was in earlier this week is around a system of S curves, that if somebody slams on the brakes in front of you, you have a potential human fatality and car wreck," said Thompson.

The involved agencies are planning to regroup and figure out what's working and look for other options for the future.

Kamila has worked for public radio stations in California, New York, France and Poland. Originally from New York City, she loves exploring new places. Kamila received her master in journalism from Columbia University. She has won a regional Murrow award for her reporting on mental health and firearm owners. During her time leading the Wyoming Public Media newsroom, reporters have won multiple PMJA, Murrow and Top of the Rockies Excellence in Journalism Awards. In her spare time, she enjoys exploring the surrounding areas with her two pups and husband.

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