'Do better': Photographer captures grizzly bear cub with discarded face mask

A wildlife photographer shared a message for tourists to Grand Teton National Park in Wyoming after seeing a grizzly bear cub chewing on a discarded face mask. 

Photographer Jonathan Kuiper visited the park earlier this summer when he encountered a mother bear and her two cubs. A video posted by Kuiper shows one of the cubs carrying a face mask in its mouth while the family moves through an open meadow. 

"Folks, please don’t leave your disposable masks (or any other trash) behind. It’s not hard to do better than this," Kuiper wrote on his Instagram.

Grand Teton National Park is home to a variety of wildlife, including both grizzly and black bears that can be found in all areas of the park located in northwestern Wyoming. The park is roughly 310,000 acres and includes major peaks of the Teton mountain range.

Face masks are required for visitors at all National Park Service buildings, including those at Grand Teton National Park, due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. Masks are also required in crowded outdoor spaces and on all forms of enclosed public transportation at national parks.

Park officials follow and promote the Leave No Trace national program, which includes seven principles for visitors to follow in order to protect the county’s national parks. 

"Each of us plays a vital role in protecting our national parks. As we spend time outdoors, in the natural world and in wilderness, it’s important to be conscious of the effects our actions may have on plants, animals, other people, and even entire ecosystems," NPS states online. 

This includes disposing of all waste properly, and anything visitors pack in should be also be packed out of a campsite — including trash, leftover food and litter.

bear cubs

The grizzly bear and her two cubs are pictured walking through Grand Teton National Park in Wyoming, with one holding a disposable face mask in its mouth. (Photo credit: Jonathan Kuiper via Storyful)

With so many people around the globe wearing recommended face masks to help prevent the spread of COVID-19, discarded single-use masks have been a topic of concern before. 

A report issued earlier this summer indicated that single-use masks and gloves mandated in response to the pandemic were a significant source of beach pollution in the U.S., according to the Surfrider Foundation.

More than 2,270 single-use masks and gloves were removed from beaches and waterways from June to December of 2020 during the foundation's Beach Cleanup program, which includes a volunteer network throughout the West, East, Gulf, Great Lakes, Hawaiian and Puerto Rican coasts. 

This story was reported from Cincinnati.