"Do not feed the wildlife, prohibited by law" reads the sign on the trail through Wyoming's Grand Teton National Park.

However that didn't stop two visitors, who were cited for illegally sharing their food with a family of bears.

"On Thursday, October 4, visitors in two separate vehicles along the Signal Mountain Road were observed feeding fruit to three black bears," the park released in a statement.

The maximum penalty for feeding wildlife in the American national park is a $5000 fine and up to six months in jail.

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This may seem excessive punishment for animal lovers sharing their picnic; however the act of feeding wildlife puts both visitors and animals in danger.

The bears, a mother and two cubs, were later spotted approaching vehicles entering the park.

Park rangers were forced to take action and remove the animals.

"Due to the bears' comfort with humans in developed areas, and, most importantly, behaviours that associated humans with food, posing an unacceptable risk to public safety, the three bears were captured and removed from the park."

Regrettably the adult female bear could not be relocated to captivity and had to be put down.

"It was a difficult decision for park managers, who are responsible for the welfare of both wildlife and people in the park," they said.

The maximum penalty for feeding park wildlife is a $5,000 fine and up to six months in jail. Photo / Grand Teton National Park
The maximum penalty for feeding park wildlife is a $5,000 fine and up to six months in jail. Photo / Grand Teton National Park

The two cubs were moved to Oswald Bear Ranch in Michigan, but are unlikely to be returned to the wilds of Wyoming.

The incident drew outcry on social media, where it was widely reported.

"I just visited Grand Teton last month and there are signs absolutely everywhere with information on why you should not feed the wildlife," wrote one Facebook user.

While some were some who condemned the park for euthanising the bear, others were understanding. Another Facebook user wrote, "I do not blame the park at all as that must have been a tough decision."

However the visitors who fed the bear received less sympathy.

"A fed bear is a dead bear," wrote Bill Ray who added,"idiots that feed wildlife must suffer extreme and unquestioned penalties."

The park released a statement about the incident on their website and Facebook pages pleading with visitors not to feed their wildlife:

"Visitors are reminded that feeding wildlife creates a safety risk for humans as animals associate people with food; bears can also become aggressive in seeking additional food, especially when preparing to den for the winter. Animals that are fed by humans also have an increased likelihood of being drawn to roadways and killed by vehicles."

The Grand Teton, which borders Jackson Hole and the Yellowstone National Park, is home to a rich collection of animal species including wolves, coyotes, moose and pronghorn deer.

Beadnose crowned America's fattest bear

While feeding animals is discouraged, now is the time of the year when North America's bears gorge themselves ahead of the long winter hibernation.

Katmai National Park's bear 409 came out on top. Photo / Facebook, Katmai National Park
Katmai National Park's bear 409 came out on top. Photo / Facebook, Katmai National Park

To celebrate these cuddly looking fat bears ahead of their winter sleep, Alaska's Katmai National Park holds an annual "Fat Bear Week".

With candidates drawn from specimens in America's national parks Katmai invited the public to weigh in on who they think should be crowned 'fattest bear'.

On the park's Facebook page candidates' pictures were placed at lowest weight and peak weight.

It's like a 'before and after' slimming ad for bears – but in reverse.

Bears can look a little under-fed during the rest of the season, but after three months gorging on salmon their transformation is impressive.

Beadnose 409: Like a 'before and after' slimming ad for bears - but in reverse. Photo / Katmai National park
Beadnose 409: Like a 'before and after' slimming ad for bears - but in reverse. Photo / Katmai National park

Katmai National Park's bear Beadnose 409 came out on top.

When [Beadnose] is not raising cubs," Katmai National Park writes in her profile, "this bear is usually one of the fattest females.

Her portly, 'teddy bear' figure made her a favourite with voters.

Beadnose's incredible weight gain is a reminder that bears in the wild need no extra help with feeding by visitors.