Grizzlies of the GYE

John Goering

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Joined
Sep 30, 2014
Messages
431
I've never kept a log of my bear sightings/encounters. I know it's better than 10 to one black bears versus grizzles. I'm going to guess we see several black bears a month without leaving our ranch. About a half dozen of those were pretty much face to face but I was only really concerned with two of them. Note: one should not go yelling at a sow and two cubs on the front lawn without a good exit strategy.

I don't know how many grizzlies I have observed in Yellowstone over 70 +years. Quite a few. We have also encountered them in the Lee Metcalf, Beartooth's, and more recently, the Tobacco Root Mountains. Our count on the latter is 4.

I don't loose much sleep over bears either but that isn't saying I'm unprepared.
This one was 25 feet from the back door.


The border collie herding a boar out of the front yard. No fear and I suspect it will eventually get him into a problem he can't solve.
 
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Kmatjhwy

Wilderness Wanderer
Joined
Sep 23, 2016
Messages
536
Scatman, Thanks for starting this thread and all of your input here in this thread. Now personally I would also be interested in maybe going with you one of your trips into the backcountry. Now here is a reply to some of your questions that you asked. Thanks for your comments. After I retire, might not be around much for plan on just being in the wilds but will try to pop in from time to time.

The years 1981 thru 1997

First off some of the Bear Sightings I had in the 90's were lost. But there were several years in here Yes I did not see any Grizzlies or Bears for that matter. In the middle 90's for a few years, I lived in Seattle for loved the Pacific NW. During that time I did not see hardly any bears. Also remember during this time and these years, the Grizzlies in Yellowstone were far less numerous then they are today. Yes I saw Bears but it was not so easy to see one then as it is today in the GYE in my opinion. Also I have not seen any bears the last couple of years because of my working, but that I do believe is about to change.

Grizzlies versus Black Bears in the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem

Interesting Scstman, that you also have seen less Black Bears in the GYE like myself. Rather there are actually less Black Bears then Grizzlies I can't say, but do think that there are other factors at play here. In the Black Bears that I have seen, they seem to be quite a bit more secretive in my opinion.

One reason is that they are Not on the top of the food chain, for the Grizzly is and they will prey on a small Black Bear. I have seen large Black Bears in the Thorofare who were ever on alert and looking every which way constantly, being on the lookout for Grizzlies. Many of the Black Bears that I have seen were actually not that far from cover and feeding in remote spots, for again remember that they are Not on the top of the food chain in these areas. But have seen them from the lower elevations to high up in the GYE.

Second reason is a big one to consider, which would cause them to again be more secretive. It is that outside Yellowstone and Grand Teton Parks in all three surrounding states, they are hunted. Have met hunters in the spring quite often on a Black Bear hunt. Another thing to consider.

And Scatman, most of my Black Bear sightings actually come from one spot ... Bear Mountain as I call it. A peak right West of the Sofa Fork Meadows in the Teton Wilderness which the bears love and I see them there every spring thru my binoculars.

Additional comments on my sightings.

Now easily more then half, but over 200 of the bear sightings were in the Greater Teton, Washakie, Southeast Yellowstone Park - The Southern Absarokas Wilderness Complex Area where I have spent so much time hiking and camping.

The big portion of the bears that I have seen in Yellowstone Park itself have actually been road bears. Most of these are from the years 2000 and 2001. I had a vehicle then and in the spring, in May, I went up to the park to look for bears. I would wake up before light and then get to certain areas and look for bears. And I was really successful. Most of these road bears were seen in two areas with the use of binoculars ... The Lamar Valley area, and the Fishing Bridge, Pelican Creek, and East to The Pahaska Tree area East of the park. So many bears were seen early in the morning or late in the day. At onetime traveling over Sylvan Pass at Night, on the way to Pahaska Tree on the East Entrance to Yellowstone Road, I had a large Grizzly on the road right in front of the car walking down the middle of the road.

Of the bears that I have seen in the Yellowstone Park's backcountry, the majority of these sightings have been in the Southeast part of the park and the Northeast part of the park, with also some near Mammoth. Have never hiked much in the Gallatins in the NW part of the park.

Also when it comes to my Bear sightings ... Season and Place are big. Like how many both Grizzly and Black Bear sightings happened in the spring or early summer down lower along the trails and meadow areas before most people ventured into the wilderness. Then high up near the high peaks areas offtrail during the main summer time of the year. Now many bear sightings were also thru my binoculars. When in the wilderness am always using my binoculars to scan everywhere in sight looking for wildlife and birds. Several places where I have many bear and wolf sightings thru the years is the Sofa Fork Meadows, five or six miles from Turpin Meadows. It is an easy hike in during the spring, much wildlife in the meadows including High bears and wolves. High above on the west is an open slope which I call Bear Mountain where have seen many a Grizzly or Black Bear feeding in the spring. Then the other is up around Yount's Peak, up among the Absaroka Peaks, and along the Continental Divide in the high summer period

Tips to viewing Bears in my opinion ...

1. Early morning or late evening be especially watchful and alert. If have binoculars scan constantly everywhere in sight, eventually you will see some Bears and wildlife.

2. Be especially watchful and vigilant in places and seasons when not many others are around. People seem to displace Bears including Grizzlies.

3. Lamar Valley in the spring with the use of some binoculars can be Great in seeing some years from a distance, again early morning or evening especially. Also the North Fork of the Shoshone Valley near Pahaska Tree in the spring for it greens up here while the nearby mountains are still snow covered. And the area near the lake near Fishing Bridge and Pelican Valley. And then Hayden Valley also. In GTNP grizzly bear #399 is usually in the summer up near the Ochoa Bend, Jacksonn Lake Dam area at times.

4. Use your head, have common sense, give the bears their space that they deserve, respect them!!!!!!

Sorry for the long post. Wishing Everyone the Very Best!
 
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LarryBoy

Hiker Trash
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Joined
Jan 4, 2015
Messages
2,442
Incredibly, I'd never seen a bear prior to 2019. I saw 3 bears that year, 2 black and 1 grizzly, in central/northern Idaho.

In 2020, I saw 10 bears, I believe, all in the GYE:
  • 1 mystery bear in the southern Absarokas near Du Noir Butte
  • 1 grizzly in the central Absarokas near Borner Fork, who decided I'd look much more handsome with a scar on my chest
  • 1 black bear near Sawtooth Mountain in the SE Beartooths
  • 2 grizzlies (momma and cub) on the Lake Fork Plateau
  • 1 mystery bear on the Buffalo Plateau in NW Yellowstone
  • 1 mystery bear in the Spanish Peaks area
  • 3 mystery bears (momma and 2 cubs) atop Goat Flat in the Winds.
Three confirmed grizzlies and 1 confirmed black bear.

I'm fairly confident that the Spanish Peaks bear was a grizzly (though the encounter happened quick enough that I didn't get a great look), and the behavior of the Goat Flat bears (above treeline, in talus, in the fall) suggests grizzly. The others were just really far away - both near/above treeline, but probably 1/4-1/2 mile away, so I just couldn't see them that well.
 

marmot_boi

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Joined
Dec 1, 2020
Messages
86
LarryBoy, those bears you observed on Goat Flat may have been eating army cutworm moths. As far as I know that behavior has never been officially documented in the GYE outside of the Absarokas. Pretty cool sighting, and if they were grizzlies (seems likely), very encouraging as far as grizzly bear population and range expansion goes, especially since moths are the highest calorie food available to grizzlies in the GYE.
 

swmalone

Member
Joined
Apr 27, 2016
Messages
357
Sounds like you need to join a Scatman Trip. :D

I think you might be right. We have been to Yellowstone 5 times, so still a low number compared to a lot of people on here. The first trip was the touristy thermal features, but since then we have been adding longer day hikes trying to explore parts of the backcountry. The closest we have come to seeing a bear was August of 2019. While preparing for a hike someone in the area asked if we had seen the grizzly that was off the road a little way. We had apparently missed it by about 20 minutes.
 

scatman

Member
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Joined
Dec 23, 2013
Messages
1,665
Never seen a grizzly (hopefully this summer in Grand Teton or Yellowstone), but I've seen lots (20 or 30) of black bears in the southeast in the last couple years. The best and most scariest was this past summer with my kids in Big South Fork. My 9 year old son was in front as we were hiking in the morning and he all of a sudden said "Bear". I did not see anything until I came around a large hemlock and there was a young black bear about 10 - 15 feet from me and my son. It was just looking at us as I got the kids behind me and we made some noise and he ambled up the hill. That would have been my best bear photo, but it never occurred to me to reach for my camera :)

My best bear photo is from the car on the road in Banff a couple years ago


Nice shots @wsp_scott!
 

scatman

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Joined
Dec 23, 2013
Messages
1,665
I've never kept a log of my bear sightings/encounters. I know it's better than 10 to one black bears versus grizzles. I'm going to guess we see several black bears a month without leaving our ranch. About a half dozen of those were pretty much face to face but I was only really concerned with two of them. Note: one should not go yelling at a sow and two cubs on the front lawn without a good exit strategy.

I don't know how many grizzlies I have observed in Yellowstone over 70 +years. Quite a few. We have also encountered them in the Lee Metcalf, Beartooth's, and more recently, the Tobacco Root Mountains. Our count on the latter is 4.

I don't loose much sleep over bears either but that isn't saying I'm unprepared.
This one was 25 feet from the back door.


The border collie herding a boar out of the front yard. No fear and I suspect it will eventually get him into a problem he can't solve.
Nice shots @John Goering!
 

scatman

Member
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Joined
Dec 23, 2013
Messages
1,665
Scatman, Thanks for starting this thread and all of your input here in this thread. Now personally I would also be interested in maybe going with you one of your trips into the backcountry. Now here is a reply to some of your questions that you asked. Thanks for your comments. After I retire, might not be around much for plan on just being in the wilds but will try to pop in from time to time.

The years 1981 thru 1997

First off some of the Bear Sightings I had in the 90's were lost. But there were several years in here Yes I did not see any Grizzlies or Bears for that matter. In the middle 90's for a few years, I lived in Seattle for loved the Pacific NW. During that time I did not see hardly any bears. Also remember during this time and these years, the Grizzlies in Yellowstone were far less numerous then they are today. Yes I saw Bears but it was not so easy to see one then as it is today in the GYE in my opinion. Also I have not seen any bears the last couple of years because of my working, but that I do believe is about to change.

Grizzlies versus Black Bears in the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem

Interesting Scstman, that you also have seen less Black Bears in the GYE like myself. Rather there are actually less Black Bears then Grizzlies I can't say, but do think that there are other factors at play here. In the Black Bears that I have seen, they seem to be quite a bit more secretive in my opinion.

One reason is that they are Not on the top of the food chain, for the Grizzly is and they will prey on a small Black Bear. I have seen large Black Bears in the Thorofare who were ever on alert and looking every which way constantly, being on the lookout for Grizzlies. Many of the Black Bears that I have seen were actually not that far from cover and feeding in remote spots, for again remember that they are Not on the top of the food chain in these areas. But have seen them from the lower elevations to high up in the GYE.

Second reason is a big one to consider, which would cause them to again be more secretive. It is that outside Yellowstone and Grand Teton Parks in all three surrounding states, they are hunted. Have met hunters in the spring quite often on a Black Bear hunt. Another thing to consider.

And Scatman, most of my Black Bear sightings actually come from one spot ... Bear Mountain as I call it. A peak right West of the Sofa Fork Meadows in the Teton Wilderness which the bears love and I see them there every spring thru my binoculars.

Additional comments on my sightings.

Now easily more then half, but over 200 of the bear sightings were in the Greater Teton, Washakie, Southeast Yellowstone Park - The Southern Absarokas Wilderness Complex Area where I have spent so much time hiking and camping.

The big portion of the bears that I have seen in Yellowstone Park itself have actually been road bears. Most of these are from the years 2000 and 2001. I had a vehicle then and in the spring, in May, I went up to the park to look for bears. I would wake up before light and then get to certain areas and look for bears. And I was really successful. Most of these road bears were seen in two areas with the use of binoculars ... The Lamar Valley area, and the Fishing Bridge, Pelican Creek, and East to The Pahaska Tree area East of the park. So many bears were seen early in the morning or late in the day. At onetime traveling over Sylvan Pass at Night, on the way to Pahaska Tree on the East Entrance to Yellowstone Road, I had a large Grizzly on the road right in front of the car walking down the middle of the road.

Of the bears that I have seen in the Yellowstone Park's backcountry, the majority of these sightings have been in the Southeast part of the park and the Northeast part of the park, with also some near Mammoth. Have never hiked much in the Gallatins in the NW part of the park.

Also when it comes to my Bear sightings ... Season and Place are big. Like how many both Grizzly and Black Bear sightings happened in the spring or early summer down lower along the trails and meadow areas before most people ventured into the wilderness. Then high up near the high peaks areas offtrail during the main summer time of the year. Now many bear sightings were also thru my binoculars. When in the wilderness am always using my binoculars to scan everywhere in sight looking for wildlife and birds. Several places where I have many bear and wolf sightings thru the years is the Sofa Fork Meadows, five or six miles from Turpin Meadows. It is an easy hike in during the spring, much wildlife in the meadows including High bears and wolves. High above on the west is an open slope which I call Bear Mountain where have seen many a Grizzly or Black Bear feeding in the spring. Then the other is up around Yount's Peak, up among the Absaroka Peaks, and along the Continental Divide in the high summer period

Tips to viewing Bears in my opinion ...

1. Early morning or late evening be especially watchful and alert. If have binoculars scan constantly everywhere in sight, eventually you will see some Bears and wildlife.

2. Be especially watchful and vigilant in places and seasons when not many others are around. People seem to displace Bears including Grizzlies.

3. Lamar Valley in the spring with the use of some binoculars can be Great in seeing some years from a distance, again early morning or evening especially. Also the North Fork of the Shoshone Valley near Pahaska Tree in the spring for it greens up here while the nearby mountains are still snow covered. And the area near the lake near Fishing Bridge and Pelican Valley. And then Hayden Valley also. In GTNP grizzly bear #399 is usually in the summer up near the Ochoa Bend, Jacksonn Lake Dam area at times.

4. Use your head, have common sense, give the bears their space that they deserve, respect them!!!!!!

Sorry for the long post. Wishing Everyone the Very Best!

Thanks for the additional information @Kmatjhwy. You know that you always have an open invitation to join me on any of my trips. Have you definitively decided yet when you will be heading into the backcountry this spring?
 

Kmatjhwy

Wilderness Wanderer
Joined
Sep 23, 2016
Messages
536
Scstman, Yes I have. Now will be posting on this soon. But am leaving work and retiring in less then two weeks, two weeks from last Friday. Then will be leaving where have been wintering and staying at the end of March. Then hiking and biking this spring and probably going into the Wilds come May. But after I retire it will be hiking, wandering about, living with the land, and bike touring about. There is a lot of Wild and Remote Country out there.
 
Joined
Jan 18, 2014
Messages
23
Well, thank ya very much Scatman! I too have those thots you had regarding grizzlies choosin my tent ta maul over th other tents in camp( that’s why I try n make my tent nowadays unappeticing). Tonight I hope th ninja grizzlies don’t break into th house here in central Texas.
I’ve never seen a griz in th backcountry....but seen 20 or so from th roadside. I did ask a black bear that was walkin 50 ft over from th trail to please stop n look my way n pose for me if it was ok to get a pic of him...he stopped, I took a few photos, 20 seconds hadgone by, so I told him thanks brother, he then turned his head and sauntered on his way.

Now backcountry encounters with skunks....those are horrifying.
 

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