“Folks, please step closer to the bear so you don’t get hit by a car.”
“Well, that’s a first!”, a fellow photographer chuckled as we happily inched closer to the grizzly. I have to hand it to Yellowstone National Park Rangers working crowd and traffic control at wildlife sightings where humans often seem wilder than the animals! Cars stop abruptly in the middle of the road blocking both lanes while tourists run in front of moving vehicles and sit precariously on car window ledges with cameras in hand. It can truly be a Cirque de Survive! The rules are simple: stay a safe distance away from wildlife and off the roadway. Luckily, at this sighting, we got a front row view of a hungry, young grizzly foraging for food.
“What are we looking at?”
…Greg asked when we happened upon another crowd-fest. “Grizzlies on a carcass across the river!” We hiked through the forest, sinking knee deep into the snow to the river bank. Ravenous from winter hibernation, this grizzly munched for hours on a bison carcass uninterested in the enamored audience watching his every move.
Once upon a time…
..there were three tiny black bear cubs napping peacefully high in a tree. A large camera-faced crowd (including us!) waited for the babies to wake up.
Mama bear foraged for food then disappeared into the woods.
All of sudden a boar (male bear) raced out of the forest chased by Mama bear. Within seconds he crossed the meadow and scrambled 40 feet up a tree! Mama stood guard at the tree base for a few minutes before letting him come down and retreat across the road. “Did you see that?!”, the crowd gasped. We just witnessed Mama bear protecting her cubs and the terrifying reality of how fast bears can run! Finally, the babies woke and climbed down to play in the meadow. What a treat to see them chase each other around a tree, wrestle, tumble and climb. They looked like huggable little aliens rather than bears!
We encountered this bear family several times and one rainy morning Greg captured this tender moment between Mama and the smallest cub.
“I want to find my own bear!”
I whined, “Instead of happening upon someone else’s!” Moments later I saw a black bear across the river near a bison herd. “There’s another one!”, I almost shouted. Bear 2 ran over a hill and joined his sister in the meadow. Too far away for a good photo but my own find nonetheless and a crowd starter! If my bear find was too far away, Greg’s was a bit too close. Solo black bear crossed right in front of our car making us stop in the road while he plodded to the other side. We watched him snack in a wildflower carpeted meadow. What a way to spend a sunny afternoon!
How to find bears….
Seeing bears in Yellowstone requires time in the park, patience, luck and knowing when and where bears hang out. We visited their favorite haunts frequently but often came home bear-less Other days we just happened upon them….a black bear leisurely scratching his back on a tree and snacking on berries, a grizzly rolling in the meadows claws up, a cub napping on a tree branch close to the road, a huge grizzly swimming across the river sinking through ice and snow as he climbed up the bank.
On our last day in Yellowstone, the park delivered an encore bear performance. Mama grizzly and her 1 to 2 year old cub grazed close to the road meandering along for 1/4 mile offering great photo opportunities before crossing the road and vanishing into the forest.