Save the Grizzlies
The grizzly bear is typically larger than the black bear and has a large muscle mass above its shoulders; a concave, rather than straight or convex, facial profile; and its behavior is much more aggressive. The grizzly bear is a subspecies of brown bear that once roamed large swaths of the mountains and prairies of the American West. Today, the grizzly bear remains in a few isolated locations in the lower 48 states, including Yellowstone. In coastal Alaska and Eurasia, the grizzly bear is known as the brown bear. Visitors should be aware that all bears are potentially dangerous. Park regulations require that people stay at least 100 yards (91 m) from bears (unless safely in your car as a bear moves by). Bears need your concern not your food; it is against the law to feed any park wildlife, including bears. The Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem and northwest Montana are the only areas south of Canada that still have large grizzly bear (Ursus arctos horribilis) populations. Grizzly bears were federally listed in the lower 48 states as a threatened species in 1975 due to unsustainable levels of human-caused mortality, habitat loss, and significant habitat alteration. Grizzly bears may range over hundreds of square miles, and the potential for conflicts with human activities, especially when human food is present, makes the presence of a viable grizzly population a continuing challenge for its human neighbors in the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem. Numbers in Yellowstone Approximately 150 with home ranges wholly or partially in the park. As of 2016, 690 estimated in greater Yellowstone. Where to See Dawn and dusk in the Hayden and Lamar valleys, on the north slopes of Mt. Washburn, and from Fishing Bridge to the East Entrance. Size and Behavior Males weigh 200–700 pounds, females weigh 200–400 pounds; adults stand about 31⁄2 feet at the shoulder. May live 15–30 years. Grizzly bears are generally 11⁄2 to 2 times larger than black bears of the same sex and age class within the same geographic region, and they have longer, more curved claws. Lifetime home range: male, 800–2,000 square miles, female, 300–550 square miles. Agile; can run up to 40 mph. Can climb trees, but curved claws and weight make this difficult. Can also swim and run up and downhill. Adapted to life in forest and meadows. Food includes rodents, insects, elk calves, cutthroat trout, roots, pine nuts, grasses, and large mammals. Mate in spring, but implantation of embryos is delayed until fall; gives birth in the winter; to 1–3 cubs. Considered super hibernators. A behavioral note: Are grizzly bears overly attracted to menstrual odors? The question whether menstruating women attract bears has not been completely answered. While there is no evidence that grizzly bears are overly attracted to menstrual odors more than any other odor and there is no statistical evidence that known bear attacks have been related to menstruation, certain precautions should be taken to reduce the risks of attack. The following precautions are recommended: Use pre-moistened, unscented cleaning towelettes. Use internal tampons instead of external pads. Do not bury tampons or pads (pack it in – pack it out). A bear may smell buried tampons or pads and dig them up. By providing bears a small food “reward,” this action may attract bears to other menstruating women. Place all used tampons, pads, and towelettes in double zip-loc baggies and store them unavailable to bears, just as you would store food. This means hung at least 10 feet above the ground and 4 feet from the tree trunk. Tampons can be burned in a campfire, but remember that it takes a very hot fire and considerable time to completely burn them. Any charred remains must be removed from the fire pit and stored with your other garbage. Many feminine products are heavily scented. Use only unscented or lightly scented items. Cosmetics, perfumes, and deodorants are unnecessary and may act as an attractant to bears. Status The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service removed the grizzly bear population in the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem from the federal threatened species list in 2017. Read Grizzly Bears & the Endangered Species Act to learn more. Scientists and managers believe the grizzly population is doing well. Grizzlies are raising cubs in nearly all portions of the greater Yellowstone area and dispersing into new habitat. Currently, they occupy 20,522 square miles in the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem. Population The estimated Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem grizzly bear population increased from 136 in 1975 to an estimated 757 in 2014, and then declined to 690 bears in 2016. The bears have gradually expanded their occupied habitat by more than 50%. As monitored by the Interagency Grizzly Bear Study Team, the criteria used to determine whether the population within the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem has recovered include estimated population size, distribution of females with cubs, and mortality rates. An estimated 150 grizzly bears occupy ranges that lie partly or entirely within Yellowstone. The number of females producing cubs in the park has remained relatively stable since 1996, suggesting that the park may be at or near ecological carrying capacity for grizzly bears. There were 58 known and probable grizzly bear mortalities in the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem in 2016. Thirty-eight were attributed to human causes. Four were of undetermined cause, 4 were natural deaths, and 14 were still under investigation at the time of this printing. One human conflict with grizzly bears occurred inside the park in 2016, when a grizzly obtained garbage from a broken bear-resistant dumpster. There were no grizzly or black bear attacks on people in the park in 2016. Three grizzly bears were known to have died in 2016, a 19-year-old male was killed by a vehicle, a 25-year-old male died of complications of old age, and a cub was killed by another bear. Where are the bears? People who visited Yellowstone prior to the 1970s often remember seeing bears along roadsides and within developed areas of the park. Although observing these bears was very popular with park visitors, it was not good for people or bears. In 1970, the park initiated an intensive bear management program to return the grizzly and black bears to feeding on natural food sources and to reduce bear-caused human injuries and property damage. The measures included installing bear-proof garbage cans and closing garbage dumps in the park. Bears are still seen near roads and they may be seen occasionally in the wild. Grizzly bears are active primarily at dawn, dusk, and night. In spring, they may be seen around Yellowstone Lake, Fishing Bridge, Hayden and Lamar valleys, Swan Lake Flats, and the East Entrance. In mid-summer, they are most commonly seen in the meadows between Tower–Roosevelt and Canyon, and in the Hayden and Lamar valleys. Black bears are most active at dawn and dusk, and sometimes during the middle of the day. Look for black bears in open spaces within or near forested areas. Black bears are most commonly observed between Mammoth, Tower, and the Northeast Entrance.