Grizzly Bear

Grizzly Bear, Yellowstone National Park

A mother grizzly bear walks through the south end of Swan Lake Flat.
A mother grizzly walks through sage.

A well-known place in Yellowstone to look for grizzlies is a large open area called Swan Lake Flat.  It is especially good for seeing grizzly sows with cubs.  I have often seen grizzlies there, but they have always been too far away for good photos.

In May 2015 I got lucky.  I was approaching the flat from the south when I saw a flash of brown out of the corner of my eye.  I stopped and saw a mother grizzly with two two year old cubs walking parallel to the road about 75 yards away.   Unfortunately, they were heading in the opposite direction.  By the time I got the car turned around they had disappeared into some trees.  I drove to a spot that looked like it would be a good place to wait for them and got ready.

As luck would have it, after a minute or two I noticed that there was a very young elk calf between me and where I hoped the bears would pass.  It was standing in a little clump of trees.  Hmm.  Bears love elk calves.  In fact, grizzlies and black bears kill about 50% of the calf crop each year.  What if they see/smell the calf and charge toward it (and me)?  That’s as far as I got in my thinking when the bears came into view.  They didn’t detect the calf and kept going.  The calf got to live another day and I got my photo.


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