Where Are All the Yellowstone Bears Now?

This is a question rangers must hear several times a day, since for at least 50 years, you were guaranteed the opportunity to see black bears along the roads and grizzly bears at the hotel garbage dumps. This situation led to lots of interaction between people and bears, and bears injured nearly 50 people each year. In response to the problems with bears and concern about the possible extinction of the grizzly bear, the park changed its policies. The park closed dumps where bears had fed, began using bear-proof garbage cans, and strongly cautioned visitors against feeding bears or leaving unsecured food in their campsites. Park management also set aside Bear Management Areas, closed to humans (explained further on 132). With all these actions Yellowstone has learned to educate and manage the people rather than the bears.

As a result of these actions, a dramatic reduction of bear/human confrontations ensued. In recent years, there have been very few injuries, and very few bears have had to be relocated or killed. So the answer to: Where are all the bears? is that they’re still here and fending for themselves very nicely. You’re less likely to see grizzlies than black bears near the roads in the summertime, since they often find their favorite foods at higher altitudes away from human populations. They’re most likely to be living in roadless parts of the Hayden, upper Lamar, and Pelican valleys. You’ll see black bears somewhat more often, especially within a few miles of Tower-Roosevelt Junction, but also west to Mammoth Hot Springs and sometimes around Old Faithful and Madison.

Where Are All the Yellowstone Bears Now? Photo Gallery

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