You’ll see signs like this (and others) that remind you, at nearly every turn, that you’re in a land of bears, both black and grizzly bears (see photos below). The entire Greater Yellowstone Area (Yellowstone National Park and the surrounding Grand Teton National Park and numerous National Forests and lands) is bear country but there are definitely better places – and times of the day – to see them.
Yet, having been to Yellowstone over a dozen times and even having the good fortune to go camping with my dad for 2 weeks in the back country a few times as a kid, I had yet to ever see a bear – black or grizzly. On those camping trips with my dad, we’d be 2 days on horse back into the back country and we’d wake up to grizzly bear tracks through our camp and even see signs of bears out on our hikes, but yet we never saw the actual bear.
In Mike’s many visits to Great Smoky Mountains National Park and even Alaska, he’s seen many bears. Last year on our trip to Yellowstone, neither of us saw a bear. So this year on our trip to Yellowstone, armed with our new cameras, we went bear hunting. We learned where the best places might be to see them and set out on our journey.
Before we go any further, do you know… what is the most important piece of equipment you should have with you when you’re in bear country?
(psst…it’s not camera equipment!)
THE MOST IMPORTANT PIECE OF EQUIPMENT YOU SHOULD HAVE WITH YOU IN BEAR COUNTRY, EVEN IF YOU AREN’T “TRYING” TO SEE A BEAR IS…… Bear Spray!!!!!!
Bear Spray is a must, must, must! Bear Spray is more effective than a gun in deterring a bear and saving your life! Why? Because a gun doesn’t stop a bear right away and they’ll be even more aggressive. Bear Spray completely messes up their thought process, their sense of smell and their desire to eliminate you as a threat. AND the bear will move on and recover. Win-Win!! With the increase in bear activity in the northern National Parks, Mike and I BOTH carry a can of Bear Spray – always. You can use it for self defense in other situations at home as well (but you cannot take it on an airplane so if you buy it on your trip and you are flying, you can donate it to a fellow traveler before your trip home!)
So….how does one go about finding bears in Yellowstone? Ask around about “bear sightings.” Ask the people you see who have the HUGE camera lenses – they are often guides or pros who frequent the area and they’re usually “in-the-know.” Stay alert and look around. Early morning and dusk are sometimes the best times to see wildlife, including bears. Ask Park Rangers for tips on seeing bears. But don’t forget our recommendation on the most important piece of equipment you need to have when searching for bears! See above for the answer.
We asked around, found a pro photographer with one of those monster lenses who was shooting pics of wolves in Hayden Valley and we asked him “where is a good place to see grizzly bears?” He gave us some pointers on where to go at that time (it will be different every year and every day) and we set off to those locations.
So, did we see a bear in Yellowstone?
YES! We had the amazing good fortune to see 13 grizzly bears at once in the same field!