In 1991, researcher John Duffield of the University of Montana, asked visitors to Yellowstone National Park what animal they’d like to see most on their summer vacation in the park. The answer by a wide margin was the mighty bear–the grizzly. Down the list a ways was a long-absent fellow predator, the wolf.
In 1995, the wolf returned to Yellowstone, and the popularity of this canid rose a bit on Duffield’s list in subsequent years. Today, people come from all over the world to see the wolves of Yellowstone. But the grizzly is still king of the mountain and still king of the list. In 1999, Duffield again asked Yellowstone’s visitors what animal they’d like to see. The wolf had come up a bit, all the way to second-most sought after critter. But still number one, and still by a wide margin, was the mighty grizzly.
Today’s visitor to Yellowstone National Park has an excellent chance of making that observation possible. Bears are seen many places in the park, particularly during the spring when elk or bison that have died from the severe winter or been killed by wolves can be seen in such places as the Lamar Valley. Carcasses of big game attract bears, and biologists have tracked bears that have come right out of hibernation and directly to a wolf or winter-kill. Spring is an excellent time to see bears, but bears can also be seen during other times of the year. Since much of the park’s best bear habitat has seasonal closures to protect both bears and humans, make sure you are familiar with the regulations before embarking into the backcountry in search of a bear observation.
It’s very important to remember that bears are dangerous animals. Bears have killed people in the park, so if you do see a bear from the road, make sure you remain in your car as you observe the animal from a safe distance.