Yellowstone Bears

Bears are one of the most sought-after sights in Yellowstone National Park. Here are some quick facts.

What’s the difference between a grizzly and a black bear?

Grizzlies have a hump on their upper back, a rump lower than their shoulders, a rough of long fur and long claws. Males weigh between 200 and 700 pounds, while females weigh between 200 and 400 pounds. The bears are surprisingly fast, able to run up to 45 miles per hour, and climb trees, although their weight makes this getting up high somewhat difficult. They live up to 30 years. South of Canada, large populations of grizzlies are only found in the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem and northwest Montana. A single bear will roam over hundreds of square miles.

Black bears are smaller than grizzlies, with males weighing between 210 and 315 pounds and females weighing between 135 and 200 pounds. They eat rodents, insects, elk calves, cutthroat trout, pine nuts, grasses and other vegetation and have short, curved claws, making them expert climbers. Yellowstone is one of the few areas south of Canada where black bears coexist with grizzlies.

What are the odds of seeing a bear on your Yellowstone visit?

Not too bad. Visitors reported more than 40,000 bear sightings between 1980 and 2011. Most grizzly sightings occur at night, dawn and dusk during the spring and early summer. Grizz are most often seen in the Lamar Valley, Gardiners Hole, Antelope Creek meadows, Dunraven Pass, Hayden Valley, and in the wet meadows along the East Entrance Road from Fishing Bridge to the East Entrance of the park. Hoping to see a black bear? Your odds of seeing these smaller bears improve during the daytime, especially when you’re in the northern part of the park along the road between Elk Creek and Tower Falls, on the stretch from Mammoth Hot Springs north to Indian Creek, or in the Bechler region in Yellowstone’s southwest corner.

Should I be afraid of bears?

Between 1980 and 2011 more than 90 million people visited Yellowstone and only 43 people were injured by bears within park boundaries. That means the odds of being injured by a bear are roughly 1 in 2.1 million. The odds are considerably lower if you don’t leave park developments or roadsides; however, the odds increase when you’re hiking in the backcountry, so take proper precautions:

- Hike in groups of 3 or more people
– Stay alert
– Make noise in areas with low visibility
– Carry bear spray
– Don’t run during a bear encounter

Do your part to keep bears away from roadsides, campsites and picnic areas by securing camp groceries and garbage cans and never offering them food handouts.

Learn More About Yellowstone Bears by Reading the Articles Below

Grizzly Bear in Yellowstone Park

Bear Hibernation and Reemergence in Yellowstone

When do the Yellowstone bears hibernate and when do they wake and come out of their dens? See photos and watch a video. Read More...

25 minute old elk calf at Mammoth Hot Springs. Photo by NPS Jim Peaco

Cute Baby Animals of Yellowstone!

If capturing a glimpse of wobbling baby elk and furry baby black bears is on your bucket list, plan to head to Yellowstone National Park between April and June. Read More...

Entrance to Yellowstone Bear World. Photo by Flickr Julien THEfunkyman

Drive Through Yellowstone Bear World Near Rexburg, ID

All kinds of animals—including wolves, elk, deer, mountain goats, bears and bison—roam throughout this outdoor playground, which you can see from the comfort of your own car. Read More...

A black bear approaching a vehicle on the road in Yellowstone, June 1967. A common sight at the time, in the years before efforts were made to keep bears and humans more distant. Photo by Jonathan Schilling via Wikimedia Commons

Feeding the Bears – A Trip Down Memory Lane

Back in the early 1960s, my family took that quintissential American vacation to Yellowstone National Park. It was a memorable adventure and quite different from Saturday morning cartoon fare of Yogi, Boo-boo and Mr. Ranger at Jellystone Park. Read More...

Grizzly Bear and Wolf. Photo NPS Doug Smith

Gray wolves and grizzly bears don’t share well in Yellowstone National Park

Yellowstone wolves and grizzly bears both kill and eat elk, but they don’t like to share their food. Usually the big bear wins out. Read More...


Great Wyoming Bear Stories Book

If you’re going to Yellowstone National Park and will camp or hike in bear country, this book can shed light on bear behavior and provide precautions. Read More...

West Yellowstone Grizzly & Wolf Discovery Center. Photo by John Williams.

Grizzly & Wolf Discovery Center

Complete your vacation to Yellowstone and Grand Teton national parks by visiting the not-for-profit Grizzly & Wolf Discovery Center in West Yellowstone, Montana. Observe live bears and wolves in naturalistic habitats. Read More...

Grizzly bears tests trash can. Photo: YouTube

Grizzly & Wolf Discovery Center Tests Bear Canisters

What’s the best way to test a bear canister? Recruit a bear to try to open it. Read More...

yellowstone wildlife bear

Grizzly Bear Facts

The number of grizzly bears that roamed between the Pacific Ocean and the Great Plains, during Lewis & Clark Expedition, 200 years ago… Read More...


Grizzly Bears Eat 40,000 Moths a Day In August in Yellowstone

Bears climb high above timberline in Yellowstone National Park to feed on moths that come from farmland many miles away. Read More...

Grizzly bear on bison carcass near Yellowstone Lake. Photo: NPS Jim Peaco

Grizzly Bears Turn to Wolf Kills

Grizzly bears in the Yellowstone ecosystem appear to be benefiting from the wolves’ presence in the region. How? Thanks to the wolves, there are more carcasses on which to feed. Read More...

Bison herd with two calves. Photo by Jerry Gates

How close can I get to wild animals in Yellowstone?

Stay at least 100 yards away from bears and wolves and at least 25 yards away from other large mammals like bison, elk, bighorn sheep, deer, moose and coyotes. Read More...

Grizzly bear by lake

How many people get killed by bears? Will I be eaten by a bear?

Although both black bears and grizzlies have a fearsome reputation for scratching or mauling people to death, attacks rarely occur, and deaths are even chancer. Read More...

Whitebark Pine

Important Food Source for Grizzly Bears In Trouble

A history of fire suppression, rampant insect infestation, an invasive fungal plague, and global warning adds up to likely extinction for the whitebark pine, and serious trouble for the species that depend on it – in particular, the grizzly bears of the Northern Rockies. Read More...

Garbage Dump for Bear Show

No More “Bear Shows,” Garbage Dumps

Today, it would be unheard of for people to intentionally feed bears but in the early 1900s it was common practice. Read More...

Yellowstone Grizzly Bear in Fall

Precautions to Take in Yellowstone Bear Country

Ahhhh. You turn a corner – only to find yourself way too close to a real-live bear! It turns to look at you, almost in slow motion, and you freeze… Read More...

Grizzly Bear at Swan Lake Flats. Photo by NPS Jim Peaco

Should Grizzly Bears be Delisted?

There are all kinds of answers to the question of whether the grizzly bear in the lower 48 states is doing well enough to no longer require federal protection under the Endangered Species Act. The answers depend on who you ask. Read More...


Studying Grizzly Activity

How will an increase in grizzly population will affect campgrounds in the park? Read More...

How to Hold Bear Spray. Photo NPS Diane Renkin

The Kind of Bear Spray You Use Matters

As a visitor to the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem, you’re naturally curious about bears. You’d like to see bears, but not up close and A charging grizzly bear is NOT the same thing as a mugger on a street corner, or even a charging pit bull. A grizzly bear can weigh up to 1,000 pounds and can outrun an Olympic sprinter, so you need a “bear” pepper spray deterrent that’s up to the job. Read More...


Tips for Photographing Bears

As frequent visitors to the parks can testify, a lot of animals have developed a high tolerance to roads and vehicles – much to the delight of millions of visitors who view and photograph bison, elk, antelope and deer, as well as predators such as wolves, coyotes, black bears and grizzly bears. Read More...

Gift Shop at Yellowstone Bear World. Photo by Flickr Julien THEfunkyman

Visit a Zoo on Your Way to Yellowstone

Zoos are a great way to see and learn about both native and exotic animals during your Yellowstone vacation. Many of the major towns in the greater Yellowstone region have a zoo. Read More...

Black bear near Indian Creek Campground in Yellowstone. Photo by Frank Madia

What Do Yellowstone Bears Eat?

Bears are omnivores. That means they eat both meat and plants. But bears also have seasonal needs for food based on a hibernation period. Read More...


What to Do If You Encounter a Bear at Yellowstone National Park

If you encounter a bear, do not run. Bears can run over 30 miles per hour, or 44 feet per second, faster than Olympic sprinters. Running may provoke an attack from bears. Remain still if charged, backing away slowly. Read More...


Where to See Bears in Yellowstone

From 1980 to 2005, over 37,000 bear sightings from Park visitors have been reported to park managers… Read More...

Black bear crossing the road in Yellowstone. Photo by NPS Jim Peaco.

Yellowstone Bear Jams on Roads

When Yellowstone National Park visitors behave appropriately around roadside bears it’s a positive experience for both bears and people. Read More...


Yellowstone Bears Hunt For Chow

In addition to the loss of habitat by the rapid development occurring in the Yellowstone National Park ecosystem, bear researchers are concerned that several important food sources for bears are also in trouble. Read More...

Yellowstone Wolf Howl

Yellowstone Bears Usurp Wolves’ Dinner But Wolves Get Pesky

Yellowstone wolves try to outwit powerful grizzlies and black bears by making them miserable through stalking and biting as the bears steal their food. Read More...


Yellowstone Grizzly Bears Enjoying Food Killed by Wolves

With the reintroduction of wolves into Yellowstone National Park, the park’s bear population has gained an unexpected ally in the hunt for food. Read More...


Yellowstone Grizzly Population at Risk of Decline

Researchers believe there are fewer grizzlies in Yellowstone than previously estimated. Are there enough for the bears to be taken off the endangered species list? Read More...