Monday, May 31, 2021

More Grizzlies in Grand Teton National Park, May 27, 2021

It had been a busy week since we had last been looking for bears and so Renita packed a picnic lunch, and we loaded our cameras and binoculars into the car. It takes about an hour and a half to reach the park boundaries and we entered at the Moose Entrance Station.

Just past the Taggert Lake Trailhead we saw our first traffic jam. This time it was the cow moose that we had seen before. She was laying down and seemed unconcerned by all the people, many of whom were way too close, less than twenty-five yards. We watched a safe distance and took photos.

Continuing on we passed spots where we had seen bears before, but this time we drew a blank and it was not until we almost reached the Colter Bay turnoff that the road was blocked by a huge bear jam. Renita found us a good parking spot and after locking the car we walked along the shoulder until we saw a grizzly bear.

As we took images another grizzly bear appeared, this one almost black in color but you could easily spot the pronounced hump and the characteristic ear shape which are two ways to id a grizzly.

As we stood there the bears turned toward us and while stopping to feed on the yellow flowers, continued until they got to close.

At that point, the Park Ranger yelled at our crowd that it was time to back up and as bears continued heading our way, he twice told us to backup, before the bears turned and attempted to cross the road. Another ranger showed up with her sirens blaring and her lights flashing.  That did the trick, and the bears crossed the road and hurried into the woods.

Anytime you see a bear is a good day and this time we were lucky to see two subadult grizzlies. Note the claws! It was said that these two had been kicked out by their mom, just this spring.

It was the first time we had seen these bears and in the month of May, we have seen thirteen different grizzlies and one black bear, (we see more black bears in the fall). The crowd dissipated and returning to our car we drove north to Sargent Picnic area.

Turning around we checked out Leeks Marina, Colter Bay, before stopping for lunch at Pilgrim Creek. Hoping to spot a bear, none appeared but a coyote did show up along the edge of the forest.

One man yelled, “It’s a wolf”, and a little later another person said it is a red fox. I mentioned it is a coyote and moved closer taking lots of pictures.

It seemed unconcerned and hunted for a meal. At several spots it stopped as it heard prey in the grass but never pounced on an unsuspecting mouse, vole, or shrew.  It finally disappeared into the forest, and we drove on.

At the Willow Flats we saw quite a few cow elk feeding. Its time for them to calve and they use this area to hide their calves from bears, which love fresh elk, (Two years ago we watched as a bear fed on a calf elk before it cached its kill, (That time the mother of the calf approached, and the bear stopped to hunt the cow, but the elk finally retreated from the hunting grizzly).

A bald eagle soared overhead, and I did take an image of it as it hunted.

We next stopped at the Oxbow where a muskrat fed before returning to its house. From there we drove across the dam and saw another wildlife traffic jam. Rolling down the window I asked a man what he had seen, and he said a caribou.

Knowing there are no caribou in the park we pulled over and walked down the road until we spotted a huge bull elk resting in the shade.

It was time to go and so we headed back to Moose. On the way we spotted the red fox that we had seen on the last trip. If you go to a park there are some things you need to know:


Always park so that your vehicle is outside the white painted line. Never approach within twenty-five yards of buffalo, elk, deer, big horn sheep and keep at least one hundred yards away from bears, wolves, and mountain lions, (anything that can eat you).

Drone flying is illegal! Tell them they may be arrested. Take their picture and one of their license plates. 

There have been fights reported between people as they jockey for position, do not be an idiot! When asked what you are watching, share what you are seeing with others and do not put out chairs to block others from parking spots. There is no saving spots for your friends.

 If you run into a jerk take their picture and one of their license plates and post it on social media. No one is entitled, it is a National Park for everyone.

Do not feed the wildlife!

Finally obey the bear volunteers and park rangers. Thank them for the job they do in keeping the bears and us safe. Clear skies



Monday, May 24, 2021

Our first sighting of bear 399 and her cubs, May 18th 2021


Our neighbors, Fred and Becky are just as crazy as we are about seeing wildlife and birds. So, we invited them to join us as we headed over to Grand Teton National Park looking for bear 399. The plan was to take two vehicles so when one spotted a bear the other could phone the location.

Entering the park, we drove along the Teton Park road and did not see any bears. A moose walked out of the Willows and posed for pictures.

It was our first moose of the year and so we took its image. Stopping at the Potholes we discussed the plan and decided that Renita and I would drive up Signal Mountain and glass for bears while they would continue on to Pilgrim Creek. We agreed to call each other.

Renita and I headed up Signal Mountain road and after a winding drive, not recommended for anyone with acrophobia, reached the parking lot at the top. As usual a crew was working on the cell tower at the top and we walked past them heading to the open area to glass the land below.

Not spotting any bears, Renita did spot two herds of buffalo plodding along in the sagebrush below. I took several pictures and zoomed in with our 600mm telephoto lens. They still looked tiny. Returning to the car we headed back down and as we neared the bottom of the mountain lines of cars passed us going back uphill.

At one spot cars were parking and so Renita stopped as our cell phones both pinged with an incoming message. Just past the Signal Mountain turnoff Fred and Becky had run into a giant bear jam and they pulled over to watch bear 399 and her cubs feeding on a grassy hillside.

Now the message had reached us after they sent another text telling us that the bears had headed into the trees and were no longer visible. Renita dropped me off as there were quite a few others who said that the bears often crossed the road near where we were parked. Hoping to spot the bears I stayed there, and Renita continued on looking for the bear family.

As I stood there, four of the cars loaded up and took off after they received a phone call saying the bears had moved again. I texted Renita but she never got my message. My phone pinged again as Fred and Becky had driven on to the Leeks Marina looking for other bears.

We looked for Fred and Becky everywhere but never did see them again. As it was noon, we stopped at Sargent Picnic area and enjoyed the view but did not see any wildlife. After lunch we headed back down past Pilgrim creek, (nothing there). Reaching Willow Flats, we spotted a herd of cow elk getting ready to cross the road. A Canadian goose flew by and I got a great shot as it passed, with Signal Mountain in the background.

Willow Flats is a place where cow elk calve, and the grizzly bears hunt the newborn calves. One of the cows wore a radio collar and while we watched them a coyote ran across the road.

I did not get a chance to take its picture and we headed back south on Teton Park Road. Past Signal Mountain Road, a few cars were stopped, and people were glassing an area eat of the road. Renita pulled over, and we both rushed to where they were pointing. Reaching the edge of a large field of tall sagebrush. I quickly spotted 399 and her cubs.

The bears were over five hundred yards away and I took picture after picture hoping to be able to have one good enough to display them. A Park bear safety volunteer asked where the bears were and when I told him how far away, they were and said he did not need to be there and left.

The sagebrush was so tall that the year-old cubs often disappeared from sight, (we only spotted three of the four cubs as one has developed an independent streak and often leaves the others, typical of a young male grizzly).

Renita and I were happy to have finally spotted the bears and we watched as they disappeared into the trees. They were still heading south and so we went back to the car and drove to the next clearing where we parked and took a stand. The bears never came into the clearing and the only excitement was watching a robin as it watched us form a pine treetop

. Driving further we saw quite a few cars at the Potholes, (another name for glacial kettles), but no bears and so we headed back toward Moose.

As we neared Moose a fox moved through the trees and then turned toward us. Renita pulled over and the fox walked up to our car and stopped, we think it has been fed. 
It crossed the road and finally trotted out of our view, (we do not believe in wildlife welfare and never feed animals, fed animals are captured and euthanized).

Becky texted us to say they were heading home, and we decided to also head home. It had been a great day with lots of wildlife and our first sighting of bear 399, (the opening picture is one Fred took while we were on top of Signal Mountain, he agreed for our use of his image). Clear skies

Wednesday, May 19, 2021

A Grizzly Bear family on Towgotee Pass, Spring 2021. An Accident waiting to happen.


Renita had dropped me off at the parking area and then continued on to see where the bear was located. We agreed that she would then turn around and park in the pull off. I walked over to a group of photographers and asked where the bear was, and one said the bear was down the hillside.

So, I decided to walk along the berm hoping to get to a position where I could see the bear for a few photos. I took a picture of the bear tracks in the snow. As I walked, I looked to my side and suddenly saw the top of the bears back. It was too close to take any photos and I froze for a few seconds making sure the grizzly was not looking at me.

I then continued on past the bear and joined another group of photographers. Soon the bear emerged and then her two coys, cubs of the year. She was a famous, or should I say infamous bear that has stayed along the highway and endangered herself, her cubs, and the traffic.

I took a bunch of images as she and her cubs disappeared into a small copse of trees. It was the closest I have ever been to a grizzly bear and I hope I never get that close again. Meanwhile Renita and Val approached me and told ne that they had taken photos.

The grizzlies were out of sight and so we headed back to the car. Quite a few others were setting up their equipment and hoping the sow, (known locally as Felecia), would appear by the parking area. Someone yelled, “She crossed the road, and a rush of people ran across the snowbank.

One person punched through the deep snow and fell but was unhurt. A Clark's Nutcracker posed while we were waiting for the bears to emerge from the trees.

It was a false alarm and so we returned to our vigil. It was not long before the cubs appeared playing with each other and the person next to me whispered that if everyone stayed quiet, she would reappear in front of us.

When she did, she was so close that everyone picked up their equipment and moved out of her way.

We put several parked cars between us and her cubs and started to take more images. Others were around us and quite a few moved to another hillside, trying to intersect her as she neared the road.

She continued on past us and then started to dig plants, or tubers between us and the other bear watchers. She and her cubs ignored us, mostly, although one of the cubs stood up, while the other kept playing with his stick.

He would drop it for a bit and then return to pick it up as a chew toy.

The sow and her cubs were so close to the other photographers that we wondered why they did not move.

Luckily, she seemed at ease with all the people and started to move back down the hill.

We decided we had enough images of her and her cubs and so loaded up and headed back home.

It had been a great chance to watch her and her cubs, but I doubt if we will return to watch her.

Something bad is going to happen and as we watched a pickup truck roar by the crowd and laid on its horn, an accident waiting to happen. It did not slow down.

Clear skies

Ps I am taking these images with a 150-600 mm telephoto lens but we were still too close, at least we were behind cars.

The Highway Patrol, Wyoming Game and Fish Department. Large Carnivore specialist, and Bridger Teton National Forest are taking steps to alleviate the problem. This includes ticketing people parked illegally, (parking is only allowed in the designated pull offs), and hazing the bears away from the road. Let us hope it works. 

Saturday, May 15, 2021

Grand Teton National Park, Three bears in one day! May 9th, 2021

It was Mother’s Day, and Renita wanted to go to the park for a day of bear watching. We had already been to the park twice before and on May 1st had spotted a Grizzly bear at Pilgrim Creek, (or should we say we spotted the bear jam and then the bear).

As we entered the park, we passed several roads and before we saw people getting out of their cars. As we slowly drove past them Renita yelled out black bear and so we found a safe parking spot, (you must be off the road). She took off with our small camera and I carefully changed the lens on our dslr.

There were not many people to contend with and meeting Renita I cold easily see the black bear. It was in a small clearing on the other side moving but obscured by thick brush. I changed the camera setting to manual and took quite a few shots, but most were out of focus.

Hanging back to automatic I watched as the bear moved past several holes in the brush and I got lucky as the bear stopped and looked at me through one of the holes. The bear was at a safe distance and our new telephoto lens, allows us to take a great picture. Still, it was a little unnerving as the bear was definitely staring at me.

We watched the bear for a little bit longer before we decided to look for another one and made the decision to continue down the road. We had not drove far when we saw other cars stopping and there was a grizzly bear trying to cross the road, (note the claws on the bears front paws. I got a few shots as it crossed and then handed the camera to Renita as the bear was on her side of the car.

She rolled the window down and, as we were taught in Denali, only stuck the lens out as the grizzly walked past us. It continued on and moved down a hill to a safe distance, (100 Yards). Getting out of the car I moved to the shoulder and took quite a few images as the bear fed.

A crowd of people formed, and they started to encroach on the bear. Its hackles, hump, were raised and the bear stood up as if to warn the people that they were encroaching on its space. It worked and the people moved back as the grizzly turned and walked slowly down a small valley.

Cars kept stopping but we decided to continue on to Willow Flats, another spot to watch for bears as elk were moving to the flats to calve, and that always draws hunting bears, (two years ago we watched a grizzly feed and then cache an elk calf that it had just killed).

We did spot some elk moving and took some pictures of several bull in velvet. They were just starting to grow this year’s antlers and both bulls seemed to promise a big rack.

We continued on hoping to catch a glimpse of bear 399 and her four cubs.

There were only four cars at Pilgrim Creek and so we continued on. Again, it was a good decision as a few miles further on another grizzly was feeding on the side of the road.

This one wanted to cross the road, but the cars kept coming and the bear was confused.

Finally, the Park Interpreter got the traffic to stop and told the bear to cross the road.

Clapping her hands, the bear finally walked across the road before running into the woods about two hundred yards away. I took a few images, but the bear was so far away that they were to fuzzy and not worth posting.

Three different bears in a day is a great day, heck one bear is, and we drove back to Pilgrim Creek. There we parked in one of the spots and had a picnic lunch. After lunch we continued our drive but did not see any more bears.

As a last stop Renita wanted to see the Bighorn sheep on the Elk Refuge. It had been forty years since I had been there and then they were only a couple of bighorns on the hill top.

Today they were every where and one almost got hit as a car barely stopped in time as it crossed the road.

We both took lots of pictures and as you can see the Bighorn Sheep.

Having parked our car and walked down the road we got close to the sheep, but tried to keep the recommended twenty five yard separation.

It was another great stop and if you are ever here in May be sure to drive the Elk Refuge Road.

Later we learned that 399 had put in a brief appearance with her four cubs before leading them back into the forest. We never did see bear 610, you may recall or pictures from last year.  We posted pictures of her two-year-old cubs as they fed on Willow Flats.

Word is that she has pushed her “teenage cubs” away and already the male has gotten in trouble. He peered into a window as the owner was eating breakfast and was raiding bird feeders. The young sub adult bear has been trapped, collared, and released on the boundary of Yellowstone National Park.

Now we are finishing up our tasks of unpacking and so it will be a few days before we head back to the park. If you do see a bear, remember to stay one hundred yards away, oh and carry bear spray!

Clear skies