Yellowstone Grizzly Population Hits New High

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The number of brown bears in Yellowstone continues to grow. This year officials are putting the population at 603 bears which is the highest level in decades. According to a USA Today article:

Our population is strong, our counts of females are high," said Chuck Schwartz, a U.S. Geological Survey scientist who heads the Interagency Grizzly Bear Study Team. "Right now, all indications are we haven't turned into negative trajectory."

Schwartz added that the 603 population figure was a conservative estimate and that the true number could be significantly higher.

However the increased level of bears has also created more human bear encounters with two people killed by grizzlies this year alone. Just last week a deer hunter in the South Fork area killed an attacking grizzly in self defense.


Ca_Vermonster's picture

I honestly don't even think

I honestly don't even think about it when I am in the woods, even though I am in lion country.  Maybe I should, I just don't.

Ca_Vermonster's picture

I will be interesting to see

I will be interesting to see what happens when the carrying capacity of the land is exceeded and those excess bears are pushed out.  It will sort of be like a ripple effect.  Human encounters will for sure be on the rise.  Gotta get some states to have some grizzly hunts too.....

CVC's picture

Your last sentence caught my

Your last sentence caught my attention.  Which states don't allow grizzly hunting?  It is sad that there will be more human and grizzly encounters and the grizzly will pay with its life.  It is sad because proper management through hunting would alleviate the problem and bring in revenue.

ecubackpacker's picture

+1, CVC. More revenue for the

+1, CVC.

More revenue for the states to use for research. It would keep the bears more wary of humans and hunters.

The mindset of those in charge or with the most power to control the direction of the grizzly bear lean too far toward the preservation of the bears instead the conservation of the bears.


hawkeye270's picture

When you break it down by the

When you break it down by the number of people there are living and recreating in mountain lion, bear and wolf habitat... there really are not that many attacks at all. For any of the species. They do happen and they occur now at a higher rate than they have due to higher human populations and higher chances for us to come in contact with the large carnivores, but overall there really aren't that many attacks on humans taking place in relation to how many there could be. These attacks get a ton of media attention and the problem then seems bigger than it is. But try telling that to the hunters that got in the sticky situation with the wolves. They are not going to buy that. But their situation is the exception... not the rule.

CVC's picture

I think it is the rarity of

I think it is the rarity of the situation that really does make it a story.  And, it doesn't matter how infrequently it happens, if it happens to you it is a serious problem.  I don't diminish the seriousness of the hunter's situation one bit.  I am glad they were able to protect themselves and they did the right thing by trying to get out without killing the wolves.  It just couldn't be helped.

We forget that the US is somewhat unique in that these situations are rare.  Could you imagine living in Africa in some country where it was not uncommon to hvae encounters with crocs or hippos?  I guess there is Florida where they are having more alligator problems these days.

CVC's picture

Here is a link to bear

Here is a link to bear attacks.

I thought there would be more, but there isn't.  I also did a quick google search on mountain lion attacks and they are increasing, but really there are not that many attacks.  I think the media sensationalizes them when it happens so the problem seems worse than it is.

ecubackpacker's picture

The attack at Soda

The attack at Soda Butte...the guy was too lazy to perform his hygiene away from his tent...he apparantly spit his mouthwash outside his tent. The bear was probably attracted to the sweet smell and wanted more. Crazy for someone to be that careless in grizzly country, even if you're in a campsite.

The account of the other attack points to guy wanting to be closer, ie...get a visual of the bear they had trapped, dispite the warnings. It's difficult to understand someone's motives.

May they both rest in piece.


hawkeye270's picture

I am the exact opporsite as

I am the exact opporsite as what you said Gatorfan. I am way more wierded out by the thought of a mountain lion coming after me because if they do, than they are trying to eat you. If you have a conflict with a grizzly bear than you most likely startled it, stumbled onto its food cache or got between a sow and her cubs. Sure, there are unprovoked attacks on record like the fatal attack that occurred this summer but they are far more common with mountain lions. If you get attacked by a mountain lion, it is almost guaranteed that it is trying to kill you in order to make you its next meal. That is why they tell you to play dead in a grizzly attack (because it sees you as a threat through one of the reasons stated above) and to fight back when you are being attacked by a mountain lion. Now don't get me wrong. I do not go out into the Colorado backcountry afraid that I am going to be killed by a cat. I am just saying that I have a little more fear of them than grizzly bears.

gatorfan's picture

Old saying

I guess I base my decision based on the old say "pick on someone your own size"!  HA HA

Not that I would want a confrontation with either, but given a choice between an animal the size of a grizzly and a 100-150 pound cat, I'll take my chance with the weight differential.  Of course, you bring up a good point; you would probably hear a bear coming at you but the cat is way stealthier!

I guess the only choice we have is to go hunt and have a idea of what we would do in the unfortunate situation that we were to ever find ourselves in either confrontation.

Be safe!!! 


ecubackpacker's picture

Gatorfan, have you ever seen

Gatorfan, have you ever seen a video of a 35 lb bobcat kill a whitetail deer?

In the one I saw years ago, the bobcat grabbed the deer by the lower neck. He proceeded to "gut" the deer alive with the claws of his hind paws. It was amazing to watch that little cat kill that deer in a matter of minutes.

One of the commercial hunting videos shows a mountain lion killing a 250 lb mule deer by way of suffocation. It took a while to kill the deer but I'm sure we wouldn't have much of a chance if grabbed by the neck by a lion.

I'm not trying to scare you and not that you can be scared, just something to think about the next time you're in the woods.

gatorfan's picture

That's one animal I would fear!

The areas I hunt are known to have mountain lions and quite a few sightings have occurred.  I, however, have never been fortunate enough to have made eye contact with one.  I say fortunate because I would actually like to see one in the wild and be able to get some pictures. 

Grizzly bears, conversely, are one animal that I would actually fear being in the woods with.  I have just read way too many stories of their unpredictable behavior and how they can attack out of the blue.  I know that attacks are few and far between but there's just something to be said about an animal of that size suddenly getting an appetite and me being an available entrée.  The story of that bear ripping up three different tents and mauling the people inside is just amazing!

When I went to Colorado for the first time, we got a report from two other guys that had hunted my friend's property the week before.  They told us that they had seen two bears under one of the box-stands on the property.  Guess who got that stand on the first morning.  To say that I was on full alert until I was safely up that ladder would be an understatement!

I'll keep just the cats and you guys can have the cats, wolves, and grizzly bear trifecta!

I guess it's a good thing that their numbers are increasing.  There has been a boat-load of money put into the studies and efforts.


ecubackpacker's picture

I agree with you gatorfan. I

I agree with you gatorfan. I don't like hunting in an area where grizzly bears are present if I don't have a tag for one. I was constantly turning my head to see what the origin every sound I heard. Now the one time I hunted grizzlies in Alaska I didn't feel that way. Maybe it was because I had a tag and could take a bear at any time I saw one, whether I stalked him or shot one in self defense.

 The other times I've been in bear country and I didn't have a tag, I was on edge the entire time because I would have to justify the killing of a bear. In the words of the game warden, you better have scratches on you when we investigate. I'm sorry, I don't want to be that close to a grizzly without a tag.

Now black bears are a different story. I usually have some kind of encounter with a black bear every year or so. Black bears don't generate the same type of feeling. I know they are very dangerous creatures...just don't seem as dangerous as grizzlies. Maybe if I grew up around grizzlies I wouldn't feel this way.


CVC's picture

I suppose maintaining healthy

I suppose maintaining healthy populations of grizzlies will bring more human contact, but I don't think the numbers should be reduced because of it.  If humans get killed in the park, the wilderness or other outdoor areas then so be it.  That is the risk they take.  Now, if the bears are moving into populated areas then they should be controlled/killed.

I am sure some will disagree with me, but the wilderness is wild and you assume the risk when you enter.  Be prepared, be vigilant and don't complain.

ecubackpacker's picture

You're a harsh man, CVC. Let

You're a harsh man, CVC. Let the humans get killled. LOL

My question to you is, do you feel the campsites within the park populated areas?

I know several of the campsites don't allow tent campers because of the high probability the bears will visit them during the night. They only allow hard-shell campers.

How about the fact that more bears will kill and eat more elk/moose calves and put an additional strain on those herds. We were there almost 20 years ago before the woves were such a threat and it was very apparent few adult cows with calves. I calculated the numbers at the time and I think it was below 5% of the cows we saw had calves.

Part of the goal of the Park system is conservation of the wildlife. Is it right to preserve one or more species at the expense of other species? Shouldn't there be a balanced view from a conservation stand point? It seems Yellowstone is a prime example where presevation out weighs conservation.

Just my $.02 cents