The past several years, I’ve gone to the Grand Teton National Park and Yellowstone in the fall after Labor Day. It’s when the color is spectacular and the crowds start to thin out. This year, I decided to go to the Tetons a week before Memorial Day. There should be fewer people then too but my main reason for going in the spring was to get photos of new-born elk, bison and moose. I knew I might be a week or so early. They often have their young the first week or so in June but what the heck. It might be the price to be paid to avoid the crowds.
As you may know from my previous post about the wolf, I was going to be in the park for just three days so I had to get very lucky. Even though I had heard of two moose calves being born while I was there, I didn’t see either of them. I saw a lot of elk and bison but they had not calved yet. Locals were saying the harsh winter they had just gone through might have caused the animals to be a bit late having young this year. None the less, I was too early.
Well, getting a few reasonable shots of the wolf on the first evening was fantastic. However, what happened on day two more than made up for not seeing any elk, moose or bison young.
I was actually looking in an area where I had been told I might see a Great Grey Owl. They have long been on my list to photograph. To date, I’ve not had an opportunity to see or photograph one. That’s one reason to keep going back to the Parks. I was not on the main road so there was no traffic. Below, is what I was so very fortunate to see….
I had seen a black bear the day before at a bear jam along the main highway but this was different. Not only was it a Grizzly with cubs, there was not another person around. I was on a road the University of Wyoming researchers use. Two vehicles of researchers came by but they stopped for just a couple of minutes. There was NO Bear Jam! WOW!
I was there alone! While the bears were more than the required 100 yards away, I stayed in my car. Of course, that was for my safety but I also hoped she would not see me as a threat and just stay there for a while.
They have excellent sense of smell so there was no doubt she knew I was there. She looked right at me several times. She continued to act normal and I was able to get these shots. These photos have been cropped a bit but otherwise, this is what I saw and watched.
Here, she’s nursing the cubs.
She looked at me as she nursed them. Again, she didn’t seem to care that I was there. They nursed more than once during our time together.
She and the cubs slept. It was more like resting than sleeping. She had her eyes open most of the time but did close them from time to time to nap.
A couple of times she sat up and looked at me but would go right back down to rest. All total, they probably rested for about 30-35 minutes.
Here, she looked at me and started to yawn.
She must have found me to be boring. Right after yawning, she laid down. The cubs laid on her back. They stayed that way for about ten minutes. She may have been trying to prevent them from nursing.
After her nap, she and the cubs wandered away.
She and her cubs stayed there for 55 minutes before they wandered off. I was extremely lucky to spend that time alone with them while watching and recording their natural behavior. I don’t think it gets any better than that.
I wanted to know which bear this was so I went to Colter Bay to see if the rangers there could identify her. At first, they thought it was the famous bear #399 who also has two cubs. I thought she had them last year so they would be larger than these two. These were born this year. The rangers weren’t sure so they asked their bear expert, Justin Schwabedissen, to look at my pictures. He would know.
Well, Justin recognized me from the fall where we had been together with a black bear and her two cubs. (After reading this post, click on this link. It will get you to last fall’s post of Mom Bear & Cubs ( http://imagesbybilla.com/?p=1638 ))
He looked at my photos and said, “Oh my gosh, that’s not 399. That’s 793, Blondie.” No one has reported seeing her with cubs. I was the first and had documented proof. He asked for a couple of photos for his files. Of course I obliged. Now, how very cool is that?
He also gave me this information about her. She was captured in 2014. At that time, she weighed 220 pounds. (she looks a lot heavier than that now) They estimated her to be 6-7 years old at that time. They put the tags in her ears and attached a radio collar which has since come off. She had three cubs in 2014 but lost all three in 2015, most likely to a big male. There were no known cubs in 2016. So, this was very exciting.
Below, is my favorite photo of them together.
This is my favorite of her looking right at me.
I have to say, that was one of the best wildlife experience I’ve had to date. To be able to watch a Grizzly with her cubs just being natural for 55 minutes with no one else around well, I just cannot think anything better…..
I hope you enjoyed the photos and thanks for stopping by.