The search pattern one develops while looking for wildlife in Yellowstone, is to carefully scan the roadside…not for critters…but for parked cars! A car pulled off to the side of the road usually means there is a critter someone has spotted. One evening, while returning from a trip to the southeast entrance, we saw several vehicles pulled onto the shoulder. We slowed, but assuming it would turn out to be a Bison, we expected to just cruise on down the road…
“Grizzly!” We gushed in unison…a very good find. And the Griz was in beautiful evening light. Unfortunately (or fortunately) the bear was about 170 yards away…a safe distance to be sure, but a little too distant for a straight 400mm lens. Thankfully Ryan (www.irentphoto.com) had loaned me a 500mm f4 lens, onto which, I put a 2x teleconverter. This combo on the 7D created a 1600mm lens equivalent (Some of the video was shot with TWO 2x teleconverter, AND a 1.4x teleconverter, creating a 4480mm lens!! Not the sharpest video in the world..but useable.)
As is often the case with Yellowstone Grizzlies, this bear was so intent on feeding that he rarely even stuck his head up for more than a few seconds every few minutes. He was actively digging for tubers…and with winter coming on fast, he had no time to lose in fattening up.
Here’s a video of “Teddy” the Grizzly digging tubers…Not very exciting but this is what Grizzlies do 90% of their waking time…EAT! Especially important since he would soon be going down for a long winter’s snooze.
What is the diet of a 300lb. to 600lb. male Grizzly in Yellowstone? According to the park’s website…”From September through October, whitebark pine nuts are the most important bear food during years when seeds are abundant (Mattson and Jonkel 1990). However, whitebark pine is a masting species that does not produce abundant seed crops every year. Other items consumed during fall include: pond weed root, sweet cicely root, bistort root, yampa root, strawberry, globe huckleberry, grouse whortleberry, buffaloberry, clover, horsetail, dandelion, ants, false truffles, and army cutworm moths. Some grizzly bears prey on adult bull elk during the fall elk rut.” So Teddy was likely digging for either yampa root, bistort root or sweet cicely root.