Posts tagged ‘Ursus horribilis’

Yellowstone May 2014—Bears, Bears, Bears! (Grizzly, Cinnamon, Black)

Over our 3 1/2 days in Yellowstone, Ryan and I had 23 bear encounters.This is far more than we’ve ever had during our many fall trips. The reason is likely that all bears hibernate and when they wake in spring, they are very hungry so they must roam in search of food. Grizzlies are especially fond of winter-killed Bison and will seek out the “tenderized” meat. Another reason is that both Black and Grizzly sows may have COYs with them. A COY is a “cub of the year”…a baby bear born this winter. Cubs stay with mom for two years.

Male Grizzlies can be awake as early as February but most females with cubs hibernate until later in the spring, emerging from mid March to mid May. We only saw two Grizzly sows with cub/s. Both with second year cubs.

Grizzly and sage Narrows Hayden Valley Yellowstone National Park WY IMG_7944Male Grizzly in sagebrush. Grizzlies don’t do much…Often they are just nose-down searching or eating food. So anytime one even lifts its head, the shutters start clicking. I like the backlighting creating a rim light effect. The green of sage contrasts nicely with the brown fur. [Canon 7D with Canon 400mm f5.6 lens and 1.4x teleconverter; f8 at 1/400, ISO 200; tripod]

Ranger and Grizzly Narrows Hayden Valley Yellowstone National Park WY IMG_8002“Bear Jams” were common and rangers did their best to keep tourists and photographers back 100 yards from the animals. Their goal is to not let humans alter any wild animal’s behavior in the park.

Black Bear sow with three cubs Rainy Lake Tower Junction Yellowstone National Park WY IMG_8396Triplets! Cute and cuddly Black Bears coming to drink with mama at Rainy Lake near Tower Junction. [Canon 7D with Canon 400mm f5.6 lens; f5.6 at 1/2500, ISO 320; tripod]

Black Bear cub B&W Rainy Lake Tower Junction Yellowstone National Park WYIMG_8339The cubs were wrestling and goofing around like all youngsters should do, but when mom gave the signal, they scampered up the biggest pine around. Safety in the tree tops. [Canon 7D with Canon 400mm f5.6 lens; f5.6 at 1/2500, ISO 320; tripod]

Black Bear sow with three cubs Rainy Lake Tower Junction Yellowstone National Park WY IMG_8395 [Canon 7D with Canon 400mm f5.6 lens; f5.6 at 1/2500, ISO 320; tripod]

Black Bear sow with three cubs Rainy Lake Tower Junction Yellowstone National Park WY IMG_8382 [Canon 7D with Canon 400mm f5.6 lens; f5.6 at 1/2500, ISO 320; tripod]

Grizzly bear butt foot Fishing Bridge Yellowstone National Park WY IMG_9141Grizzly Bear butt and giant paw near Fishing Bridge. You don’t always need to include the whole animal in your shots! [Canon 7D with Canon 400mm f5.6 lens; f5.6 at 1/500, ISO 400; braced on window of car]

Grizzly silhouette Mary's Bay Yellowstone Lake Yellowstone National Park WY IMG_9054 - Version 2I got a bit creative here as the sow and cub Grizzly were really moving. We followed behind them as they hustled along this hillside then climbed this very steep incline. The second-year cub was already up and over the top while mom was huffing and puffing. I like how you can see the steam of her breath backlit. I converted to sepia as there was no real color in the image anyway.

Black Bear cinnamon phase near Norris Yellowstone National Park WY IMG_6905“Cinnamon” bears are just a color phase/ morph of the Black Bear. Here is a smaller Cinnamon between Mammoth and Norris. [Canon 7D with Canon 400mm f5.6 lens; f6.3 at 1/1000, ISO 400; tripod]

Grizzly shaddow B&W Narrows Hayden Valley Yellowstone National Park WYIMG_8031 Grizzly shadow [Canon 7D with Canon 400mm f5.6 lens; f5.6 at 1/2000, ISO 200; tripod]

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Grizzly in Golden Light

[Meet Teddy! One of our “co-watchers” said that they had been watching this same male bear for five years…since he was a cub. They nicknamed him “Teddy.”]

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.