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A complete guide to the two specie of bear that inhabit Yellowstone National Park.

A complete guide to the two specie of bear that inhabit Yellowstone National Park.

An entire information to the 2 specie of bear that inhabit Yellowstone Nationwide Park.

For info relating to current bear maulings, and so forth., go to our Bear Replace Web page.


Species of Bears in Yellowstone Park

Two specie of bear inhabit Yellowstone Nationwide Park: the black bear (ursus americanus), and the grizzly or brown bear (ursus arctos horribilis). Of the 2 specie the grizzly bear is the most important and most formidable. The load varies from 325 to 600 kilos on this space, sometimes bigger. Black bears weigh between 135 and 315 kilos.

The time period “Brown Bear” is the extra right and scientific use for the grizzly bear species. Grizzly is simply widespread utilization within the decrease 48 having first been used in the course of the Lewis and Clark expedition once they referred to “a brown bear with grizzled look”. (DeVoto) All grizzly bears are literally brown bears having originated in Japanese Siberia, the Russian brown bear. The black bear is the one native bear in North America (ursus americanus).

“Black bears are primarily tailored to make use of forested areas and their edges and clearings.” Though grizzly bears will frequent forested areas they’ll make rather more use of huge, non-forested meadows and valleys than do black bears.

Why? Black bears have brief curved claws (monitor identification) higher suited to climbing timber than digging. This permits black bears to forage for sure meals or escaping from hazard by climbing timber. In distinction, grizzly bears have longer much less curved claws and a bigger shoulder muscle mass higher suited to digging than climbing. This permits grizzly bears to effectively forage for meals which have to be dug from the soil comparable to roots, bulbs, corms and tubers, in addition to rodents and their caches.” (Yellowstone Nationwide Park. Bear Administration Order-2)

Within the early years of Yellowstone’s historical past bears have been simply seen. Immediately, bears are a bit harder to identify, nevertheless, grizzly bears are most frequently seen in giant open meadows and black bears are most frequently seen in timber.

Consuming Habits

Information about what meals bears eat will assist in figuring out one of the best location for viewing.

Each specie of bear in Yellowstone are omnivores with 90% of their eating regimen consisting of vegetation. Bears have comparatively unspecialized digestive methods just like carnivores. The first distinction is that bears have an elongated digestive tract that permits them to digest vegetation extra effectively than different carnivores. In contrast to ruminants (elk, bison and cows), bears would not have a cecum and may solely poorly digest vegetation. “To compensate for inefficient digestion of cellulose, bears maximize the standard of vegetal meals gadgets ingested, sometimes foraging on crops which might be in phenological levels of highest nutrient availability and digestibility.” (Herrero 1985, Yellowstone Nationwide Park Bear Administration Order-Three)

The meals habits of every specie of bear in Yellowstone are influenced by seasonal variation. General, whitebark pine nuts, graminoids and ungulates are an important meals in a grizzly bear’s eating regimen. (IGBST 1984, Yellowstone Nationwide Park Bear Administration Order-Three)


From March by means of Might, ungulates, principally elk and bison, comprise a considerable portion of a grizzly bear’s eating regimen. Grizzly bears feed on ungulates (grass eaters) primarily as winter-killed carrion but in addition by way of predation on elk calves. Different gadgets consumed throughout spring embrace grasses and sedges, dandelion, clover, spring-beauty, horsetail, and ants. Grizzly bears additionally feed extensively on whitebark pine nuts saved in pink squirrel caches, particularly throughout spring when an abundance of pine nuts have been left over from the earlier fall (Mattson and Jonkel 1990).

Summer time

From June by way of August grizzly bears proceed to eat grasses and sedges, dandelion, clover, spring-beauty, whitebark pine nuts, horsetail, and ants. As well as, thistle, biscuit root, fireweed, and moths are eaten. Predation on elk calves continues till late-June/early-July when grizzly bears are not capable of catch calves (Gunther and Renkin 1990). In areas surrounding Yellowstone Lake bears feed extensively on spawning cutthroat trout (Reinhart 1990). Beginning round midsummer grizzly bears start feeding on strawberry, globe huckleberry, grouse whortleberry, and buffalo berry. By late summer time bistort and yampa are included within the weight-reduction plan as grasses, sedges, and dandelion grow to be much less outstanding.


From September via October whitebark pine nuts are an important bear meals within the Yellowstone Ecosystem. Different gadgets consumed throughout fall embrace: grasses and sedges, bistort, yampa, strawberry, globe huckleberry, grouse whortleberry, buffalo berry, clover, horsetail, dandelion, ungulates, ants, and moths.

Bears and Whitebark Pine

In wholesome whitebark pine ecosystems, whitebark pine seeds are a wealthy and extremely most popular supply of meals for quite a lot of birds and mammals together with grizzly and black bears. Most whitebark pine cone crops are harvested by purple squirrels who minimize the cones down and bury them in mounds of forest litter referred to as middens, or a cache. As a result of whitebark pine cones don’t fall off the tree or drop their seeds the yr they ripen and grizzly bears cannot climb timber, grizzlies should rob squirrel middens to feed on whitebark pine seeds. The significance of whitebark pine seeds or “nuts” to the weight-reduction plan of grizzly bears in Yellowstone Nationwide Park and to wildlife usually is described in Kendall (1983) and Kendall and Arno (1990). Following bumper whitebark cone crop years pine nuts can dominate the meals habits of bears for the complete subsequent yr. Bears may even find cones underneath 6 ft of snow.

Grizzly bears and black bears eat whitebark pine seeds each time they’re obtainable. In common cone crop years bears feed on them from mid-August to late fall. Following years of bumper cone crops many cones stay in squirrel caches the subsequent spring. When this occurs, bears start to feed on pine nuts as quickly as they emerge from their winter dens. They’re able to finding and excavating cone caches underneath at the very least 6 ft of snow. Bears proceed to feed on whitebark pine seeds so long as they’re obtainable and pine seeds from the earlier yr’s crop can dominate bear diets for the whole subsequent season. Analysis demonstrating the significance of purple squirrels and whitebark pine seeds to bears within the larger Yellowstone ecosystem (GYE) and documenting the essential position of over-wintered nut caches to bear conduct and vitamin is reported in Kendall (1983) and Kendall and Arno (1990).

Bears and Moths

Ecology and bear use of alpine moth aggregations: Current bear analysis documented that bears within the Higher Yellowstone and Glacier Ecosystems feed on military cutworm moths.

From entomological research it was recognized that these moths migrate in early summer time from the Nice Plains to spend the summer time within the Rocky Mountains. In Yellowstone, military cutworm moths spend their days resting within the cool areas between jumbled rocks in talus fields close to the tops of a few of Yellowstone’s highest peaks. The moths emerge at night time to feed on close by flower nectar. Analysis on bear use of moths within the GYE/GGE and the alpine ecology of military cutworm moths estimated the dietary significance of this weight loss plan merchandise; throughout peak feeding durations when moths are ample, bears eat approx. 40,000 moths/day.

Bears and Berries

Wild berries, particularly huckleberries are key bear meals within the Larger Yellowstone Ecosystem. Analysis on wild fruit manufacturing reported in Kendall (1986) and Weaver et al. (1990) examined annual manufacturing developments of a number of species of fruiting shrubs and located that huckleberry crops have been probably the most favored. Fluctuations in yearly climate patterns in all probability account for crop measurement annually. Some years are higher than others with extra berries produced.

Black Bears

The meals habits of black bears within the Yellowstone ecosystem are just like these of grizzly bears. The first distinction is the absence of roots within the food regimen of black bears (Knight et al.1988). Black bears have brief curved claws higher fitted to climbing than digging. In distinction, grizzly bears have longer straighter claws and a bigger shoulder muscle mass which makes them extra environment friendly at digging for meals gadgets within the soil resembling roots, bulbs, corms, and tubers, in addition to rodents and their caches (Herrero 1978).

Each grizzly and black bears hibernate through the winter, however will not be thought-about true hibernators.

The place are the bears?

Previous to 1970 bears have been generally noticed all through Yellowstone Nationwide Park. Black bears discovered early on in park historical past that vacationers introduced meals and that eventually a stage coach, after which later, tour busses would cease and other people would get out and feed them. All bears are opportunistic in finding meals so black bears have been typically discovered alongside roads and inside developed areas.

Grizzly bears however frequented the open pit rubbish dumps that have been situated off the roads the place meals scraps and refuse was deposited from the close by motels and eating places in Yellowstone Nationwide Park. Grizzly bears aren’t as tolerant of individuals as black bears and by no means actually frolicked close to the roads just like the black bears.

Having readily seen bears in Yellowstone Park was highly regarded with park guests. It was additionally “thought-about to be the first explanation for a mean of 48 bear-caused human accidents per yr from 1930 by means of 1969.” (Cole; 1974 Yellowstone Nationwide Park Bear Administration Order-Four).

In 1970 the park service initiated an intensive bear administration program designed to revive the grizzly and the black bear populations to subsistence on pure meals and scale back bear-caused accidents to people. Laws prohibiting the feeding of bears are strictly enforced in addition to laws requiring human meals to be stored secured from bears. The rubbish dumps have been eliminated and all dumpster’s and cans have been bear-proofed.

Because of this bear administration plan we’re left with a wild bear that feeds on pure meals and is a bit more elusive within the park. Nevertheless, we nonetheless have a number of drawback areas outdoors of the park, the place bears come into contact with rubbish and human meals and this leads to many bear deaths annually. (Sanders, et al; 2001 Gallatin Canyon Bear Proof Trash Analysis Venture)


To securely view bears by yourself in Yellowstone park use a robust recognizing scope. Grizzly bears are lively primarily through the night time (nocturnal) and at daybreak or nightfall (crepuscular). Grizzlies are sometimes seen between Canyon and Fishing Bridge, the northern vary of the park, and from Mount Washburn.

Black bears are sometimes lively throughout the identical time durations however can be discovered through the day as nicely. Black bears are sometimes seen close to Tower Falls, the Lamar Valley, and Roosevelt Lodge however may be discovered in lots of different places all through the park.

By no means strategy a bear or any wildlife. Feeding bears or another wildlife together with birds in Yellowstone is illegal and may end up in arrest or quotation.

All wildlife in Yellowstone park have to be thought-about harmful and unpredictable. Guests in Yellowstone typically crowd round or strategy the varied animals that they encounter alongside the roads. In consequence some guests are injured or killed annually. Primarily with bison or bull elk. Use a robust recognizing scope or binoculars to view from a distance. Digital camera lenses within the 600 mm or 800 mm size are an absolute necessity. (Sanders; 1990. Security tips for climbing, photographing, filming, and observing grizzly bears)

Bear Assaults

Firearms and Bear Spray

As of 2010 firearms are allowed inside Yellowstone Nationwide Park, however have to be in compliance with relevant federal and state regulation. Firearms aren’t allowed in any Federal Constructing—Customer Facilities, Submit Workplace, and so forth……..The best way I perceive it’s, Yellowstone Park is inside the boundaries of Montana, Wyoming and Idaho. Should you occur to be inside the Montana part of Yellowstone it’s essential to adjust to Montana state legal guidelines relating to the holding, possession and transport of firearms in addition to the permits for every state. The identical is true in case you occur to be in Idaho or the Wyoming sections.

Boat Air Horns aren’t allowed within the backcountry, or on climbing trails inside Yellowstone Park however can be utilized whereas boating on Yellowstone Lake.

Bear Spray or Pepper Spray is allowed inside Yellowstone Nationwide Park. Listed here are my suggestions: Bear Assaults, what to do, what to hold click on right here.

Tenting safely with grizzly bears in Yellowstone Park click on right here.

Bear Brought on Accidents and Deaths In Yellowstone Park—per yr, click on right here.

Feminine Menstruation. Do you have to fear?—Learn the info.

Bodily Traits Of Black Bears And Grizzlies

Colour Can’t Be Used For Identification!

Most guests try and determine bears by shade alone and sometimes mistake cinnamon phased black bears as grizzlies.

Most, however not all grizzly bears have a big muscle mass or “hump” over the entrance shoulders. The dimensions of the muscle mass varies from bear to bear however most may have a nicely outlined hump.

The hump and dish face profile often provides it away however typically you need to take a look at numerous totally different features of the bear you’re watching to find out right specie.

Black Bear (ursus americanus)

Shade: varies from pure black to brown, cinnamon orange or blonde; within the Rocky Mountains, roughly 50% are black with a light-weight brown muzzle and 50% are cinnamon phased.

Peak: about Three ft on the shoulder

Weight: Males – 210-315 lbs; Females – 135-160 lbs

Residence vary measurement: Males – 6-124 sq. miles; Females – 2-45 sq. miles

Life expectancy: 15-20 years within the wild

Grizzly (brown) Bear (ursus arctos horribilis)

Colour: varies from black to blonde, regularly with white-tipped fur giving a grizzled or “silver-tipped” look (Depart your cursor over the picture of the bear for 2nd view)

Peak: About Three half ft on the shoulder. Weight: Males – 216-717 lbs; Females – 200-428 lbs

Residence vary measurement: Males – 73-1,059 sq. miles; Females – 11-486 sq. miles

Life expectancy: 15-20 years within the wild

“The grizzly bear inhabitants inside the Yellowstone ecosystem is estimated to be roughly 280-550 bears. Relying on which authorities company you converse with, the variety of grizzly bears will range extensively. My private “guess” on the precise quantity, based mostly on years of area time, can be someplace round 380.

The park doesn’t have a present estimate of the black bear inhabitants; black bears are thought-about to be widespread within the park.” (Yellowstone Nationwide Park BMO-2)

Figuring out Bear Tracks

Figuring out which specie of bear made the monitor you may discover on a path is moderately easy. Wanting on the entrance toes solely, draw an imaginary straight line throughout the underside of all toes (as proven in instance) on one of many entrance tracks solely. Left or proper foot are the identical, so decide the perfect one to look at.

If all the toes line up above the straight line, its a grizzly bear. If the decrease half of the little toe goes into or under the road it’s nonetheless thought-about a grizzly monitor.

Black bear toes are extra arched (as proven in instance). If the higher half or extra of the little toe strains up under the straight line its a black bear monitor.

Most people try and determine bear tracks by wanting on the measurement of the monitor or measuring the size of claw, which doesn’t work. It could possibly be a big black bear or small grizzly. Claw marks are sometimes not seen until left in very moist mud, or snow.

Residence Vary

The dimensions of the house vary of a person grizzly bear will range relying on the focus and kinds of meals sources. The extra concentrated the meals sources the much less a bear should journey seeking meals. The dimensions of the house vary varies from one geographic area to a different and in addition from one yr to a different. Some years are higher with extra meals out there and particular person bears might use a lot smaller areas throughout these “years of a lot”.

Analysis has proven that grownup male grizzly bears dwelling in Yellowstone Nationwide Park have a mean house vary of roughly 632 sq. miles. As compared, grizzly bears dwelling alongside the coastal areas of Alaska and feeding on salmon require solely about 10.5 sq. miles. The distinction is entry to satisfactory and plentiful meals gadgets.

Males (boars) will usually have a house vary which is 4 to 6 occasions bigger than females (sows). The house vary of a mature male bear will usually overlap the house vary of at the least two or three females and no less than Four or 5 males, probably many extra. Females may have small residence ranges. The dimensions varies and is dependent upon age of cubs, meals availability, and so forth… Grizzly bears don’t usually defend their residence ranges from different bears and are non-territorial. It’s common for the house ranges of particular person bears to overlap one another. Older, bigger males sometimes are extra dominant and can typically management carcasses, or different excessive power meals sources inside the space.

A house vary doesn’t represent one giant space however slightly is comprised of many meals supply areas related by journey corridors. The house vary should additionally embrace relaxation areas and extra distant areas for shelter, safety, and denning. An grownup male grizzly in Yellowstone park can use up-to 1500 sq. miles throughout summer time, relying on meals assets.

Denning and Hibernation

Though not true hibernators, each grizzly bears and black bears den up through the lengthy winter months in Yellowstone Park.

Black Bears: Due to their brief claw size and lack of muscle mass on the shoulders, black bears are likely to find pure openings for denning websites. They typically scrape out areas underneath giant boulders or logs, beneath buildings, inside culverts, or in a tree cavity. Black bears choose steep southern slope exposures of 20 to 40 % slope, typically at elevations decrease than grizzlies.

Grizzly Bears: Sixty-one % of brown bears in Yellowstone Park den on north slopes at elevations from as little as 6,500 ft to greater than 10,000, however most are dug between Eight,000 and 9,000 ft. Fifty % of all grizzly bear dens are dug underneath the roots of a tree that tends to offer the roof help. The opposite 50% are dug on an open hillside with no roof help.

Getting ready a den sometimes happens in late summer time whereas the bear is in hyperpagia (mass feed) to construct up fats. Bears are very secretive of their den websites and can abandon the location if disturbed. Throughout late summer time and early fall all bears have the necessity to achieve as a lot weight as potential. Via the harvesting of obtainable nut crops, fish, berries, carcasses, and so on., brown/grizzly bears make very giant weight features. Such features could also be as a lot as 40 kilos per week. Throughout this era, foraging might happen across the clock with solely brief relaxation durations.

The triggers to enter the den are a mixture of the primary heavy snow, a discount within the provide of high-quality meals, decreased mobility as a result of snow, and elevated power prices of maintaining heat. Principally, there might be a number of ft of snow on the bottom and snowing heavy but when there’s a excessive protein meals supply like a bison carcass close by a grizzly or black bear will keep out and proceed feeding. Pregnant sows will den first, older males final.

Hibernation is an energy-saving course of bears have developed to permit them to outlive lengthy durations when there’s inadequate meals out there to take care of their physique mass. As they run out of meals sources and cease consuming they grow to be more and more torpid and the bear will enter the den website they constructed earlier in late fall.

Whereas hibernating, a bear’s coronary heart price drops from between forty and seventy beats per minute to solely eight or twelve beats per minute and its metabolism slows down by half. In contrast to many different animals who hibernate its physique temperature solely undergoes a minor discount of 5 to 9 levels Fahrenheit.

In the course of the hibernation interval all bears lose quite a lot of weight. Grownup males and adolescent bears lose between 15% and 30% of their weight whereas it isn’t unusual for a feminine with new child cubs to lose as a lot as 40% of her weight.

The set off to exit the den is: snow soften. Giant grownup males and single or poorly conditioned bears will exit first after which sows with cubs of the yr (new child) final. The bear is usually torpid and can lay round on the “porch space” for a while and should re-den if winter circumstances return. If heat climate continues the bear will hunt down water or eat snow, roots and herbs to clear kidneys and digestive system after which any winter-killed carcasses, or extra lately, wolf kills.

The physiological points of a hibernating bear are quite distinctive. They don’t eat, drink, defecate or urinate throughout hibernation. The digestive system and kidneys shut down virtually utterly. The bears exist on meals and fluids saved of their our bodies. Toxic wastes and byproducts are damaged down and reabsorbed; urine is reabsorbed via the bladder wall and processed into amino acids and protein.

Bears don’t lose bone mass throughout hibernation. All different mammals which keep non-weight bearing positions for an prolonged time period endure from osteoporosis, or a weakening of the bones (Wickelgren 1988).

Feminine bears give delivery whereas in hibernation

Feminine grizzly bears usually develop into sexually mature of their fifth yr. Mating usually happens between late Might and early July. Females will usually mate with as many males as they will over the Three-Four weeks of the breeding season. Females won’t come into estrus and mate when they’re nursing or elevating cubs, about Three-Four years.

By means of a course of known as delayed implantation, the fertilized ovum divides a couple of occasions after which floats free inside the uterus for about six months with its improvement arrested. Gestation begins at first of denning. Someday across the denning interval the embryo will connect itself to the uterine wall and after a interval of eight weeks (January or February) the cubs will probably be born whereas the mom continues to be in hibernation.

Delayed implantation clearly serves an necessary survival want for the mom. Ought to she not have sufficient fats reserves to hold her by way of the winter, the embryo won’t implant and it’s merely reabsorbed by her physique.

The variety of cubs born usually ranges from one to 4 with 2.Four cubs being common. Local weather, DNA and meals provide are essential in figuring out of the dimensions of the litter. Current analysis factors to the sow’s means to provide delivery to cubs from totally different boars, which might point out that females produce eggs at totally different occasions all through the breeding interval.

At delivery the cubs are blind, toothless, hairless and really small. They weigh 21 to 25 ounces. Concerning the measurement of a chipmunk. As quickly as they’re born they may nurse on their mom who stays asleep. That is the one time in a bears life when it can eat whereas in hibernation.

The moms milk could be very wealthy containing over 20% fats. In distinction human milk solely accommodates about Four% fats. Nevertheless, bears don’t endure from hardening of the arteries or gallstone. Circumstances which outcome from excessive ranges of ldl cholesterol in people. The bear’s liver secretes a substance that dissolves gallstones in people with out surgical procedure.

In the course of the the rest of hibernation interval, the cubs will develop quickly on this wealthy eating regimen and weigh on common of 50-60 kilos when the household group exits their winter den in spring.


The cubs will usually stick with the mom for the primary two and a half to three years. The cubs are usually weaned between July and September of their first yr. All the household group; mom and cubs will den collectively for the subsequent two winters.

The survival of grizzly bear cubs is completely depending on the the mom in each defending them and educating them the fundamentals of what to eat, the place and the right way to get it, the place to den, and tips on how to cope with hazard.

As younger 2 or Three yr previous sub-adults they’re pushed off by their mom and enormous grownup males as the feminine prepares to breed as soon as extra. Males are drawn in by scent. The three-Four yr previous sub-adults should now journey alone with out moms assist and discover adequate meals to construct up their fats reserves to final over the lengthy winter. Sub-adults (Three – Four yr olds) will typically spend that first summer time and winter with their siblings (brothers and sisters) and infrequently even pickup younger castoff sub-adults from different females, and can then journey in a gaggle for security. Black bear sows kick their cubs unfastened as yearlings or two yr olds.

Recommended Studying

“The Bears of Yellowstone,” by Paul Schullery, third revision. Revealed by Excessive Plains

“Bear Assaults: Their Causes and Avoidance,” by Dr. Stephen Herrero. Revealed by Lyons and Burford.

“The Nice Bear Almanac,” by Gary Brown. Lyons and Burford Books

“Monitor of the Grizzly”, by Frank C. Craighead, Jr., Ph.D. Sierra Membership Books

“Yellowstone Bear Tales”, by Paul Schullery. Roberts and Rinehart Books

“Mark of the Grizzly”, by Scott McMillion. Falcon Books

Literature Cited

Bagget, J.A. 1984. Hibernation. Science World. 40(10):Eight-11.

Gunther, Okay. A., and R. A. Renkin. 1990. Grizzly bear predation on elk calves and different fauna of Yellowstone Nationwide Park. In t.Conf Bear Res. and Handle. Eight:329-334.

Herrero, S. 1978. A comparability of some options of the evolution, ecology and conduct of black and grizzly/brown bears. Carnivore 1(1):7-17.

Herreo, S. 1985. Bear Assaults – Their Causes and Avoidance. Winchester Press, New Century Publishers, Inc., Piscataway, N.J. 287pp.

Knight, R. R., D. J. Mattson, and B. M. Blanchard. 1984. Actions and habitat use of the Yellowstone grizzly bear. U.S. Dep. Inter., Natl. Park Serv., Interagency Grizzly Bear Research Staff. Unpubl. Rep. 177pp.

Knight, B. M. Blanchard, and D. J. Mattson. 1988. Yellowstone grizzly bear investigations: Annual report of the Interagency Grizzly Bear Research Workforce, 1987. U.S. Dep. Inter., Natl. Park Serv. 80pp.

Mattson, D. J., and C. Jonkel. 1990. Stone pines and bears. Pages 223-236 in Proceedings-Symposium on Whitebark Pine Ecosystems: Ecology and Administration of a Excessive-Mountain Useful resource, U.S. Dep. Agric., For. Serv. 386pp.

Mealey, S. P. 1975. The pure meals habits of free-ranging grizzly bears in Yellowstone Nationwide Park, 1973-1974. M.S. Thesis, Montana State Univ., Bozeman. 158pp.

Reinhart, D. P. 1990. Grizzly bear habitat use on cutthroat trout spawning streams in tributaries of Yellowstone Lake. M.S. Thesis, Montana State Univ., Bozeman. 128pp.

Sanders, Okay.D. 1990. Security tips for climbing, photographing, filming, and observing grizzly bears. Self revealed. 20pp.

Sanders, Okay.D. 2001. Gallatin Canyon Bear Proof Trash analysis undertaking. Unpublished 6p.

Wickelgren, I. 1988. Bone loss and the three bears: A circulating secret of skeletal stability. Science Information. 134 (26):424-425.

Yell 703 INFORMATION PAPER No. BMO-Three Kerry Gunther Bear Administration Workplace Wildlife Biologist Yellowstone Nationwide Park February 1996