Concerned about Grizzly Bears? Where They Are and Where They Ain’t

grizzly bear

Seeing a grizzly bear in the wild is a thrilling experience, but everyone doesn’t want that much excitement, especially at close range.

I live in the Inter-mountain West in an area that no longer has grizzly bears and though the occasional wolf from Yellowstone passes this way, there have been no grizzly bears. We have been planning an elk hunt in Wyoming, where we will pack in with horses and set up a wall tent in an area where grizzly bears have been seen.

I started researching grizzly bear populations and distribution because friends of mine from the South, though they don’t come out and admit it, are afraid to hunt in the West because of grizzly bears. Any discussion about grizzly bear populations and distribution should be a conservation issue, but my friends obviously think it is a hunting issue, because it limits the places they want to hunt.

We have all seen too many bear attack stories on T.V., where some poor hiker tells the horror story of their grizzly encounter. I cringe when I see the nasty scars and hear them describe the sounds and sensations of teeth scraping on their skulls. I knew a bear biologist that wore an eye patch because a grizzly took his eye when it bit him in the face.

Wait a minute…

This is not the way to convince my friends that it is safe to come hike, camp or hunt with me. Let’s start over.

This post is about where grizzly bears can be found and how many can be found there. It is also about where you can go to hike, camp, hunt and fish and be confident that your chances of running into a grizzly bear is minuscule.

Where to Find Grizzly Bears in the U.S.

There are only five grizzly bear populations in four western states (not counting Alaska). Since grizzly bears are listed as Threatened under the Endangered Species Act, their populations are constantly monitored by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) and state biologist. Five Grizzly Bear Recovery Zones have been established (Figure 1) that have grizzly bear populations and one Recovery Zone. The Recovery Zone does not have a breeding population, but has been proposed as a place to establish another population in the future.

grizzly bear range and distribution map

Figure 1. Grizzly Bear Range and Distribution Map – Updated 2018 – redrawn from US and Canadian Fish and Wildlife sources. Click for larger map with Legend.


  1. Greater Yellowstone
  2. Northern Continental Divide
  3. North Cascades
  4. Cabinet-Yaak
  5. Selkirk Mountains

Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem

The Greater Yellowstone area covers portions of Wyoming, Montana and Idaho and depending on the source and how much additional land is included, the Greater Yellowstone area covers between 6 million and 14 million acres. The grizzly bear population has been estimated at about 600 bears for a density of between one grizzly bear per 15.6-36.5 square miles (or one bear per 10,000 – 23,333 acres). The Recovery Plan goal is to maintain at least 500 genetically diverse grizzly bears.

The Greater Yellowstone area includes the Shoshone and Bridger-Teton National Forests of Wyoming, In Idaho, that includes the Targhee National Forest and portions of Caribou National Forest near Yellowstone and the Gallatin National Forest of Montana just north of Yellowstone.

Grizzly Bear Range Expansion in Wyoming

Grizzly bears are expanding outwards from Yellowstone and have moved down the Wind River and Wyoming ranges (further south than Lander Wyoming).

The distribution of Grizzly Bears has expanded so much, I have updated the map to show the new distribution (according to Wyoming Game and Fish 2016).

A recent (2017) article shows Grizzly Bears have expanded into prairie habitats (not ideal habitat for Grizzly Bears) 7 miles east of Cody, Wyoming (50 miles east of Yellowstone).

Here is a Link to an animated graphic at Wyoming Fish and Game website showing the Grizzly Bear Range expansion from 1990 to 2016.

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Northern Continental Divide Ecosystem

The Northern Continental Divide area covers about 7.6 million acres in The Rocky Mountain section of north west Montana but also extends into Alberta. From information I can gathered, in 2004 the grizzly bear population was estimated at 765 bears  (95% CI 715-831) in the U.S. portion of the area.

The population was estimated to be growing at 3% per year. If so, the populations could be 993 bears (with 95% CI between 929-1078) by 2013.

If the 2013 grizzly bear population is 993 bears, then the density is one grizzly bear per 12 square miles (or one bear per 7,654 acres).

This population estimate is higher than the goal of the recovery plan for this area, which is 800 genetically diverse grizzly bears. That is why there is a discussion about removing Grizzly Bears from Endangered Species Protection.

The Northern Continental Divide area includes Glacier National Park, parts of several National Forests (Kootenai, Flathead, Helena, Lewis and Clark, and Lolo) and the Bob Marshall, Great Bear, Scapegoat and Mission Mountain Wilderness Areas.

Grizzly bears have moved back into their former range the high plains as far as 175 miles east of the mountains (Loma, Montana). USFWS biologists say there could be as may be as many as 70 – 80 grizzly bears in the high plains. Grizzly bears are also extending their range down the mountains towards Missoula, Montana. A recovered gps radio collar proved a bear had been in the Missoula valley.

North Cascades Ecosystem

The North Cascades area covers about 6 million acres in Washington State and about 882,000 acres in British Columbia. The grizzly bear population on the U.S. side has been estimated at 6 -20 bears for a density of between one grizzly bear per 475 – 1,583 square miles (or one bear per 1,001,333 – 304,000 acres).

The Northern Cascades area includes North Cascades National Park and parts of Mount Baker-Snoqualmie and Wenatchee-Okanogan National Forests as well as the Pasayten, Stephen Mather and Mount Baker Wilderness areas.

This is a very large area with only a handful of grizzly bears, so chances are not good to find them here. According to the Seattle Times (July 1, 2011) “For the first time in nearly half a century, experts have confirmed that a hiker has photographed a living grizzly bear in the North Cascades of Washington”. Biologists have confirmed tracks, but have so far attempted to collect hair samples without success.

See recent news about potential grizzly bear re-introductions into the North Cascades ecosystem at bottom of this post.

Cabinet-Yaak Ecosystem

The Cabinet-Yaak areas covers about 1.66 million acres in Yaak river drainage and the Cabinet and Purcell mountain ranges in northwestern Montana and northern Idaho, with additional grizzly bear habitat across the border in Alberta. The grizzly bear population on the U.S. side in the Cabinet-Yaak area has been estimated at 30 -40 bears for a density of between one grizzly bear per 65 – 86.7 square miles (or one bear per 41,6000 – 55,467 acres).

The area Cabinet-Yaak ecosystem includes parts of three National Forests (Kootenai, Idaho Panhandle and Lolo), the Cabinet Mountains Wilderness area and the Scotchman Peaks Area (proposed wilderness). The Cabinet-Yaak ecosystem is a unique in the Northern Rockies as it is a low elevation “rainforest” and has some of the oldest cedars in North America. The area still shares a small population of Woodland caribou with Canada.

In 2007, a grizzly bear was  killed in north-central Idaho, where the last confirmed sighting of the species was in 1946. Most likely a bear from the Cabinet-Yaak ecosystem.

Selkirk Mountains Ecosystem

The Selkirk Mountain area covers about 1.28 million acres in Washington and Idaho and connects to more bear habitat in  British Columbia. The grizzly bear population on the U.S. side has been estimated at between 30 – 50 bears on the U.S. side for a density of between one grizzly bear per 40 – 66.7 square miles (or one bear per 25,600 – 42,667 acres).

The Selkirk Mountains ecosystem includes the Colville and Idaho Panhandle National Forests and some Idaho State Lands.

Recently, four grizzly bears, including a sow with cubs have been spotted in “the wedge”, a piece of  land between the Kettle and Columbia Rivers in northeast Washington. These bears are assumed to be from the Selkirk Recovery area.

Bitterroot Recovery Area

The Bitterroot Recovery Area (AKA Selway-Bitterroot) is about 3.6 million acres mainly in Idaho, but also along the Montana border.

This is a very politicized area as far as grizzly bears are concerned. It has been proposed that 25 grizzly bears be transplanted to create another population, but the proposal has been on hold since 2000. Grizzly bears have been documented there, but currently, the USFWS claims there are no grizzly bears (population = 0), so any bears found there must just be moving around and are not considered to be residents.

Canadian Grizzly Bear Populations

Canada is the remaining stronghold for the North American Grizzly Bear Population. There are about 26,000 Grizzly Bears in Canada, with 15,000 Grizzly in British Columbia and about 700 in Alberta that have the potential for gene flow into the U.S. populations in Washington, Idaho and Montana. In addition, the Yukon has up to 7,000 grizzlies, the Northwest Territories has up to 4,000 and another  2,000 in Nanavut. There may also be a few bears in Manitoba.

Western States That No Longer Have Grizzly Bears

There are several stories about the last grizzly killed in Arizona; one story has the last grizzly bear being killed in 1933 by a government  hunter, in what is now the Escudilla Wilderness Area. It is the Escudilla area where Aldo Leopold worked for the U.S. Forest Service and where his experiences led him to write the book “Think Like a Mountain”. Another story claims the last grizzly bear was killed in 1935 in Greenlee County and a third story claims the last grizzly was kill in 1939 near Mount Baldy.

Despite the fact the “Golden Bear” is the official state animal and appears on the California state flag, the last documented grizzly bear was kill in 1922 in Tulare County.

The last documented grizzly bears in Colorado was a female (with cubs) killed in 1979 (San Juan Mountains) when the female attacked at bow hunter. Prior to that, the last sighting in Colorado was in 1952. People continue to report grizzly bears sightings in the San Juan Mountains and the Bosque del Oso area, but like bigfoot sightings, none can be documented.

The best reference I found was a post on a wildlife forum by a person that sounded like a credible wildlife biologist. They claimed to see a grizzly and photographed tracks in the San Juan area in 1989. There are reports that Colorado Parks and Wildlife (CPW) are aware of a few grizzly bears in the state, but don’t want “Endangered Species Issues” from the Feds.

Even if that was CPW’s official stance, there is no way credible reports about grizzly bears would not find their way to U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Biologists.

If grizzly bears continue to expand in Wyoming, it is possible they could reach Colorado, either directly down the mountain ranges from Wyoming or through the Uinta range in Utah.

New Mexico
The last grizzly bear was killed in 1931 in the mountains near of Silver City, New Mexico. Another source says the last bear was killed much earlier in 1917.

The last known grizzly bear was killed in Wallowa County, Oregon in 1937.

It is very unlikely for grizzly bear to return to Oregon unless the North Cascade population in Washington expands.

The last known grizzly bear in Utah was killed in 1923. This was a famous bear known as Old Ephraim, who was hunted by a sheep herder from 1914 until he was finally able to kill the bear in 1923. The grave is in the Cache National Forest in Northern Utah and is marked with a grave stone, so this story is well documented.

It may be possible for grizzly bears to return to Utah if they continue to increase and expand in Wyoming or Idaho. Any entry into Utah would most likely come through the Bear River range or down the Green River corridor in Northern Utah.

Update: I was recently told about a grizzly bear sighted in Utah during the Summer of 2013. A fishing guide on the Green river said his wife saw a grizzly walking through the sage in the 3-corners area (near Flaming Gorge). Since this person used to run a hunting lodge in Alaska, they should be familiar with the differences between black bears and grizzly bears.

Danger from Grizzly Bears in the Back Country

I hope this will put my Southern friends at ease. We can hike, camp, fish and hunt in Colorado or Utah and not worry about grizzly bears. You are welcome to come hunt with us in Wyoming, where it is unlikely, but possible to run into a grizzly bear. If we hunt a 6 x 6 miles area, (36 square miles), in Wyoming, it probably contains a grizzly bear. Your choice.

Keep in mind, black bears and mountain lions are everywhere, but we won’t bother them unless they bother us. But seriously, hiking and hunting the rough back country can be dangerous enough and what should cause people more concern than bears is the fact that if you don’t carry a PLB, you can’t call for help if you need it for any reason.

For me, any outdoor activity in grizzly bear country is a humbling experience, because in addition to whatever you are doing, you must also be constantly thinking about and looking for bears. If you are not humbled, you’re probably a little naive and probably will not be prepared if you came face to face with “griz”.

I’ve heard people say they wouldn’t spend $30 on bear spray and claim it’s too much trouble to pack bear spray. Yes, it’s one more thing to carry when we already carry too much, but it should be carried on your hip in a holster where you could reach it if needed. Think of bear spray as the price of a ticket to walk through grizzly bear country. It is a small price to pay to protect you from a bear and to protect the bear from you.

Want to Learn More about Bears?

In fact, Frontiersman makes a practice bear spray. Think about it, would you like to have to use bear spray for the first time with a bear charging you?

Did you know that if you let a bear chew on you, someone will have to track it down and shoot it? Until they are removed from the Threatened List, each grizzly bear is far too valuable to risk because someone doesn’t think to carry bear spray. Sure, carry your gun too, but if you want to get out of a grizzly bear attack alive and uninjured, the stats lean very strongly toward using the bear spray first. (Read Post on why Bear Spray is better for both human and bear).

So to all my Southern friends, when we are in the wilds of Utah or Colorado, we will always carry our sidearms, PLB and GPS. When we are in grizzly bear country, we will also carry big cans of bear spray.

Recent News about Grizzly Bear Management

In 2017, The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service declared the grizzly bear population had recovered and was removed from the endangered species list., but that decision was challenged in the courts. These lawsuits resulted in court decision that grizzly bears should remain on the endangered species list in 2018 despite scientific data and the support of The Wildlife Society (download pdf to read statement) and their attempt to encourage the legal system to defer to the expertise of bear biologists when considering the biological issues associated with de-listing threatened and endangered species.

There are currently approximately 700 grizzly bears in the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem, including parts of northwest Wyoming, southwest Montana and eastern Idaho.

Grizzly bear restoration efforts are also underway again in North Cascades National Park (in Washington). The National Park Service and the USFWS are currently taking public comments on the Draft North Cascades Grizzly Bear Restoration Plan and Environmental Impact Statement (EIS).

The restoration plan and EIS will evaluate various alternative plans for the restoration and reintroduction of grizzly bears into the North Cascades. This will also evaluate the potential impacts on wildlife and fish and impacts on human use, recreational experience and public safety.

Under the draft restoration plan, grizzly bears would be reintroduced into the area to supplement low population numbers. The number of bears to be released and the time frame of the releases will depend on the final approved EIS.

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  1. T.L. Byrd says

    This is not my type of thing but back in 2001 I was returning from Pine Cliff, Colorado to Denver from a picnic in my convertible on State Hwy 72 when I saw what looked like a small baby camel cross the road in front of me about 70 yards. It was about 5:40pm and within 3 seconds I was at the spot where it crossed, it was off the road by only 6 ft and it was a bear cub and just 12 ft past it was its gigantic mom and she was a grizzly bear looked at me and I floored it. The whole scene took 5 or 6 seconds! I still reflect on the evening and its been 13 years. I have seen black bears in the zoo this was the first I ever seen anything that big ever outside of a zoo. Colorado does have Grizzlies!

    • Yes, there continue to be reports of grizzlies in Colorado. I don’t doubt what you saw, but standard procedure for the “pros”, is to question sighting made by the general public, especially if they were excited. I’ve done it myself and have gone on many wild goose chases when I didn’t. But how do you see a griz at close range and not get excited?
      Some claim that Colorado is keeping the info quiet to prevent problems that would be caused by the Endangered Species Act. But knowing as many biologists as I do, I find it impossible to believe that every single biologist is hiding info about griz from the Feds. If State biologist knew for a fact that griz were breeding in Colorado, everyone would know.
      Last Summer, a fishing guide told me his wife saw a Grizzly walking through the sage in the Utah part of the 3-corners area with Colorado. Since they ran a guide service in Alaska for years, she knows the difference between brown and black bears.
      Funny thing… The night before he told me about the sighting, I camped in the sage within a mile from where she saw the bear.

      • You mention that the last Calif Grizzly died in the 30s. My girl friend and I saw a Grizzly in the Sierra Mountains of Northern California about 1980. It had very blonde fur and the hump was very distinctive and the fur on the forearms faded from blonde to chestnut color. It had mighty long claws. Distance : 40 feet. Glad he went the other way. Joe

        • Thanks for the comment Joe. Yes, the current story is the last grizzly bear died in California in the 1930s. As with other observers, nobody can say for certain that you did or did not see a grizzly in the 1980s. The experts will say it was highly unlikely. I am also glad it went the other way, but on the other hand, if it had mauled you, the incident would have been investigated and that may have provided definitive proof it was a grizzly bear.

          • Jeff Farnham says

            If anybody spends anytime in the back country of the coastal range of California you will definitely see that there is two completely different species of bears here and it really doesn’t take a rocket scientist to see the difference either.

            Always have been Black Bears and California Grizzly’s and there still is. And you can surely tell the difference. They are two totally different looking animals from the size and shape from the there length and height from the shapes of the heads, noses and ears all the way down to their claws. Just impossible to be calling these way two different animals Black Bears its just not true .

          • Jeff: I am not going to tell you what species of bear you did or did not see, but there is no scientific evidence that Grizzly Bears have been in California since 1922.

            The last Grizzly Bear was killed in 1922 and the last Grizzly seen was in Sequoia National Park in 1924 (and that sighting was only a sighting).

            In 2014, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service rejected a plan to re-introduce Grizzlies back into California.
            It is estimated there is sufficient habitat for about 500 Grizzly Bears on about 8,000 square miles in California.
            For Grizzly Bears to get back to California on their own, they will have to walk from Washington through Oregon. The last Grizzly was sighted in Oregon in 1933.

            I’m not saying Grizzlies can’t make it from Washington, because the wolves sure did. There are now packs of wolves on National Forest Lands in Siskiyou, Lassen and Plumas Counties Counties, where there is both photographic and DNA evidence.

          • Jeff Farnham says

            Like I said if you spend anytime at all out there you don’t need scientific evedince [evidence?] when you can see there is obviously two different species of bears. You can call them whatever you want but they are way two different types of bears.

        • Sandra Smith says

          I know what the experts say, but I beg to differ. My husband and I saw, what we thought was a statue of a very large Brown, not Black, Bear in Northern California in 2008. It was standing on one side of a stump near a cabin type structure….then it moved and meandered around. We were so shocked to see it but never thought about reporting it. We are from Washington and there are a lot of bears here, but I’ve never seen a Brown bear until we hit California. Is there another type of Brown bear that may roam California??? Just curious.

          • The experts will stand by their story that the only bear species in California are black bears (Ursus americanus). I agree there is no reason to believe brown/grizzly bears (Ursus arctos) are in California.

            The two biggest reasons “experts” have problems with sightings of bears from the general public is because the average person only notices color and size. These are not good field characters without context.

            Black bears come in a variety of colors from black, brown, cinnamon and even white and blond (see photos here) Grizzly Bears or Brown Bears range in color from a cream or silver to an almost black. And colors look very different in different light levels and directions.

            Second, what did you use to measure size? Size is very difficult to gauge in the field because a scale is usually lacking or overlooked. Trees don’t have height strips like the door at the convenience store. If you could say for certain that the bear reached as high as the 15th log on the cabin for example, then perhaps you would have a useful measurement.

            Third, excited people don’t make the best (objective) observers.

            As example, I once went to pick up a “giant hawk” that was found in a warehouse. The manager met me at the door and explained how they captured the “giant hawk” and put it into a big box that washing machines were shipped in. The main said the hawk was so big, it’s wings would barely fit into the refrigerator box.

            Even then, I expected just to see the average Red-tailed Hawk, not at eagle. When I opened the box, I saw a Common Nighthawk. (see photo) Nighthawks are about 9 inches long with about a 2 foot wing span. It was lying in the corner of the giant box (at least 30 inches across and 40 inches deep). When the manager looked inside, he acted as if he was shocked that his “giant hawk” had been replaced by this tiny bird. He sheepishly said “Well, they look bigger with their wings open“.

            Seems like everyone thinks biologists are stupid because they don’t automatically believe them when they claim to see a variety of creatures.

            You can not even imagine the things people claim to see or think they understand.

            My favorite story was told to me by a friend. While he was still in graduate school, a lady had called the biology department and wanted to speak to a biologist about a problem she heard about. The secretary that answered the phone found him first so he talked to the lady. To make a long story short, she was concerned about the “naugas”. At first, he didn’t understand what she meant. Finally she said she heard that the “naugas” were going extinct, because so much “nauga hide” was being used making furniture. At first my friend thought someone was just playing a joke on him, but in the end, someone had played a joke on this lady, but she was dead serious.

            Anyone that expects a bear biologist to take a brown bear sighting seriously, should talk about the hump at the shoulders, the relative height of the rump to the shoulders, the face profile, the shape of the ears and the length of the claws. Right or wrong, if you start the description with size (without scale) or color, it will be a waste of time.

          • I take the word “experts” with a grain of salt. Almost all the instructions from so called experts when encountering a Grizzly bear are a sure way to die. Most suggestions for back country activities are more geared toward political correctness and environmental impact not to really survive an attack or avoid one.

            Plus many think because someone works for a Fish and Wildlife service that they then are experts. I know more self educated experts than academically traditionally trained ones. Minnesota for years denied all evidence and sightings of mountain lions until certain public officials provided the same proof others have. Photos. Then suddenly the enormity of reports and evidence was too much to claim a “family pet” or mis-identified animal. People who know bears deserve more credit for their ability to identify than they get.

            The Sierra Nevada’s certainly has the ability to hold and sustain Grizzly bears so why couldn’t one introduce himself to the area or a breeding pair for that matter. If the country can support them I say act as if they are there when you are out there and always be prepared. Worse case scenario you save yourself from a predatory black bear attack which are deadly as well.

          • I take everyone’s word with a grain of salt, especially every Tom, Dick and Harry claiming to know a grizzly bear because of it’s size or color. The most dangerous knowledge is when we are certain we are right when we are not.

            I am not sure which instructions you refer about encountering grizzly bears that will lead to certain demise. Perhaps you can send me a link so I can review and comment. I do believe your chances for surviving a grizzly bear attack is better with pepper spray than with a firearm. But you had better believe I will have both when in griz country.

            I agree, just because someone works for a Feds or State agency as a biologist doesn’t mean they know everything. It is not always the best biologist that rises through the ranks, sometimes it is the best politician. The best field biologists are not necessarily those best equipped to play the office games needed to be promoted. Most professional biologists spend most of their time writing reports and policies, not working with or studying animals in the wild. Note for all you budding biologists; It all begins wanting to work outside in the wild and it ends in an office balancing the budget.

            I know both educated and “self-educated” people. I respect some of the self-educated people’s observations and opinions more than the professional’s, but that comes only after the person has earned my respect.

            Your example of cougar reports in the Mid-West and East is a good example of biologists being certain they were correct when they were absolutely wrong. Until we were able to put tracking collars on mountain lions, no one knew how far they could travel. June 11, 2011 a mountain lion was hit by a car in Milford, Connecticut. The lion was collared in South Dakota over 1500 miles away. I have seen other examples just as amazing. Knowing that, no responsible person would ever say never.

            I would prefer to say the Sierra Nevada’s probably (not certainly) have the ability to sustain grizzly bears. The problem is how will they get there? Getting there under their own power is what is improbable. Not impossible, but to say with certainty that it has happened will require more than the word of the average tourist.

            I also totally agree that everyone should always be prepared when out in (or just on the edges) the backcountry. Extra food, water, GPS, PLB, pistol, extra batteries, bear spray, whatever. It is ridiculous the extra weight we always have in our packs.

          • Black bears can come in several shades of brown as well, not just black. Black bears generally stick near tree lines (for safety), while grizzlies can be seen walking or foraging out in open areas. Either way, you were lucky to see a bear!!

      • I’m not sure of the date, but sometime in the 80’s. A bow hunter in Colorado was hunting, When he was attacked by a grizzly bear & mauled until he took one of his arrows & stabbed it in the neck. It stopped it’s attack – walked a few feet & fell, then [bleed] out.

        Reluctantly, F & G had to come clean that they had secretly tagged & released nine grizzly bears!
        [Test’s] revealed that it was NOT one of the TAGGED bears!!!
        F&G was convinced that grizzlies were extinct! GUESS NOT!!!!!

        • Joe, the date of the Grizzly attack in Colorado was Sept. 23, 1979.
          Read Ed Wiseman’s story of grizzly attach here
          I would like to see evidence of the rest or your claims.

          1 “F & G” had to come clean that they had secretly tagged and released grizzly bears.
          2 How was F&G tagging and releasing bears if they thought they were extinct? Unless you mean they were also importing bears. If so, from where?
          Not sure what you mean by “Test’s”… The bear was either wearing a collar on or not.

      • Ron Stoehr says

        Reading peoples stories are interesting but scientific data is required for verification. “HUGE”, “locked eyes on my friend” are very telling of frame of mind and seeing what you want to see. Has anyone ever not seen a HUGE bear lol!
        One, possibly, roaming grizzly does not make a population. There needs to be at least two, and they can’t be the same sex AND they need to find each other at the right time over massive amounts of country to just breed. And realistically two wouldnt even make a viable population without additional bears coming into the area.
        What I find fascinating are the bears moving back out onto the plains- they were always plains animals and if allowed will be again. If not interfered with I they can repopulate the Bighorns in Wyoming without transplanting, not to mention Colorado and Utah. But the big problem for repopulating many areas will seem to be the interstate highways. If you look at the Yellowstone area the population expansion seems to have come to a stop at I-90 on the northside. Also, it seems like the problem of bears repopulating Central Idaho from Montana is also the I- 90 barrier from what I’ve from Wildlife Management people.
        I really enjoyed your article and look forward to updates on future population expansions.

        • Yes, similar to listening to people tell about how big the snake was they saw… I’ve seen 6 footers in their eyes turn into 2 footers in mine.

          I went to pick up an “eagle” one time for a raptor rehab facility. When I got to the place, a very excited man came out and explained how this monster was found on their loading dock. I did not expect to find an eagle, but did expect to find a big Red-tailed Hawk or maybe a Cooper’s Hawk. The man went on the explain how it was so big they had to go get a big box from the place next door. The put the bird in a box that held a washing machine. I fully expected to see a red-tail in the box now.

          When I looked into the box, I saw a Common Nighthawk huddled in the corner. Yes, this 3 ounce bird does have nearly a 2 foot wing span, but with it’s wings folded, it looked like you could cover the entire bird with your hands.

          I looked at the man and my expression must have been like “what the hell?” He looked back down into the box, then sheepishly said that it looked a whole lot bigger with the wings open. So yes, hard to trust observations from untrained people that are excited.

          Yes, Griz can live on the plains at least part of the year. You are correct about roads and other developed areas being barriers to Grizzly Bear movements. Part of the Grizzly Bear recovery plan includes planning for corridors and overpasses (these will benefit all 4 legged wildlife). Any isolated population can have potential genetic issues.

  2. Shane McKellep says

    In 2013 I encountered a grizzly just North of Evanston Wy. while scouting for future hunting areas, this probably isn’t that big of news since the Tetons are only about 200 miles north, but it does put them on the Utah border, which was about 10 miles south. A outfitter I used had claimed the area was Grizzly free, but they are ranging further than most think, I do know it was a Grizzly without doubt, I do photography and spent long hours in Yellowstone taking very close pictures of Grizzly bear, distinctive hump on shoulders, the rear end sits lower than shoulders, color is poor indicator as Grizzly can be same color variations as Black, I have also spent some time on Kodiak Island over a 4 yr period. I would estimate the Bear at 400 lbs. Not huge, but still decent for lower 48 I have just moved to an area near the Bitterroots, and hope to photograph them someday in that area.

    • Thanks for the info Shane.
      Your sighting and one I previously mentioned in the 3 corners area (Utah, Wyoming & Colorado) along the Green River in 2013, puts them in northern Utah and a very short trip to northern Colorado. People should start to expect to see a few griz in these areas. Same is true for wolves. We would expect the first bears to be smaller as juveniles become independent and search for their own home ranges.

      Good luck on finding and photographing bears in the Bitterroots.

  3. There’s a lot of good information in this article. However, I believe that many wildlife numbers are deflated. I grew up in Montana and I own a home there. I go back there to hike and fish for a few weeks out of each year with my family. We spend most of our time in the Silcox Roadless area and in the Lolo National Forest. The amount of animals we see always makes our adventures exciting. Driving through back country one day in July, 2014, we spotted 2 Grizzly bears, 15 miles apart.

    We also have Grizzly bears passing through our yard to go down to the river or to tear up some old fruit trees that were planted many years ago. We have several black bears hanging around and a herd of Big Horn Sheep. Deer and elk are quite numerous also. I captured a nice picture of a wolf we saw standing on the trail in front of us on the ridge behind our house.

    The Silcox Roadless area joins the Cabinet Wilderness area. There’s no shortage of wild places in Montana. If there are so few Grizzlies around, it would be like winning the lottery if you saw one. One was just shot last week (Oct, 2014), not 1/4 mile from my house in Montana and I saw 2 in a single day in July.

    According to the maps, there are no Grizzlies frequenting that area, or wolves for that matter. Yet there are many there.

    • Thanks for the comments David.

      If by wildlife numbers being deflated, you mean grizzly bears, I agree. As you can tell from other comments, reports are coming in as far south as Utah and Colorado of grizzly bears wandering from the Greater Yellowstone area. No doubt, your area has breeding populations of grizzly bears.

      When I researched and wrote the article in 2013, I expanded the grizzly bear areas in the map from an old map published by USFWS. The original USFWS map was primarily to show population centers related to the Grizzly Bear Recovery Plan. The published population estimates were eight years old at the time. The 2013 population estimates and densities I published were based on a 3% yearly increase, which was the scientific opinion in 2004. Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks still cites the same 2004 study on their current Grizzly Bear Population Monitoring page. A newer study (published 2011) still uses old data from 2002.

      The only way to get more up to date population numbers will be to contact some of the bear researchers directly, but that does not mean they will share the data until it is published. There are also political reasons that current population data are not easy to find.

      No doubt, there are plenty of grizzly bears in and near the population areas. A friend tells me they lost another elk this year to a grizzly.

    • I returned from another month in Montana. This time, we had Grizzlies at our cabin and the neighbor down the road had a griz sow and cub and also a male pestering them and their livestock for weeks on end. We also have many black bears running around.

      The local reporter and my neighbors set up trail cameras and caught them wallowing in a mud hole up the mountain. They come down at dusk and harass the deer and bighorn sheep. The bighorn sheep graze right in my front yard sometimes.

      In the spring, they go up the mountain to lamb. We found carcasses of sheep close to the neighbor’s house. They were mostly eaten. All of this activity was reported in the Sanders County Ledger.

      Wildlife specialists came out and denied everything, even the pictures. The paw prints alone are astonishing and hard proof but for some reason, fish and game don’t want to acknowledge the animals even being there. I was told that they would have to impose restrictions on the area for traffic and human activity if they find a protected species living around the area. It would also mean spending a lot of money to relocate the animals.

      The other neighbor down the road had his SUV door ripped open and the cab of that vehicle destroyed. I guess they left a candy bar in there.

      All the activity didn’t slow me down. I still spent several days out fishing on the river on my own. A few times I forgot my spray so I would whistle a lot and keep my eyes and ears open. We couldn’t let our teenage daughters walk around the area by themselves and my wife refused to get out of the car on a few occasions. It certainly makes things exciting.

      • David: Thanks again for the comments. Exciting may be an understatement.
        I would love to see some of the pics you have. Did the Sanders County Ledger write an article? If so, is there a link?
        By Wildlife specialists, do you mean US Fish and Wildlife employees or Montana Fish and Wildlife?

  4. A man in the Sweet Grass Hills north of East Butte (Montana) swears he’s seen wolves around, but nobody believes him. Also, there was a mountain lion in Shelby in the 1990’s.

    • Your area is not as wild as the mountainous areas, but I would not be surprised to find a few wolves or mountain lions. The problem is they have to find enough wild game to survive. If they are feeding on livestock, they will not last long.

  5. My mother, my two boys and I saw a Grizzly near Walsenburg (Co.). I didn’t think they existed in Southern Colorado. Someone needs to tell the bear that came out in front of my truck he doesn’t exist. I’ve seen Grizzlies before in Montana, but that was a first for me to see one in Colorado. I’m normally all over the Suan Juans and have run across black bears. I have had a black bear intrude on my campsite. I have never been that close to a Grizzly, and don’t care to be again.

    • I read an account where USFS field techs saw a grizzly in the San Juans. Other reports come from that area in Southern Colorado, but your sighting is much farther east. I am curious about the habitat is in the area of your griz sighting.

  6. DavidDude says

    Well, hope to see them [Grizzly Bears] again in Colorado and New Mexico soon, but it may be necessary to build game fences along highways and to surround many national forests/private lands – as well as the same safety briefings and equipment needed for hiking in Yellowstone or polar bear country. Would be great to see more bison on the plains. By the way, why haven’t the National Parks or grasslands in the Great Plains restocked the buffalo herds?

    • Seeing Grizzly Bears in Colorado, probable, especially in Northern Colorado. Seeing them in New Mexico is less likely. A breeding population of grizzly bears in Colorado? Who knows?

      If a breeding population were established, it would change the way we prepare for hunting, hiking and camping. Fencing to protect bears or people? First, there is no money for fencing, plus fences cause all sorts of problems for wildlife.

      Banff National Park in Alberta has announced plans to restore bison, but there is a lot of opposition to the re-introduction.

      Bison need lots of room to roam. None of our National Parks or National Grasslands are large enough to provide the necessary food to sustain them throughout the year, so they would need to migrate. Migrate to where? Through public and private lands. And how are they supposed to get past all the fences?

      FYI: In addition to the bison in Yellowstone, Utah has two wild free-ranging herds (Henry Mountains and the Book Cliffs) of Bison and one captive population on Antelope Island State Park.

      • Grant Medlin says

        If bears inhabit Colorado, it would be the southern part and/or New Mexico, because bears would have a hard time reaching northern Colorado. They would have to cross the Red Desert or at least Moffat and Rio Blanco counties in Colorado, and in short, that’s a lot of ranchers with guns that are worried about their livestock. Large tracts of wilderness and remoteness make the San Juans a better place for them, although if there are any, they’ll die soon from inbreeding.
        As for the bison, there are herds being established across the plains and even some in the eastern states. Bison have already been reintroduced in Banff. Apart form the Yellowstone/Jackson Hole herd and the Utah populations, there are many small and large herds. In Montana, there is a herd of about 300 to 500 on the National Bison Range, about 100 on the Blackfeet reservation, herds on both the Fort Peck and Fort Belknap reservations, and about 600 on American Prairie Reserve lands. In North Dakota, there are herds in both units of Theodore Roosevelt National Park. South Dakota has the Custer State Park/Wind Cave herd and the Badlands herd. Wyoming’s got a new herd on the Shoshone reservation. Kansas has a herd on Tallgrass Prairie National Preserve. Colorado has the new 25 head Laramie Foothills herd, as well as two other small herds, a population of 100 to 200 on Rocky Mountain Arsenal NWR, and a population of about 2,000 in the San Luis Valley.
        The Rockies have the potential to support thousands. On the plains, 60 million might be a stretch, but if we treat them more like a wildlife species such as deer, which range freely across the plains, then we could allow them to move between areas of public land or private land where the owners could tolerate larger amounts of bison.

        • I agree the best place for Grizzly Bears to “inhabit” Colorado would be the San Juan Mountains, but any new bears coming into Colorado will be coming from the North.
          As for free-ranging bison, there are few places they can range freely. With all the fences wildlife have to negotiate, I don’t consider deer or even antelope to be free ranging anymore.

    • John Isbell says

      That’s a good question !

      • There have been quite a few bison re-introductions and I think they would like to re-stock bison in more areas, but they need a lot of space. Many places may support bison during part of the year, but what would you do with them the rest of the time?

        Our public lands are a great resource, but that is an example of why we need more, not less.

        Of the 30 million estimated bison, there are now about 30,000 (0.1%), but only about 5,000 are running wild.

        But many re-introductions of bison have taken place, so maybe they just don’t get the same attention that bears and wolves get (wolves were re-introduced, but grizzly bears were never extirpated from the areas around Yellowstone nor from many places in British Columbia and Alberta).

        In addition to places like Yellowstone National Park and nearby Fort Belknap Indian Reservation, bison herds can be found in the Henry Mountains In Utah, Antelope Island State Park (Utah), The Ute Indian Reservation (also Utah) the Wind Cave National Park in South Dakota and the Wood Buffalo National Park in Canada (Alberta & Northwest Territories). Alberta also has bison at Elk Island and Banff National Parks (new reintroduction in 2017).

        Bison herds also exist at Fort Niobrara National Wildlife Refuge in Nebraska and animals from there started a heard in Theodore Roosevelt National Park in North Dakota.

        There is also a bison herd in Prince Albert National Park in Saskatchewan and in Saskatchewan’s Grasslands National Park.
        Oklahoma has a bison herd in the Wichita Mountains Wildlife Refuge and Texas still has a herd (from last salvaged herd that was sent to Yellowstone) Caprock Canyons State Park

        I was surprised to learn that Florida has a small bison herd at Paynes Prairie Preserve State Park.

  7. My buddy Dale and I were hunting near Shelf Rd between Canon City and Cripple Creek Colorado. We pulled off because Dale had to pee. I was glassing the treeline (350 yards at most) when I see this HUGE bear lock eyes on Dale. Its took a few sly steps forward and I yelled for Dale to get in the truck. About the time Dale was in the truck and could see the beast for himself the bear was standing up. This was the biggest bear I had seen since guiding in Alaska. I am a hunting guide so not only am I plenty familiar with wildlife but educated as well.

    This bear had a huge round head, it was brown in color, rounded ears, pushing 600 lbs and easily stood 7 ft tall. We began to drive towards the bear to get a better look and he turned and bolted into the trees, at which point we could see a very distinct hump on his back. There was no doubt in my mind what we had just witnessed.

    People said the same thing about wolves in Oregon (being extinct [extirpated?]). They didn’t want the ranchers causing an uproar. Prior to working with ODFW (Oregon Dept. of Fish & Wildlife) I reported many wolf sightings. Now they openly admit there are in fact wolves there. Oregon has one of the biggest Wolf packs in that area. The Imnaha wolf pack continues to thrive and reproduce.

    As far as Grizzlies go, adult males have been known to cover a range of 500 miles. So you mean to tell me that it is 100% impossible for bears from our neighboring (known grizzly states) to not inhabit Colorado or breed, or change territories? As someone who has worked for the fish and game, been a hunting guide and happen to have a very credible education I would love to see what facts prove they could not be here.

    • Thanks for the comments Mattie.

      Your grizzly sighting is farther south and east than most in Colorado, but I have read accounts from USFS techs that reported seeing griz in the San Juans. Interesting info about wolves in Oregon. Looks like the Imnaha wolf pack showed up in the exact area as would be predicted.

      No doubt the presence and reporting of griz and wolves has political consequences for state management agencies. This gives reason to doubt they are telling us the whole story.

      I never use terms like “always” and “never” with wildlife, so no, I am not the one telling you anything is 100% impossible. But there is probably nothing harder in science than to prove a negative. Read other comments and my replies to T.L. Byrd and others that also reported grizzly bears in Colorado.

      The 500 mile range estimate for grizzly bears is very conservative since a 20 year old female was documented traveling 2,800 miles in Idaho and Montana read more.

    • Ronald Stoehr says

      Sorry Mattie, but the idea of a grizzly bear “locking eyes” on your friend at 350 yards is laughable. Judging weight and height at that distance is very suspect. Grizzly range is generally spoken of in square miles not as in a line of travel which is significantly less than your 500 mile suggestion.
      To a earlier Jim Miller suggestion that all bear country safety measures put out by authorities are useless/dangerous at this point everything I’ve seen: Montana, Wyoming and Alaska correlate very well with Dr Stephen Herrero’s thorough study of attacks. His book “Bear Attacks: Their Causes and Avoidandce” is about as definitive as you can get. To sum up: black bears- always fight back. Grizzly bears- play dead at day and fight at night.

      • Rosemary Ann Perry says

        I’ve read “Bear Attacks: Their Causes and Prevention” by Steven Herrero. He’s probably the best source for any information on bears, both black bears and grizzlies. I’ve had discussions with several people arguing what to do/not do in the event of encountering a bear and I always refer them to his book. There is so much misinformation and ignorance out there.

  8. E Kennedy says

    Hi. my wife and I saw a grizzly bear cross hwy 70 in Utah about 50 miles west of Green River today (5/17/2015). It was a huge light brownish bear that bounded across the highway and jumped the median barrier hardly breaking its stride. This was no black bear which I have seen many of.

    • Thanks for the info E. Kennedy:

      Grizzly bears have the ability to cover hundreds of miles, so nobody can say the bear you saw was not a grizzly. But we need hard data.

      The habitat 50 miles west of Green River is not really where we expect griz to show up and any grizzly that got there would have to travel through a lot of other country where we wouldn’t expect to find grizzly bears. If you could be very specific about where you saw the bear, perhaps a state biologist could find tracks.

      The size difference between grizzly bears and black bears is obvious when standing close to them, but can be very difficult to judge in the field. A point demonstrated lately by several experienced coyote hunters that have killed wolves by mistake.

      The problem with distinguishing between black and brown bears by color is that black bears are not just black. They can also be bluish-black, dark brown, light brown, cinnamon and can even be almost white. Grizzly Bears also have some variation in color ranging from from black to blond. And remember that all colors can look different in different light conditions.

      The best way to ID bears is by the presence or absence of a shoulder hump (griz has hump), by a flat or dished face profile (griz has dished face), by having a rump higher or lower than the front shoulder (griz has lower rump) and by their ears (short and round or taller and more pointed – griz has short & round).

      Test your bear identification skills (Not just Mr. Kennedy, but everyone) – Take the Montana Fish and Wildlife Bear ID Test

  9. M.Johnson says

    I have been living in Colorado for 33 years, I have been as far south as Durango, as far north as Glacier National Park Montana and camped everything in between. The truth is there are Grizzly’s in Colorado and anyone who says otherwise ain’t got a lick of sense. Since 2002 Colorado has seen a huge boom in tourists. Many like to come here because it’s easy to get to national forest areas and not be afraid of a 600 pound bears.

    The main reason Colorado Parks & Wildlife (CPW) will not come out and say yes there are some Griz here is 3 reasons. I know because I spoke to one of the Department heads back in 2011. He told me every reason in the world why CPW will not go on record and claim grizzlies are present.

    Reason one by doing so they will have to allow the federal conservationists to declare Colorado as a natural Grizzly habitat which will cost the state money it does not have. Reason two if people knew there was any here it would hurt the tourism. Since 2009 the price of camp grounds and tolls has gone up 28% from $8 a night to $14+ a night and a Vail pass is now $50 just to pass through and will be $60 next year, huge money boom for CPW they not ready to give up since they opened 5 new Fish hatchery’s in the last 4 years (Where the money went). Last but not least is they would have to work directly with Federal relocation program of the animal and trust me when I say that is something no one in CPW wants to do. So they will say no until the day a creditable journalist or biologist provides 100% proof they are here. None will do so because they believe the population here will naturally increase over the next 20+ years.

    I saw a grizzly bear in the San Juan Mountains about 11 miles south of Independence pass in 2012. I’ve seen plenty of grizzlies in my day to know that was no black bear. Black bears as of late have became pests to be honest. I see at least 3 bears a summer in Colorado.

    All Black bears are very easy to identify even the brown colored ones (which is more common in Colorado then most places) This bear had a hump, was blonde, had the long claws and looked to be a 500-600 pound sow. The dish face was unmistakable. I saw it in a meadow area where she looked like she was snacking on something like wild berries that grow in massive amounts there. I told CPW about the siting and they said they get 5+ sightings a year and won’t waste the time to go look. Either way I tried to get someone to take a look, but they all said I was crazy. The joke will be on them when someone takes a better picture than I had. I was not about to get any closer and the zoom on a Samsung phone is not the best. When CPW saw my picture, they said hard to tell. Well that is what I saw and even if they do not think it is true, I could care less. I know what I saw and that was no black bear.

    Reports as of late say Grizzly and polar bears are mating and making some kind of hybrid, I would hate to run into one of those but still no evidence that a grizzly would mate with a black bear. They would as soon kill and eat them than anything.

    • Thanks for the information.
      No doubt there are political and economic reasons state wildlife agencies are hesitant to acknowledge grizzly sightings.

      The hybridization of Brown and Polar bears is an interesting subject (Read scientific paper here). Hybridization of brown and black bears? Since they are not as closely related as Brown and Polar bears, there are probably DNA issues to prevent hybridization in addition to the behavioral isolating mechanisms you mentioned.

  10. Great article. Thank you for touching on the importance of carrying bear spray while walking in grizzly country. I see so many posts where others will tell people that spray is not needed and they have hiked through brown bear country time after time with no issues. It only takes one issue to change your life forever.

    Each bear has a different personality just like people do. Some may run off when they see you or you wave your arms and talk at them. Then there are some that won’t and that is the bear you need to worry about. This is the bear that will either bluff charge you or just simply attack.

    Always always carry bear spray and on your hip not in your pack! If you never use it then great but if you Need it you better have it. Just ask all those people that were attacked if they wish they had spray with them. Better to be safe then sorry.

  11. Another good reason that Colorado Parks and Wildlife might not want to report to the feds they have grizzly bears is because of access issues. I live in the Seeley-Swan valley in Montana, in between the Mission Mountains and the Bob Marshall Wilderness Area. We are right in the middle of Grizzly Recovery Area 1. We literally have grizzlys in our yards! The thing is, since bears take precedence over all other forest uses, the Forest Service has closed all the roads. Areas that I could drive to as a young man are now miles behind gates! If you throw the Canadian Lynx into the picture forget any access. There have been rumors that Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks (region 2) is trying and get grizzlys delisted in this area so we can deal with them. We can’t wait for grizzlys to recovered in Colorado before we deal with them in Montana. We have more grizzleys in my area then in Yellowstone! A few years back the 3rd largest grizzly ever recorded in the lower 48 was killed just 30 miles west of here. We have 30 year old grizzlys that have not been hunted by man.

    • You are right about all the issues associated with endangered species designation. We created the Endangered Species Act (ESA) because of real problems with the threat of species going extinct. The problem now is the listing or de-listing of each species has many political and economic considerations.

      A recovery plan is created for each designated species. The Recovery plan includes population objectives required to remove the species from the list. Time and time again, some species meet those population objectives, but they are not de-listed. We have had some ESA success stories. The Peregrine Falcon and the Bald Eagle were removed from the list, but it took about 10 years after they met recovery goals before it happened. The wolf and grizzly bear have not been de-listed despite meeting and surpassing recovery objectives.

      Science (biologists) should determine if species need additional ESA protection or not. Not politicians and special interest groups. Just because a species is de-listed, doesn’t mean indiscriminate killing can begin. Hunting of wolves or griz will not begin until each state has plans approved by the US Wildlife Service to insure populations remain viable.

      You mentioned Lynx, which has been listed as Threatened. It will be interesting to watch what happens with wolverine (another issue in the forests) and the sage grouse (BLM issue).

  12. Really enjoyed reading this post and all the replies. This has been eye opening. I have never been lucky enough to spy a bear in CO but had never even considered the possibility of migrating or “secret” Griz populations in the state. I will start carrying bear spray now (and yes, I know, you’re right, I really need to invest in the PLB). I wonder if you or anyone anyone reading has heard anything regarding a population of Grizzly moving in to (or maybe even just passing through) the Bighorn Mountains in North-Central Wyoming? I have visited the Bighorns several times and part of what keeps me coming back is the (maybe false?) belief that the Griz isn’t there and far away across the Bighorn Basin. There is a lot of livestock grazing in the Bighorns and I find it hard to believe that ranchers would risk their stock like that if the Griz were around. A friend of mine in AK told me he heard about Griz moving out of the Absoraka and Wind River range into the Bighorns. He may have just been trying to freak me out. I don’t know…

    • No Griz in the Bighorn Mountains that I have heard, but bears have been known to pass through the west side of the Big Horn Basin. A Griz was killed in Heart Mountain, Wyoming a few years ago and they are regularly seen around Cody.

  13. I just got back from camping in a tent in Yellowstone and the National Forest E of there on the way to Dubois. I figured that the odds were slim as we were only camping for a few days. Yellowstone is a human zoo, and by all reports that bear they offed [shot] was very habituated. I worry much more in campgrounds than in the backcountry.

    We were sleeping in an old “family” tent which was some kind of thick leaky nylon. I much prefer wall tents as the walls can be staked down very securely. I’ve heard of people being mauled in pup tents but never a wall tent.

    Not sure where you are headed but your map doesn’t reflect the populations in the Wyoming and Wind River Ranges.

    I personally am not enamored of the griz, they won’t keep me out of a place but I’d choose to go elsewhere if all else is the same.

    ESA ought to be tied to the IUCN listing as is done in many other countries. Ensures it is science driven not political.

    • Thanks for the comments.
      Not doubt habituated bears are more dangerous than wild bears.

      My wife recently bought a portable electric fence that we plan to put around our wall tent this fall.

      The purpose of my map is to reflect the most current scientific map of occupied grizzly bear areas as possible. I agree the map is not current, but have not updated it since I have not found an official updated map from the US Fish & Wildlife Service or from any of the states. I could put points on the map where problem bears have been shot, but am hesitant to put points or shade large areas because someone tells me they saw a griz there.

      I am curious as to why you believe the IUCN listing would not be political. Every thing that affects people is political.

  14. Randy Osga says

    Mountain Man and former Government trapper Ernie Wilkinson of Colorado who once killed a grizzly in 1952 passed away this past Tuesday August 11th.

    MONTE VISTA— “I never had a dull moment and only an occasional bad day” Charles Ernest “Ernie” Wilkinson. Wilkinson, whose life was certainly devoid of “dull moments,” passed away on Tuesday at the age of 91. An author whose newspaper columns entertained and educated audiences for many years, Wilkinson had also written an autobiography, “Colorado Outdoor Living, Eighty-Plus Years,” released when he was 84 years old. Wilkinson had many tales to relate about his trips into the mountains, encounters with wild animals, tracking, trapping and hunting expeditions, wild animal training and movie making, injuries and recoveries, search and rescue experiences and outdoor survival wisdom gained and imparted. Most of those experiences he shared with his wife and friend Margaret, who passed away in late 2013 at the age of 85. The two raised their four sons in the outdoors they loved.

    Family “pets” might range from mountain lions and bears to badgers and coyotes. Some of Ernie’s closest companions were the animals made famous in such films as “Cougar Country.” Tabby the lion lived to be 22 years old, and Nip the badger lived to 19.

    Whether spending time outdoors with the likes of the late John Denver and Walt Disney or rescuing an elderly man stranded in a winter storm, Wilkinson was always the same, a man of no pretense and a great deal of common sense. He was also a man with no regrets. During one of his many public presentations, he said, “I have had a good life. I did not get rich, but I am the richest man in the world.”

    He and Margaret operated Ernest’s Taxidermy near Monte Vista, guided folks on back pack trips in the summer and snow cave trips in the winter, taught outdoor survival skills and primitive skill camps, and were active in archery, search and rescue, Scouting and many other activities. Ernie was known to say, “I am completely relaxed in the dark in the mountains. On a street in Denver I would not be.”

    Funeral arrangements will be announced through Rogers Family Mortuary in Monte Vista.

  15. Kennen Mynear says

    Hello Everyone. I live in Idaho and I just wanted to point something out that many people have not thought of. In terms of Colorado having grizzlies but the officials trying to hide it, seems a bit far fetched to me. Here in Idaho in the hunting regulations the Idaho fish and game goes to great lengths to explain the difference between them and black bears, and also tell hunters exactly what units they may encounter grizzlies in. There are many reasons. So hunters don’t mistake them and shoot them, but also to keep the public safe.

    If the state of Colorado thought that hey had grizzlies for sure, they would be letting the public know. They would have to. We have had park rangers and others attacked by grizzlies here in Idaho in the Island Park area, and they are found in many other areas. If Idaho Fish and Game didn’t tell the hunters and public about these bears that would be a huge lawsuit waiting to happen.

    Can you imagine, someone gets killed and we find out they knew all along? I just don’t see that being the case, if there were grizzlies in Utah, or Colorado, or Arizona, You would know it. That is just my opinion.

    There are remote areas in these states, but not nearly as remote as some of the places in Idaho, I could see there being grizzlies that live in the Selway or Frank Church Wilderness Areas without ever seeing a human, but not in Colorado. Too many people and no large intact wilderness areas like Idaho and Montana. Again just my humble Opinion.

    • Hi Kennen:

      I am not a big conspiracy theorist, but there are legitimate reasons for states without grizzlies to deny having them. As you point out, it is a known fact Idaho does have grizzlies, so they are already under the Fed’s thumb as far as the Endangered Species Act goes for both grizzly bears and wolves.

      Do I believer politicians (those in charge of state wildlife agencies) would deny a small population of grizzlies or the occasional wanderer? Sure. But do I believe wildlife biologists would deny this? No. Not even if the the politicians wanted them to. There are too many that would leak information to the press.

      You are correct about Idaho having lots of remote areas, but while Idaho has nearly 4.8 million acres of designated Wilderness and over 20 million acres of National Forest lands (USFS), Colorado has over 3.7 million acres of designated wilderness and over 14 million acres of USFS land. It is primarily the fact that Idaho’s remote areas are connected to remote areas of Canada, Montana and Wyoming that has allowed grizzlies to survive there.

      There are places in Utah and Colorado where grizzlies can live once they get back there, because in addition to designated wilderness areas, there are additional connected federal lands that can provide habitat.

  16. While I agree with you on virtually every point the fact that Grizzlies are expanding from existing population areas the probability of Grizzlies being in Utah and Colorado are fairly certain. It would be wise to err on the side of caution. The existing Southern Colorado Brown Bear population may stand at 25 to 50 bears the Northern population is somewhere in the area of 10 to 25 Bears between Utah and Colorado.

    In truth we do not know where the Bears are but they are dispersing that is for sure. Since state lines mean nothing to bears we need to rejoice that Grizzlies still exist from the original population source. I am an advocate for Grizzly Bear re-introduction into California.

    • I agree, the chance there are a few wandering grizzlies in Utah and Colorado are very good. But why do you think there are as many as 25 to 50 griz in Southern Colorado? If there were that many bears, the probability of confirmed sightings and evidence would be very high.

      Griz introductions in California? Maybe someday, but USFS just starting process for introductions in the North Cascades Ecosystem.

  17. I live in Idaho surrounded by the West Mountains and the Cuddy Mountains Outside Indian Valley. We are about 45 minutes from McCall to give you an Idea. Several things pop into my mind living out here. We are at the last point of high desert and at the base of the mountains. I believe this was once prime Grizzly habitat. People have moved Grizzlys up into the higher mountain areas but that has not historically always been their habitat.

    I have heard stories of hunters believing they spotted a Grizzly bear up in the mountains around Council and have a farriers report of a sow and two cubs down along the Weiser river. She claims to have a picture and also claims to have shown this to a Forest Service friend who also claims it was a Griz. Given the edge of the Bitterroots by McCall is very close to Council if traveling the mountains. Could this area see an occasional Griz visitor?

    • You are correct about that area historically being grizzly habitat and about grizzlies being forced from the valleys into the mountains, just as the elk have.

      It is not a stretch to believe griz can wander into the mountains or even the valleys around Council. It is not that far from the Bitterroot Recovery Area. It is a stretch for them to wander to California (in response to your other comment).

      • Yes I can appreciate that it could be a stretch to wander into California. With a few exceptions if read about their natural nomadic travel is not that far. BUT it could be, so I tend to plan for the worst and survive.

        The instructions of what to do in bear country is what I’m talking about in my other reply. You find them in Yellowstone, Any bear area and subsequent Forest service website. Bells, loud noise, food all of it. Packing out food containers great for the environment bad for you. Reality is you can’t hide your scent or the scent of your food in your clothes or the attraction of tents to bears or their curiosity of noise or their attraction to food (of which we are) Or the fact that they are carnivores and predators.

        I agree pepper spray is better than a gun but I take both as well as a knife. Few hunters in the early days (read 1800s) had the trouble with griz that we do today and there were more of them. I suspect it is in part because of how they hunted and they did so quietly. They would see the bears but the bears would not see them. They knew where and how to camp and it didn’t involve a tent or sleeping bag.

        Griz as with any bear are smart and can be very quiet and patient. Eventually they will have to satisfy their curiosity. That said a prepared person is more often a living one and a bear still alive.

        • Yes, I think grizzly bears are physically capable of walking from Yellowstone to the Sierra’s. The problem is that they would have to cross a lot of hostile habitat and they would have to do it at the worst time of the year from a water and food availability stand point.

          I’m sure you’ve heard the old native American saying: “When the Winter’s first snowflake falls in the forest, the deer hears it, the bear smells it and the eagle sees it. (Also seen quote with falling pine needle). I think they know about every person up wind of them, old hunters/trappers included. More people today are likely to blunder into bear totally unaware. Most of the time, Mamma bear simply thinks you want to pull baby bear’s tail and she ain’t having it.

          If you haven’t seen this (List of Fatal Bear Attacks), you might find it interesting.

          • Just went through that list. Its an incomplete list but it is very interesting. They, both black and brown bears do inspire awe don’t they. I think of my own stupid encounters where I could have been killed or mauled and was not (black bears) still I was never stupid enough to jump in a cage with one at a zoo ( I did at a friends house once but that’s another story). Thanks for the link.

          • You are welcome…

            You can add any additional attacks you know about to the Wikipedia post. You have to create a login, then you can edit the post. That is part of the beauty of Wikipedia, but also why you have to take everything there with a grain of salt. I occasionally add or correct things when appropriate.

            I did get into a cage with baby black bears at a zoo once.

            Since you appreciate bears, I just found (this) Look at 3rd pic…

    • Hi there I may of spotted one in the Cuddy Mountains of Idaho today on the ridge line. saw 2 bears today the first one was enormous and appeared to have a hump. It was about 600 ft from me and we had a 5 minute stare down while I yelled “go bear go” until it finally walked off. I sent some photos to Idaho fish and game though not the best quality and was easier to see with my eyes though I am not exactly sure what I saw except it was at least 3 1/2 ft tall at the shoulders and was much larger than another bear I have seen.

      These are the two pics Jason sent. I ( removed extra height from both photos, but left their original widths.
      Photo 1 Cuddy Mountains Idaho 6-23-19
      Photo 2 Cuddy Mountains Idaho 6-23-19

      • Who knows Jason? Looks like the area you were in is part of the “Bitterroot Recovery Area” which according to USFS several years ago, did not have Grizzly Bears. But several years have past, so it is possible. I would be curious to see your pics. Jason sent photos and I put links to them on his original post. Thanks again Jason

        • Jason floyd says

          I emailed them to you . I couldn’t figure out how to attach to the contact page. Pics are grainy and was hard to tell what I saw but in person looked bigger than any black bear I have ever seen and appeared to have a hump though it could of been from walking

      • Thanks for sending the pics Jason. I am sure you saw more detail in person than the pics show, plus you got to see the bear move. For me, the photos are not conclusive.
        I can convince myself that I see a definite hump, but that is not proof.
        I would like to know what Idaho Fish & Game has to say (if anything).
        Looks like beautiful country. Thanks again, and be safe out there.

        • Yep they responded saying it was a extremely large blonde phase black bear. The nose was elongated to be a grizzly . Honestly I don’t remember and was not or am not sure what I saw. Was very large. On local posts quite a few people are saying they know there are grizzly there but if this particular bear is a 500 lb black bear I could see the confusion. I definitely saw what looked like a hump but at a estimated 600 feet away plus I was looking down 40 feet or so in elevation . I wouldn’t bet on it being a hump or just walking motion. The head was large. Do not recall the snout length but looking on line looks like they have a decent size snout. So who knows . All I know is it was a amazing looking bear.

          • Yes, hard to be totally objective when excited… and unless you train yourself to remember to look for the hump at the shoulders, the relative height of the rump to the shoulders, the face profile, the shape of the ears and hope you don’t get close enough to notice the length of the claws.

            And yes, an amazing experience and one you and the bear were both able to walk away from.
            Thanks again

  18. Those pictures must be of people with a very short life span LOL. That is the funny thing but also the danger in them. They can be so friendly and mean no harm yet also the next one comes and you are lunch. I guess with much respect I will view them as predators. Crazy pictures though.

  19. OK now you should plan a Backcountry Chronicles Grizzly meet and greet in Yellowstone…

    Wait not Yellowstone… cuz I want to be armed better.

  20. Oh I rest me case. People seem to think this [Yellowstone] is Disney or Smokey. Well these are the ones who shouldn’t breed. Good case for natural selection. But seriously you should consider planning a trip for your readers to go to spot bears in Montana or Bitterroot range. See how many takers there would be. Could be a fun trip and no Yellowstone rules to get anyone killed. LOL TIC

  21. That’s too bad. Well let me know if you want to make a visit.

  22. For those interested, A record number (59) of grizzly bears were killed in the Yellowstone Ecosystem in 2015. Read Article

    Current population estimates (in the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem (GYE)) range from 552 to 717. Apparently, numbers below 600 trigger actions under the Endangered Species Act.

    The Feds admit they could be underestimating the grizzly population by 40%. Since the Feds are in charge, perhaps they need to get serious about a DNA hair study.

  23. Educated Hunters know like Leopold knew that Biodiversity is key to healthy game. This includes bears and especially wolves! An Ecosystem with predation like Yellowstone after re-introduction balances itself out.
    Wolves changed the behavior of the elk which allowed aspens, cottonwoods, and willows to establish in riparian zones. This brought back the beaver which made pools which helped re-establish moose/songbird/brook trout/eagles/osprey/etc. and many other animals increased in health and abundance including bears.
    Elk Population stabilized around 7,000 for that ecosystem.

    • Amen Eric… One of my favorite Aldo Leopold quotes: …”just as a deer herd lives in mortal fear of its wolves, so does a mountain live in mortal fear of its deer.”
      That obviously applies to rivers and elk as well…

      This short video (clip from “Nature”) sums it up here

      I hesitate to use the term “balance” of nature, because that implies that some species voluntarily/altruistically “give way” to others for the good of the whole, when we know everyone is fighting for themselves, their offspring and their genes. But more animal and plant diversity makes it more difficult for some species to dominate.

  24. Hello,

    Columbus is 40 miles west of Billings. Your map doesn’t show towns. Do you know if there are grizzlies in Columbus, MT? Thank upi

  25. M.Johnson says

    Been a year since I posted last, see a lot more comments on here now. Saw some posts about people thinking the State of Colorado would be on record if they have proof of grizzlies in Colorado. Truth is they would not. Colorado is on file for rejecting relocation projects and while we have a few bears here they are fewer than 25, I would say maybe 10-13 across Colorado total. This is just not enough for Colorado Parks and Wildlife (CPW) to go on record and admit anything. Colorado as a whole does not want grizzlies here (even if us Natives do not care). It would take the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to force Colorado to accept any type of relocation or habitat dedicated to these animals, something Colorado will never do on their own.
    If people really think bears from Yellowstone are not on the move south for a better selection of food then you are crazy. Yellowstone has been in recovery mode for well over 100 years now and the area while it can house 80-150 bears those bears that mate and dry up food sources will move on to find something to eat.
    A few years ago a radio collared female grizzly (named Amy) traveled 900 miles from the north-west part of Montana and headed to Elk basin north of Yellowstone. They can and will migrate where ever they feel they have a good shot at food.

  26. I came across your web site while looking up info on grizzly bears. I don’t know why your friends from the South are so spooked. I heard if you just blow in the bear’s ear it has a calming effect…

  27. Thank you

  28. I have been photographing grizzlies for twenty-five years. In that time I have formulated the opinion that big game hunting in grizzly territory just doesn’t make for a good mix. The bears are going through hyperphagia. English translation: they are trying to put on as many calories as they can as fast as they can. The smell of a wounded animal to a grizzly at that time of year is a lot like finding a bag full of money in the middle of the woods to you or me. If that bear gets on the “scent trail”, it is not going to care if you are the one who wounded the game animal, or not. In that bear’s mind, the wounded animal belongs to him.

    Last year alone, there were 62 grizzlies in the Yellowstone ecosystem who died at the hands of humans. A substantial number of these deaths are attributable to hunters’ claims of “self defense”. Foremost among the incidents is the death of “Scarface” known to the photography crowd as a peace loving bear who lived for a quarter century mostly within the confines of Yellowstone Park.

    If it were up to me, I would ban big game hunting in Park County, WY; Park County, MT and Teton County, WY at a minimum. Big game hunters and grizzly bears are a poor combination. The bear/human conflicts that arise from allowing big game hunting in grizzly territory rarely have a happy ending….for anyone.

    Let the pro-hunting hate mail, begin.

    • Thanks for the comment JB.
      The source for the 62 dead grizzlies in the Yellowstone Ecosystem JB refers is here – 2015 and 2016 is here (27 so far in 2016).

      I looked carefully at the 62 grizzly deaths from 2015 and noticed that 13 were removed (killed) for breaking into buildings and/or being a nuisance to people or livestock (some cubs were put in the zoo, but they were removed from the ecosystem), 12 were removed for killing livestock (some cubs assumed, but not proven dead), 7 were probably dead from unknown causes, 5 were related to bears being killed by hunters defending themselves (plus 2 cubs that are assumed dead since mother was killed), 3 were known dead from unknown causes, 3 were removed for killing people, 3 were killed by vehicles, 2 were illegally killed by black bear hunters, 2 bears were killed by other bears, 1 bear died when being tranquilized and handled, 1 bear is probably dead because it was hit by vehicle but never found, 1 old bear was euthanized and another death is under investigation. 49 of the 62 bear deaths were inside the demographic monitoring area.

      I agree 7 grizzly bear deaths due to hunters having to defend themselves is too many, and it is inexcusable for black bear hunters to kill grizzlies by mistake, but I am curious as to why you single out hunting when other causes of death are more common.

      It is harder to find accurate population data for grizzly bears now than it used to be, but the loss of 62 grizzly bears in one year from an estimated population of about 600 – 700 in the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem does not seem to be sustainable to me, but the UFSWS (the folks responsible for grizzly bear protection under the Endangered Species Act) continues to push for their de-listing.

      I take it you do not agree with the petition to remove the Grizzly Bear from ESA protection?

  29. Jim MIller says

    It also seems that when a predator is removed from the game list the result in human predator attacks increases frequency. Case in point are the mountain lions in California. They are now protected and the population has soared and so have human lion interactions. These never turn out good for human or lion. Responsible hunting is not a problem. Poaching and ignorant hunters can be. Its important to make that distinction regardless of our agenda. Facts will be facts.

  30. We just got back from a trip to Montana where we spent some time camping, hiking and fishing in Griz country. We carried bear spray, but saw no grizzlies. We did run into a hornet nest and had to run for our lives. I got stung twice and Sonia got popped 3 times, which proves I can still run faster than her.
    We spent a few days at a ranch and was told by the rancher that has hunted, packed and outfitted in the mountains (Bob Marshal Wilderness & Scapegoat Wilderness) there since the 1950s that he had seen grizzly bears up close only about 5 times.

  31. Jim Bering says

    Please don’t believe that USFW report on the effectiveness of pepper spray. They have an agenda and that is to protect grizzly bears. They feel the general public is too stupid to use firearms and will kill bears unnecessarily.

    The report is classic Procrustean research. They have the goal they want (pepper spray is more effective than firearms) then they stretch, cut and distort data to prove their point. The number of so called defensive attacks stopped by pepper is way exaggerated. Most are not defensive at all but rather nuisance bears that are sprayed when enter a camp ground. That is not an attack.

    Ask yourself this. Bear spray maximum effective range is around 8 yards. Do you really think you can stop a charging grizzly bear going over 30 mph by spraying him? Really? Bear spray works as a deterrent largely because of pain. What do you think hurts more, pepper spray or a .500 grain .458 bullet?

    I totally lost faith in bear spray years ago. I had a dog that would fight with this other male dog. I got the idiotic idea that the next time they fought I would spray them with bear spray and that they would get the idea that fighting was not a good thing. So I hit them with the spray and guess what? They both became more enraged and fought harder. If bear spray won’t stop and Brittany spaniel how is going to stop and enraged grizzly bear?

    Gary Shelton, probably the man that knows more about bear defense says that bear spray when used 100% correctly (which is difficult to do) is 80% effective. A rifle of proper caliber when used 100% correctly is 100% effective. Personally, I have never stopped a bear charge but I have stopped cape buffalo charges and dropped them in their tracks. I have often chased Alaska brown bears out of camp with a rifle in my hands. No shots necessary. They are smarter than buffalo and know instinctively when you have the upper hand. Something about the way you carry yourself or maybe even your scent. I am not sure why but they know.

    Recently two guides off a cruise ship got mauled by a brown bear in Alaska. The second guide came up and sprayed the bear with pepper spray. The bear attacked him. The bear soon left but it is doubtful that the spray had anything to do with it since he says he missed the bear’s face and sows protecting cubs generally leave after the perceived threat is neutralized. Unfortunately the first guide, a woman, was mauled severely and is still in Harborview hospital in Seattle. If you have ever seen someone that has spent a few seconds with a grizzly bear you will understand it is a life changing experience and not for the better. That is why I get sick of people spreading false information about how to protect others from bear attacks especially agencies that don’t even follow their own advice. Hypocrites.

    I think it is dangerous for government agencies to tell the public that pepper spray is better than firearms. People the idea that they can stop a charging bear with the wall of of aerosol which is far from the truth.

    Also ask yourself this. If bear spray is so much better than a firearm why do nearly all government agencies issue firearms in grizzly country for bear protection for their own personnel? I can tell you why. It is typical government arrogance. They think they know what they are doing and you don’t.

    Of course a firearm is only good if you know how to use it. Just going to the local hardware store and buying a firearm and ammunition then shooting it a couple of times is not enough. A person has to really learn how to use it. If he is unwilling to put in the time and money to do this, then yes, buy a can of pepper spray. It is better than begging.

    • Thanks for the comments Jim.
      You are correct that there are many instances where bear spray fails to prevent attacks and it may not be very effective on black bears. I like to remind people the 1st rule of all things biological is that you can never say “never” and never say “always”. That is why I carry both pepper spray and gun.
      Do I think pepper spray will stop a grizzly in a full charge? No way. Your attempt to stop your dog from fighting is a good example. Just like cops can’t stop all people from fighting back with a single blast of pepper spray.
      Do I think pepper spray is a good choice for a curious or nuisance bear? Yes. Since you have chased bears away from camp, would you recommend the average person do the chasing with a gun or pepper spray in hand? What next if bear doesn’t leave?
      I can’t answer the question of which hurts a charging bear more (pepper spray or bullet?). I have seen elk pay more attention to a cow call after being shot than the effects of the bullet.
      The Fed. govt. may be issuing guns to employees for protection against bears, but they are also using air horns.
      The USF&WS report (download pdf here) claims to use data from another well respected bear biologist (Dr. Stephen Herrero). The report summarizes the data in a very general way and I try to get the facts right and raise a few questions in this post about guns or bear spray.
      I’ve also read that many attack victims are men aged 40 – 60 with a certain amount of high frequency hearing loss (anecdotal evidence vs hard data), but some people may be getting into trouble because they can’t hear the bears.
      Luckily, the chances of being attacked are low and very few attacks by grizzlies are predatory.
      People are not fast, strong or agile when compared to other species, but we have the ability to be more intelligent, whether we choose to use that intelligence or not. We need to be aware and don’t do stupid stuff in bear country.
      We don’t need guns or bear spray if we can just keep our distance.

  32. Jim Bering says

    Yes, I agree with you that bear spray is the better tool for getting curious or nuisance bears out of camp. You don’t want to kill them for being curious. It isn’t even legal to do so.

    My chasing of bears out of camp had mostly to do with them going after our caribou that were hanging, not exactly in camp but a little ways out. Of course you should never hang game right in camp in grizzly/brown bear country. I speak for myself and I can’t speak for everyone. I am far more comfortable with a large bore rifle for this than bear spray because I would only shoot if the bear charged. They never have. They pretty much leave when they hear you coming. Damn! They get the gut pile! Isn’t that enough? I am kidding. They are animals and are doing what animals do. They are neither good nor evil. They just are. However, one can’t just let them eat your caribou! It isn’t even legal to let them do so. You have to do your best to salvage the meat or it is called wanted waste. Although once the bear claims the meat you cannot shoot it. These are the rules in Alaska but I suspect they are the same or similar everywhere.

    As a far as what I would do if a bear didn’t leave, I have never had a bear stay after I shouted at him with rifle in hand. The people I hunted with always have a game plan though if the bear refuses to leave. The next step is a flare gun with a cartridge close. If that doesn’t work, a shot in his butt.

    The last resort is pepper spray but I am not sure I would do that. I would be very unwilling to get within pepper spray range of a bear that has claimed a caribou. That’s around 8 yards! At this point I think we have to let the bear have to caribou, take photos and try to explain to ADF&G what happened if they check. They really do not like people shooting caribou or moose and not taking the meat but they dislike people shooting bears needlessly far more. A photo are two would help but like I said, I have never come across this situation.

    As I said I do not recommend firearms to anyone for protection unless they spend the time and money to learn how to use them correctly and comfortably to the point where they are extremely confident with them. They do not have to be a crack shot. After all ADF&G recommends shooting a charging bear at 17 yards. That is almost point and shoot distance with rifle. It is more a matter of staying calm rather than marksmanship. Staying calm comes from confidence.

    I am very familiar with Stephen Herrero and his writings and have read most of what he has to say including his book “Bear Attacks Their Cause and Avoidance.” Did you know for the longest time he argued with Gary Shelton and has since recanted some of his positions? Some biologists are not stubborn and locked into their theories which is refreshing.

    BTW, have you read Gary Shelton’s books? His advice is on protection and he gives a lot of cautionary tales. One was of two elk hunters killed in BC by a grizzly. The press reported that the hunters had unloaded their rifles after killing an elk so were defenseless when a bear came. The wives of the hunters were upset with this story since their husbands were experienced hunters and familiar with grizzly bears and didn’t believe that they would unload their rifles while butchering an elk. They asked Shelton to look into it.

    What he found was that one rifle had been damage so in fact was unloaded. The other was a push feed bolt action and had a double feed jam. This is why nearly all professional hunters in Africa use controlled feed bolt actions for dangerous game. You can go your whole life with a push feed bolt action rifle and never have a double feed jam. But then how often do most people face a charge from a dangerous animal? Panic is what leads to double feed jams and controlled feed prevents it. That is why Mauser invented it. It is a matter of the right gun, the right cartridge, practice and confidence. A person does not need bench rest accuracy at charge distances.

    Keeping one’s distance from grizzly bears is good advice however, if one is engaged in hunting that is not always possible. We say that a rifle shot at a caribou is like ringing the dinner bell for bears on the Alaska Peninsula. They are there in no time. Then of course they come into camp.

    Then there are the surprised attacks when people stumble into a sow with cubs which happened just recently in Alaska.

    In that case not spray or gun would have saved the woman from a sever mauling. (She is still in Harborview so the injuries must be bad.) The second guide may have been able to prevent his mauling with a firearm. The bear spray did nothing and in fact he admitted he missed the bear’s face.

    I am not recommending firearms for everyone. It takes a lot practice to become proficient with firearms especially those that are suitable as stopping charging bears. Not surprisingly the most effective stopper is the .458 Winchester Magnum. The problem is the recoil is out of this world. The first time I shot a .458 I thought the gun had blown up. Seriously. I looked at my fingers to see if they were all still there. I had been shooting a .375 H&H with hot loads for years but this was something else.

    It took me a while to get used to the recoil and eventually I could actually shoot it very well. I used it in Africa and it became our camp gun in Alaska. With the correct loads it can drop anything that walks the planet. But I would not recommend it to the average person, not even the average experienced hunter.

    On the other hand if one can handle a goose gun he can handle a .375 and that is the USFS second choice. It readily available and available in stainless steel which is nice in Alaska. Having hunted in Africa a bit I disagree with the USFS use of expanding bullets for a stopper. Solids all the way. The key is penetration. If it is charging do not aim for the head. It is too small. Shoot the animal in the chest. A solid bullet will go through the boiler room and has a very good chance of reaching the spine which will drop the animal instantly. I have done this with cape buffalo which are more difficult kill than bears as I am sure you know.

    • More good info Jim. I am familiar with Gary Shelton’s book, but have not read it. Both Shelton’s and Herrero’s books can be found here for those interested.
      Yes, people don’t think too much about a rifle jam when hunting elk, but they sure better when hunting dangerous game in Africa and hunting elk in griz country may not be different. I’m sure you’ve even seen the use of double barrel rifles as well as the controlled feed bolt actions in Africa.
      You would think the debate about carrying revolvers vs. automatic side arms in griz country is over, but not so. See Tyler Freel’s post at Outdoor life. Freel also says “I’ve personally witnessed a brown bear take 13 solid shots from less than 20 yards with a .375 Ackley before it expired.” Obviously the bear was down and not still charging, but that doesn’t instill confidence.
      The “dinner bell” theory seems to be more common in some areas now. Buddies of mine that hunt elk in griz country, have one guy stand guard while the other processes the kill and they have still lost elk to bears.
      My fishing buddy knew a guy who’s job was bear control in Alaska. He used a .375 at distance and a 12 gauge shotgun with 00 buck shot at close range. When asked what was the closest range he had killed a grizzly, his reply was 12 yards.

      • Jim Bering says

        I am a little skeptical of the 13 shots with a .375 to kill a bear. That had to be some pretty poor shooting. The animal will not die right away if one puts even 15 rounds in the animal’s butt. Like you said, the bear had to be down. That’s what really counts.

        I can’t count how many times I have heard of these bullet proof buffalo and I am sure you have too. Often the hunter is using a .458 Lott which has become “the” dangerous game round in Africa. That round has 10% more velocity than the .458 Winchester Magnum and thus around 20% more recoil. A .458 WM is on the limit of tolerable to most people. 20% more recoil I believe causes flinches and poor bullet placement. Every buffalo I shot went down with one shot with the little old .458 WM. I did have hand loads that propelled the 500 grain bullet at 2236 fps. That is better than the old .450 NE which was considered the quintessential stopping round in Africa. Yeah, I kept pumping bullets into them even after the death bellow. Better to be safe. When hunting buffalo there are alway several people with you and most of them are unarmed. You don’t want anyone to get hurt.

        Also the correct ammo is important. I am a firm believer in solids for defense rounds. Most Americans are not fond of them but it is the opposite in Africa. There are great solids now and for that matter great expanding bullets too.

        Yes, I have seen double rifles in use in Africa but they are rare simply because they are so expensive and most PHs are not rich. I have shot a .470 NE there and it was nice. However, I would not want to take one to Alaska as a camp gun. One, they are all real nice, too nice for Alaska. Also they are either loaded or not. I don’t like the idea of a rifle laying about camp loaded. A bolt action can have the magazine loaded and the chamber empty which is how I like it for such use. McMillan makes a synthetic stock with a drop magazine that carries five rounds. That is what I have. I figure if 5 rounds doesn’t stop the animal nothing will.

  33. Jim Bering says

    I had to add this. The best protection against grizzly bears in Alaska is to buy a bear tag. You will never see one. Yeah, it is old but it has some truth to it.

  34. I have to think about 25 – 50 Grizzlies exist in the San Juan Mountains of Colorado. I reflect on a known quantity of bears in a given area as in the North Cascades where the 10 to 20 bears are so rarely seen that it was really big deal when what looked like a HUGE bear was photographed in 2011. And they KNOW the bears in question exist in the area.

    In Colorado’s San Juans you have a breeding population that has constantly been observed and reported as POSSIBLE sightings. Logic says the bears just being bears living under pressure have learned to avoid humans even MORE than the KNOWN Cascade population. My guesstimate is a ball park figure. Remember the 1979 Grizzly killed in the San Juans was a female that had had cubs. Where did they go? She was proof that a population existed. The constant reports of sightings are our evidence.

    Now, as to the Green River and Three Corners area and the bear bounding over the I-70 median I would imagine there are Grizzlies in the area. Based upon REPORTED sightings I say 10 bears for sure. Probably young males but based on size reports I guess two young females may be in the bunch.

    Utilizing my MI training once three similar sightings of the same type takes place in a given area then you KNOW the sighting is credible.

    • Thanks for the Comment RW. No doubt a small population of bears can be hard to find as the elusive 2011 photo of the bear in the Cascades demonstrates. And the San Juan Mountains would be a good place for grizzlies to survive, but it has been since 1979 since a verified sighting has been published there. Not to say there haven’t been verified sightings, just that there has been so little evidence that Colorado Wildlife hasn’t had to admit to it. If there were regular grizzly bear sightings, public safety announcements would be made.
      I also believe a few grizzlies are making their way into the Green River Three Corners Area of Utah/Colorado, but I DO NOT believe the I-70 sighting (Central Utah) was a grizzly bear.
      I am not so ready to believe every bear sighted by the general public is a grizzly bear. Remember, there are people out there that can’t tell the difference between a horse and a moose.

  35. After reviewing your postings U stand by my previous posting. Indeed, based upon JUST your postings I am positive grizzlies exist in Colorado. There may be some inbreeding, but my previous numbers may be off by quite a bit. Given the credible observers reporting I will go on record and say that Colorado has at least 1 breeding population in the San Juans; 1 in the Central part of the state and a NEWLY established population in the three corners area.

    • Don Youkey says

      RW – has there been any verifiable evidence of grizzlies in the San Juans since 1979? I used to work in that vicinity, and hiked the continental divide through some amazing country. Saw lots of elk and a few black bears. With the literally hundreds of game cameras out in these woods nowadays, if grizzlies were present, I’d expect some to be photographed. And that’s not counting all the outdoor recreationists carrying around cameras in their cell phones. Hard to prove a negative, but without photographs or DNA evidence, difficult to verify their continued presence.

      The 10-20 bears you mention estimated in the North Cascades is from a dated study, when a few more bears probably existed there, and many more observations were being reported. The most recent study from a few years ago, based on 100s of hours of fieldwork, using lure at dozens of camera traps, amassing 1000s of “trap nights” came up with no detections of grizzlies from photos or hair snares. A healthy black bear population. Not to say there’s none there, but much fewer than 10. So if you’re extrapolating recent public observations in the North Cascades, to the San Juan’s, that would get you 0 to potentially a few.

  36. For those not aware of the Grizzly Bear Attack on Todd Orr in Montana on Oct. 1, 2016.
    Todd survived 2 separate attacks by a female Grizzly. He walked out three miles before he videoed himself and drove to the hospital.
    Be warned, the photos and video are horrific!
    Read his story, see pics and video here.

  37. Byron Tucker says

    I saw a young grizzly in 1997 in central Washington State just south of Easton on I-90 while camping up in the hills. I was wandering through a clear cut and saw it above me about 60 yards. It got up on a stump stood up and started sniffing the air. I threw some rocks at it and it spooked. Definitely had the hump and color of a grizzly. It was a little more than knee high. Some people later in a car came down the road where I was camped and were excited saying they saw a grizzly up the road.

  38. Jim Bering says

    Doubtful. Most of the grizzly bears in Washington state are located in the NE part of the state with a very few in in North Cascades which does not include Easton. Many black bears are brown in color in that part of the state. I shot a 7′ brown colored black bear not far from there years back.

    Here is a question for you. What color were the bear’s claws? If it were a grizzly you would know if you were close enough to throw rocks at it because they shine out. I have seen more grizzly bears than I can count in Alaska and the claws stand out. Color of the hair is absolutely no indicator. Even the so called hump can appear to exist on a black bear at the right angle if one doesn’t know what to look for.

    Sorry, but that was a brown phase black bear. Not at all uncommon.

    • Byron Tucker says

      I’ve seen 9 black bears in the wild. A few of those were cinnamon bears. I recorded a large bear here in Wyoming that is easy to see it is a black bear with a light coat. Because of my experience viewing black bears here in Wyoming and in Washington State I can say without a doubt the bear I saw near Easton was a grizzly.
      I can send you the vid of the large black bear to show you I can determine what a black bear looks like. Thanks for your reply.

      • Its always tough to determine what someone else actually saw. I’ve personally driven an hour away to pick up a “large eagle” someone had in a box. It turned out to be a Common Nighthawk (about 9 inches long with a wing span less than 2 feet).

        I also drove 5 hours to pick up an injured bald eagle. At that time and at that place, I doubted the bird was an eagle at all. We laughed at ourselves the entire way for making the trip for what would likely turn out to be a blue heron or a red-tailed hawk, but not an eagle. It was a bald eagle.

        But to move the conversation along, if anyone sees what they think is a grizzly/brown bear, they should take notice of the hump at the shoulders, the relative height of the rump to the shoulders, the face profile, the shape of the ears and the length of the claws. If the discussion starts with a description of size (without scale) or color, it will always be questioned.

    • Don Youkey says

      Jim – there were many documented grizzlies in the area Bryan describes in the 1990’s. None since in the central Cascades, only as you say, in NE Washington. With a few unverified sightings in the north Cascades.

  39. In July 2012, I was hiking in the Sawtooth Mountains in Idaho. I came upon two other hikers who were coming off an adrenaline rush after they spotted “two grizzlies” in the meadow up ahead. They were so excited to show me the picture they took… and guess what? For all their certainty about having a grizzly encounter, what the picture showed were two cinnamon black bears. I told them the bears looked like black bears to me, but they should show their picture to a park ranger for definite identification (let someone else help stop their erroneous story).
    People’s perception can be altered during an adrenaline-charged bear encounter. I’ve seen a few black bears around these mountains and they range in color from cinnamon to black. I did see a mountain lion in the local mountains outside Sun Valley once – it’s a known territory for them. They’ve been documented wandering into town on rare occasions. And most exciting was a wolf sighting one day on Highway 20, near Picabo where Silver Creek crosses the highway.
    I’m driving along and in the distance I see a man standing watching something down the road. Up ahead, I see what looks like a huge dog chasing something. As I get closer, this “dog” gets bigger and bigger… and then I see the radio tracking collar on its neck. It was chasing a deer which I saw jump the barbed wire fence…. not sure if it got away or not, but that was one huge, strong wolf!
    I looked it up and learned that there are wolves that run through the Boulders and Pioneers, and on down the range as far as northeastern Oregon. Very impressive!
    The ranchers here hate them, but that’s a story for a different day…

  40. Jim Miller says

    There are Grizzlies in Idaho, I don’t think anyone questions that. Idaho has a program to restore Grizzly Bears and their potential territory goes further west than that and can easily include the West Mountains. A Wildlife official confirmed a photo taken by our Farrier of a sow with two cubs at the Weiser river. If that’s true, it puts them well below the West Mountains.
    I have heard from cowboys working ranches around the Ox [Ranch?] of Grizzly bears spotted around Bear Idaho. In short there is no physical barrier to stop their movement to this point and food is plenty.
    So far personally all I have seen are Black bears and I’ve seen many here and in Minnesota. No comparison [between grizzly bears and black bears], but identification can be tricky in certain stages as well as viewing angle, color and age.
    If there is no real barrier to grizzly bear movements in Washington, then it’s possible to see them in central Washington. Their range is farther than many think.
    Black bears can easily range over 600 miles, meaning they frequently travel that distance and back again annually.
    One female Grizzly bear was tracked over 2800 miles over a two year period. She went through towns, across highways and through back yards in Idaho before returning to Montana.
    Here is a good read [Backcountrychronicles replaced the original link with updated link].
    Bottom line is that never say never about where you can see a Grizzly bear, so learn to identify them.
    Montana Fish and Game has a identification test for hunters (here). Take the test, learn something and have fun.

    • Thanks Jim:
      I updated the link to Ethyl the grizzly bear’s GPS track with a newer version (also loads less junk). They have tracked her over 5,000 miles now. I’ve been meaning to include Montana’s Grizzly Bear test. Glad you did.

      • Jim Miller says

        No problem. I thought her collar fell off in October, Glad to hear they put another on. Thanks for the update

  41. Brian Galliano says

    You mention under States that No Longer Have Grizzly bears, that it is unlikely Grizzly bears would return to Oregon unless the northern Washington population expands. Which I totally agree with as they seem to almost be unheard of in this area.
    But lets say they did expand through out the cascade range in Washington. My question is how would they get across the Columbia river. That is a huge river. Would they actually be able to swim across? Seems unlikely they would cross over one of the busy bridges. But that is one monstrous body of water. Would be a major barrier no doubt. Can grizzlies swim that far?

  42. Brian Galliano says

    Holy cow! I guess that answers my question. Amazing.

    • Don Youkey says

      They swim between the large islands in Southeast Alaska as well – some across many miles of water. Not an everyday occurrence, but it happens.

  43. Jim Miller says

    Not only can they swim. They also can dive and hold their breath very well. In Alaska, Bears have been filmed diving for clams and digging them up. Perhaps the best thing we can do is not under-estimating their physical ability and possibilities. A meandering Grizzly wouldn’t be uncommon but one who leaves a normal range for a rather unusual one closer to people and less natural food sources would be very uncommon. Although that has been observed as well. The bear mentioned above, Ethyl, stayed close to a populated area for over a year before moving on back to her normal range.

  44. Dennis Hendrickson says

    I witnessed a young Grizzly in the Sierra Nevada Range near Lake Tahoe just as recently as the summer of 2012. I grew up in the Washington Cascade Range and have considerable experience with bears both Black and Grizzly bears in the Pacific Northwest, Yellowstone, and Alaska. This bear had a brightly golden grizzled coat in the sunlight and a prominent hump behind a wide head. It was about 60 feet below me walking toward me up a steep hill. I was on King’s Canyon Road in Douglas County, Nevada. This was no black bear.

    • I hear you Dennis… I’m not going to tell you what you saw, but I would like to hear a response from the Nevada Dept. of Wildlife that you saw a Griz near Lake Tahoe in 2012.

      • Jim Bering says

        Well I will tell him what he saw. A brown phase black bear. That there would be a grizzly around Lake Tahoe is utterly ridiculous.
        I recently saw a site where the guy claims he saw a family of grizzly bears in Colorado. He said he turned the photos he took over to the local wildlife agency but they were not interested for what he called some nefarious reasons. He speculated that was because they didn’t want to admit there were grizzly bears in Colorado since it could result in the closure of areas.

        The reason the agent was not interested was because the photos depicted brown phase black bears. Seriously, the guy posted these photos claiming they were grizzly bears! Is it any wonder that biologists take grizzly bear sighting in areas where they no longer are with the proverbial grain of salt?

  45. Jim Miller says

    I don’t believe there are brown “phase” black bears. Black bears are black at birth and remain black and a blonde black bear is blonde at birth and remains blonde as well. Even the black comes in tones that remain. The difference in coats comes with shedding of coats but the color always remains the same. There are even white black bears that are not albino. The Kermode islands due to isolation has created a tremendous and common white black bear population due to genetic isolation. But Black bears don’t go through a color change. Thus a blonde black bear can often resemble a Grizzly especially if they are rather large. Black bears of 800 lbs are recorded often. Not to say that its typical for size but its simply not uncommon. Although not impossible for Grizzly bears to expand their range significantly, if there were Grizzly bears in Tahoe area the reports would be all over the place. Its just too highly traveled. Maybe it was a Squatch! Just sayin

  46. Jim Bering says

    Jim Miller, You seem to be confused by the meaning of the word phase. It doesn’t always mean change. Brown colored black bears are often called brown phase black bears. Don’t believe me? Here:

    Also look up the meaning of the word phase:

    a genetic or seasonal variety of an animal’s coloration.

    Get that? Genetic. That is what it is with brown phase black bears. Genetic. It doesn’t change and I never claimed it did.

    The rest of your post I agree with. There are no grizzly bears in the Tahoe area, plain and simple.

  47. Thanks for the clarification. That’s why I used “believe” in my statement. Also try to keep your posts positive so far you seem to come off pretty hostile in your posts. Look around you don’t see any of that here. You have better ways of saying what you have posted so far.

  48. Joe Aufshor says

    Very good article with a lot of good information. In all the years Ive hunted I have never come across a grizzly bear in the wild. I have seen numerous black bear in all different color variations from Blonde, Strawberry, light tan and pure black.

    I actually hold the AZ state record for largest black bear by rifle harvested in 2008. When I would show people the pics of that bear they swore it looked just like a Kodiak taken from Alaska. I had no idea black bear could grow that big in Arizona and if I had known I probably would have toted a larger caliber rifle.

    I’m spending some time this next week in Jackson Hole Wyoming (Back country) and will definitely be packing some bear spray while fishing and hiking. I hope I do not encounter any Grizzlys on my trip!

    • Joe: Fun story about your black bear and thanks for the comment.
      Good luck on your trip and I hope you do get to see griz (at a distance) so your back country experience will be complete.
      I would love to see pic of your black bear.

  49. Jim Miller says

    What did the bear weigh? Pics?

  50. Confirmed sighting of Colorado grizzly at a residence county road #9 and county 108 in South Park Colorado heading into Pike National Forest today.

    • Hi Mac:
      Can you direct me towards anything official about the grizzly bear sighting? I can’t find anything yet online. Also, where is country road (Fairplay?) 108?

      • I believe that spot is southwest of Elevenmile and Spinney Mountain state parks. Haven’t seen any reports from there though.

        • Thanks Grant. Yes, still nothing online about Grizzly Bears in the Pike National Forest. Wondering why Mac says it was confirmed.
          I would expect to find Black Bears on the Pike, but do not expect Grizzly Bears to show up there before many other sightings in forests to the north and west.

  51. I think there are a few isolated populations of Black and Grizzly hybrids in California. Not on the coast though… I saw a brown black bear in Shasta county near Castle lake that had a short face and nose like a Grizzly. I doubt anyone has seen a Grizzly in Ca, but I do think there are hybrids. This one may have been a genetic throwback. Grizzlies and black bears can interbreed although it is rare. Interbreeding may have happened when there were very very few Grizzlies left.

    • Thanks for the comment Shorty. There have been documented cases of brown bear hybrids and and brown-polar bear hybrids in the wild. While it is genetically possible for brown and black bears to hybridize in unnatural (zoo) situations, hybridization in the wild is highly unlikely. So thinking there may be hybrids and proving there are hybrids are very different.

      I know better than to say “never” when biology is concerned, but the black bear is more likely to be a food item than a potential mate in a natural meeting. If populations of both species were very low, that may increase the chances, but as long as black bears can find other black bear mates, that lonely grizzly bear is likely to remain lonely.

      • It would be interesting to see DNA tests on that population of bears. I doubt it will happen because of politics. Reintroducing grizzlies to Ca wouldn’t be very popular with people who live in rural areas, and any evidence of grizzly DNA would be a touchy subject. The bear had short ears too. Couldn’t tell if it had any sort of even small hump because of the way it was standing.

  52. I spoke to a DNR official in Vernal, Utah in 2015 asking if there About wolves and grizzly. She told me of two recent cases one near Dinosaur where a camping area was temporarily closed to remove a brown bear and foot prints of brown bear in the book cliffs. I was pretty surprised.
    Having read online forums since then I can say that there are wolves and grizzly in the region, at least transiently and possibly this way for so long most likely they are being controlled by farmers and ranchers. There seems to be a silent agreement that the DNR and wildlife management in CO and Utah feel the low numbers are not worth the trouble.

    Lack of breeding pairs seems to be the way they want it. A path for grizzly bears through ID and WY into Utah through the Bear River mountains and the Uintas and Green River. The Uinta Basin is ringed with mountains and wild places and is like a circuit from central and north and east Utah into western and north-west Colorado.

    As for animals returning to older territories just look at recent events in Nevada with the Shiras Moose and black bears wandering down south.

    I have lived in Alaska and seen wolves and brown/black bears up close. Luckily these animals seemed used to people and not aggressive.

    I am an outdoors enthusiast and I am always on the lookout off the beaten path for them maybe I’ll get the proof. Spend enough time out in nature and you will see strange things like black panthers in Oklahoma. Can’t say I blame the ranchers or the officials either.

    I’m always armed when I go out in the wild for peace of mind. l’ve never had to defend myself and enjoy seeing animals and respect them but I read about it all the time where people have come in contact and I value my life more than an animals, though funny enough these days many don’t.

    • I hadn’t heard about the campground closure in Utah and removal of a brown bear. I used to work for UDWR, so I will check it out.

      Other people may value a bear’s life over your life, but they will feel differently about their lives, especially after the adrenaline kicks in.

  53. Source was working at the Vernal Field office/ museum. Conversation started while I was asking about the animal track/signs of the rockies, if that applied to the Uintas, which I was told the wildlife moves across the mountains and a corridor connecting the Uintas to Yellowstone. My memory is fuzzy, if you do talk to someone ask if it was at Jones Hole/Dinosaur National Monument. Thx for this site.

    • Thanks Nicky and thanks for visiting the site.
      Yes, the “3-corners” area is exactly where I would expect the first grizzer bears to get to Utah or Colorado from Yellowstone. If you read some of the other comments, I had a fish guide tell me his wife saw a brown bear in the sage near Dutch John several years ago.

  54. I did, that was an area that has seen wolves running through too. I like fishing there. Its remote for sure, the highway ends around there and its pretty wild.
    I think the other 3 corners area by ID. WY and UT around cache valley is another likely spot. The Bear River Mountains had the last of the grizzly after all at Logan if I’m getting my facts straight. In fact because that is closer proximity to the Wasatch and the western Uintas it wouldn’t surprise me if that’s where the first bad encounter between humans and brown bears will occur.

    Just like the slaying of the grand canyon wolf in S. Utah brought the press, there’s nothing like a grizz mauling to sell clicks. Then the officials may have to finally deal with the issue and acknowledge it.

    In my research one of the most interesting things I’ve learned is that Japan, Italy and Romania all have brown bears and live in pretty close proximity mostly peaceful as well.

    • Yes, there are more wolves (northern gray’s) in Utah than Grizzly Bears. Several collared wolves have been sent back to Yellowstone from here. And another point to illustrate the wildness of the Uinta Mountains, a photo of a Wolverine was captured by the USFS with a trial camera.

      Yes, Old Ephraim is the last bear in Utah you are thinking about. I have seen his grave site.

      I’m sure hoping the first grizzer bear encounter with humans in Utah or Colorado is uneventful as that encounter may be with me.

      Yes, the few wild places that remain in Europe and Asia have wolves and brown bears. Eurasian brown bears (Ursus arctos arctos) are nearly as large and powerful as our griz (Ursus arctos horribilis), but not as big as the northern subspecies of Coastal Alaskan/Canadian/Kodiak Brown Bears of North America or Siberian and Kamchatka Bears.

      I think they are less dangerous to humans because they have a long history of conflict with humans and in the long run that never bodes well for the bear.

      This kind of reduced “natural” response toward humans has been demonstrated in nest defense by raptors toward humans based on their history with contact with humans and firearms.

      Raptors in the Western U.S have the most territorial response and Raptors in Europe and Asia have the least. Raptors in the Eastern U.S. has an intermediate response. That is why western red-tails still fly around and scream at humans (and occasionally dive at them) near their nests here in the West, but the Common Eurasian Buzzard is more likely to silently fly away and wait for humans to leave.

      Also why rattlesnakes around populated areas have less tendency to rattle and show themselves. What used to be a warning is now a death sentence. It’s not so much a “learned” thing, but a natural selection (a “gene” thing). The “rattle” genes are being removed from the population even if the rattle is still present.

  55. Steve Abbott says

    I witnessed a silver-tip sow and 3 cubs near La Manga pass in southern Colorado in 1997. I watched them for about 15 minutes as they moved up into high brush. They were maybe 2 miles from New Mexico. The sow was silver, small back end but huge dish head, shoulders and hump. Claws were white and visible. They were constantly moving.
    I reported the sighting to 2 game wardens at a cafe in Chama about 20 minutes later. They took my number.
    Got a phone call 2 days later from CDW. The caller suggested I had seen black bears. I have hunted both black and grizzly. These were griz. I didn’t try to convince him as he had made up his mind.

  56. There have been numerous grizzlies in Northern Idaho in the last few years. One was just trapped in August 2018 in Athol, Idaho in a neighbors backyard.

    • Thanks Henry. Yes, Griz have been expanding their range (hence the USFWS recommendation to remove from Endangered Species protection. Your area (Athol) is next to/between the Selkirk and Cabinet/Yaak population areas. Stay safe out there.

  57. Here is the link missing from the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation post about “Watch: Grizzly Population Continues to Grow and Grow”… The animated graphic is on the Wyoming Fish and Game website. It shows how the Grizzly Bear’s range has expanded in Wyoming from 1990 to 2016

  58. There are griz in the bighorns and a lot of areas not indicated by the maps shown. The winds (Wind River Range) in Wyoming are 100 percent griz country along with some of the mountains in sw Wyoming. In all my years comparing what i have experienced and what biologists say they are always 5 years behind. Not to knock them its just there are a lot more woodsmen than biologists so it takes then a while to make an observation. What does scare me is the lack of respect people show in griz country. I have been charged twice and have had 7 friends get in scrapes with them in recent years.

    • Yes, more sightings by folks than biologists…
      I have added some range to the original map, but map is really supposed to reflect breeding…
      Lots of young male bears wandering around looking for new country… No question there will be more human – bear interactions as the grizzly bear population grows and they extend their range. It does change the way we think when in grizzly bear country.

  59. After a couple years checking this site on and off, I finally had to add my two cents. I am one of those southerners you mentioned, which kicked off this whole topic, who lived for over three years in Idaho. I am originally from Arkansas, and aside from a sighting of a black bear when hunting the White River NWR, had no contact with large carnivores. And yes I know bears are omnivores. I have however hunted since childhood, and have held longtime fascination with all things bear, particular grizzlies.

    Fast forward to 1991 and I was stationed in Idaho, and lived there those three and a half years. I hunted the area from Mountain Home to the Pine/Featherville area. Wolves were not there at the time, and I never saw big cats, though I was reintroduced to black bears. I was also fortunate enough to make a few trips to Yellowstone, and on one, saw a sow and cubs, down a mountainside and across a valley. Grizz, that is. In my opinion, to anyone with even minimal experience, there should be no mistaking them. I had binocs, but even setting aside the face and hump, you can just tell. They move like they own the place. And they do. There’s just a distinctive, “please, I’m begging you, F’ with me”, aura to them.

    I was best buds with an Idaho native. We are both currently 57. He was also an outdoorsman from childhood. He knows wildlife. On our commute from Mountain Home to Boise, he mentioned multiple times he had seen elk along I-84 and its exits. He was teased about that until another co-worker plowed into a rag horn bull one morning, demolishing her car. He also claimed to have seen a moose off 84, with the same ridicule, until a moose was verified. That was between 1991 and 94. Today it is acknowledge several moose are around Bennett Mountain near Mountain Home

    My main point is my friend claimed to have seen a grizz while hunting near Steel Mountain, several years before I met him. I say claim, but though I cant verify it, I have zero doubt what he saw. As I said, we know wildlife. He has seen many, and shot some, blackies. He says the same as me regarding grizz. Just with more colorful language. I believe his words were “that mf’er was bad, he was a fierce looking f’er, walking like he knew nothing would f with him”. I concur. So, you will not convince me, that in the late 1980s, in the Steel Mountain area, which would be in the Boise Mountains range, just west of the central Idaho recovery area, there was not a grizzly, even if he was a solo wanderer.

    Now in 2019 and 2020, we have fish and game verified sign of at least two, and possibly four, different grizzlies in the Grangeville area. They’re not certain if the other two possibles are really just the first two. Also, there are unverified sightings in the McCall area. Old Ephraim is alive and well in central Idaho, and even Idaho F&G admits it.

    I have zero proof, but I believe there to still be some in western Colorado, and from the San Juan’s, wouldn’t completely rule out eastern Utah and northern New Mexico. I have another old military friend from Washington, who states people he trusts, states there are more there in Washington than popularly believed. Though still of low numbers.

    Look, I know grizz are fairly rare, and we dont have near the 50,000-100,000 that were originally estimated. We maybe never will again, though humans are fools to think they can predict how animals adapt. We never thought we would have deer, elk, turkeys, black bears, and even mountain lions, periodically popping up in metropolitan area either. So while I doubt grizzlies will ever reach 50K again, I’m not stupid enough to say never.

    The point is though, there are more than we think. I now live in Louisiana, and speaking with old timers here alligators were never in the dire straits most thought. They freely say, the population had been shrinking, but there were always plenty of gators around. One just cant rely on official agencies. The feds may have different motives from the states. The states different from the locals. Even within the feds, BLM may want different then the US Forest, who wants different than Dept of Agriculture. Some may even side with rural constituents such as farmers, ranchers, hunters, and fishermen, but still conceal numbers. All for their own various agendas.

    I personally believe the grizzly range to be slightly more than is revealed, and their population about 1.5 to 2 times what we are told. So with an official estimate in the lower 48 at around 2000, we are looking at likely 3000-4000 bears. I find that awesome. I would to see them grow even more. And I am by no means a bunny hugger. When their numbers are sufficient, in different areas, hunt them! But manage them strictly, and heavily fine lawbreakers. There’s no reason we cant hunt them and still allow them to thrive. But those living or visiting in Old Ephraim’s stomping grounds should know; you’re here of your own volition, and enter at your own risk. Anyway, that’s my two cents on my favorite animal, and one of my favorite topics. I would love any responses.

  60. It’s amazing how many idiots saw a black bear on here and are so sure it was a grizzly, even though their encounter wasn’t more than “5 or 6 seconds,” and it was their first time seeing a bear outside of a zoo. First of all, black bears often have brown fur. Second of all, people are often idiots that think they saw something that they really didn’t.
    As a side note, if your southern friends don’t want to come out west and hunt/hike…great! Leave them be! We don’t need more crowds out here doing more damage and wiping out more game. I don’t know why people don’t ever seem to get that there isn’t adequate game for everyone to go shoot, and every person that moves out here and builds a house just wipes out more habitat/blocks migration routes. These are the reasons why Wyoming had 1 million mule deer in the 1970s, and now they only have about 400k. Utah had about 1 million mule deer in the 1970s as well, and they are now down to about 200k. Those are just a couple of examples of the impacts of people like you trying to encourage everyone to come out west, and people cranking out too many useless kids. The world has gone from 1 billion people to nearly 8 billion in a little over 200 years! Wear a condom next time my friend! 🙂

    • Joe Schmoe, bringing joy to all he meets… Don’t hold back, tell us how you really feel, but if you think your comments have merit, you should be up front and use your real name.

      I feel your frustration… Places I love are being overrun by newbies from both coasts and by locals that are doing outdoor activities for the first time… And I do take a few people to my favorite places, but not folks that I expect to return without me.

      As a wildlife biologist, I have learned not to expect most people to know anything about the natural world. I wouldn’t be surprised if they thought a bear was a moose… I am amazed that a knowledgeable person like yourself still finds it amazing they can’t tell the difference between a black bear and a grizzly.

      I agree that every new building in the Inter-mountain west is being built on the last, best Winter range and there will be a price to pay with fewer and fewer animals able to survive the winters. And there is so much recreation activity in many places, that elk calves and mule deer fawn have low survival because of disturbance. Same is true for the effect that winter recreation is having on survival of Bighorn sheep.

      You are correct that there is not enough game or recreation space for everyone that wants to come. We have already seen fewer tags and unlimited tags change to limited draws, and we will eventually see sign up sheets for outdoor recreation of all kinds on public land.

      I have been hoping since the 70s that something could be done to slow human population growth, in this country and in others, but it didn’t happen. I didn’t have children and assume from your comment that you didn’t either.

      Everyone seems to say that conservation is a good thing, but every time conservation butts heads with jobs and growth, conservation loses.

      I have watched my little mountain valley talk about responsible growth, when nobody even knows what it means. I am not sure there is anyway to have responsible growth.

      But make no mistake, all of those people are here and like it or not, they are coming to public lands near you. So best thing we can do is try to educate them.

      We need everyone to be educated to a high level, but every single one of us is born not knowing anything (useless kids as you call them)… Much work to do.

      • Haha! Yes, that’s me…bringer of joy and happiness! My comments do have merit, as you yourself even pointed out…but I chose not to use my real name because people aren’t willing to hear the truth, and I didn’t want their pitchforks sharpened against me. I appreciate your thoughtful response, and I hope you know I only targeted you with regards to you bringing your friends out west to make some points publicly for others to read and consider. As far as the useless kids comment was concerned, I simply mean that most parents raise their kids up to be mass consumers and buy into this economic system that wipes away everything in its path so people can accumulate wealth. I am not someone who hates children in general, just that most people raise kids up to be just like themselves…people who never give a second thought about what impacts they are having around them, but rather how the world around them can provide them with more wealth/benefits. If people wanted to have a couple of kids and raise them up to be mindful of the environment around them, it would be one thing…but when people have 5, 7, 9, or more kids because they believe it is their religious duty to “multiply and replenish the earth”…that’s just ludicrous! To make matters worse, all they then care about is the economy having enough good paying jobs for all of these additional people. Where does it end? It seems that nobody has thought it through to where things are going!

        Back to your original statement that I am the bringer of joy to all….In my own way, I guess I am trying to do just that. I’m a believer that quality of life matters, and I firmly believe that quality of life has a lot more to do with having a connection to the natural world we are a part of rather than the material goods we accumulate. We should all be mindful of how we are impacting that natural world that others enjoy as much as we do. Also, let’s not forget that this natural world needs to last for countless generations to come.

        • Glad you responded… didn’t want to hold this until I had time to respond…
          You and I aren’t that far apart.
          I do think the public lands have to be shared and I prefer it be shared by people that respect it and understand how it should be treated.

  61. Ronald Stoehr says

    I basically agree with both of you, but how to solve the problem. I’m not an economist but people smarter than me should consider laying out a plan that shows how population reduction can increase standards of living for a smaller population. In other words, we have x amount of finite resources- land, water, food, gold, coal, gas etc etc- if we have can show how a path to reduced populations can leave a bigger piece of the finite pie, per individual, overall standards of living would increase. If I have a candy bar and 3 friends we get a quarter of it, 2 friends we get a third, obviously. This can be done through normal population attrition, but governments as a whole would need to educate, educate, educate on the economic benefits of a smaller populace.
    Smaller populations would give the natural world an incredible break and maybe a chance to recover

    • Joe Schmoe says

      I agree Ronald. That would be the ideal system. Unfortunately our current system is based on debt and growth. We spend more money than we have to stimulate economic growth, then we need a larger population to sustain the debt created by that excess spending. More people means more production, higher GDP, more tax payers, etc. For starters, this sustainable economy would require us to stop printing money ahead of ourselves to stimulate growth…but that’ll never happen. Politicians, and most of the public frankly, are not willing to face the reality of a real economy without artificial stimulation. People are too addicted to their stuff.
      Unfortunately, for this reason our current system will keep wiping out everything in its path until it hits the fan…then their will be a painful and catastrophic collapse on many levels. Hopefully when we reach this point, the damage will not be too severe to undo.

      Thanks for weighing in. I’m glad to know there are others out there who recognize the real problem.

    • Don Williams says

      There really isn’t much “natural world” left in the lower 48. There is room for more people in quiet unnatural areas, but no room left for more people in the quiet natural world in the west if it’s to be kept the west. Folks used to want to move out of the city to the suburbs, later to the periphery of the suburbs. Now they want to move to the periphery of the civilized world- still on a paved road mind you. With the new administration coming in, I wonder how private ownership of massive amounts of property is affected, and how the use of massive amounts of public property in the west is affected. I’m in Iowa and frequent as many “wild” places I can find in Wyoming and Minnesota. BTW- largest bear I ever saw- a 40 inch high maybe 5 foot long from tail to snout thick brute stopping traffic in the middle of the day in Baxter, MN. That bear stood up to spin around and I bet it was 7 feet tall. A week later I saw a little retriever sized bear loping across the same highway. The builds of those two animals were incredibly different. All of the comments on this site have been very informative.

  62. Mark Holt says

    The comments about population, intrusion, and consumption all have merit. I myself am one of those Christians you seem to denigrate [assume you mean Joe Schmoe] and have five children. But try not to lump everything and every one together. I was brought up rural, on a farm, and still believe rural living to be the best. I’ve taught my children the same. I have no problem with people moving into rural areas, but my caveat is they have to adapt to rural ways. Less mass consumption, more living off the land. And certainly learn to live with nature. My aforementioned friend’s father had a bumper sticker which read “welcome to Idaho, now go home’. I very much agree.

    Moving to, or living in rural areas need not be in opposition conserving nature. It’s just that, again, if you’re coming to the wild, understand you need to live with the wild, not try to conquer it. I submit to you city dwellers moving to the wild country, yet wanting to continue the very ways they allegedly left the city for, are much more of a problem than the original author bring some friends to hunt. And it’s not likely for our lifetime, but you will likely get your wish of less population.

    Study after study shows there are less people hunting every year. This can’t possibly be the reason game populations are down. And truth be told, while your stats are correct, in other areas populations are up. Elk have been very successful re-introduced into Arkansas, Kentucky, Michigan, and Pennsylvania, among others. Black bears continue to expand their numbers all across the country. Mountain lions are turning up in places they haven’t been seen in decades. And the very topic of this thread, the great humpbacked grizzly is slowly but inexorably continuing it’s territorial expansion. More on that later. As we have encroached into wild animals’ territory, they have returned the favor, and what many call ‘wild’s animals are now turning up in urban areas in record numbers. Animals may sometimes take time to adapt, but they do in fact adapt, some more than others, and some quickly, but again, they do adapt.

    You [again, assume you mean Joe Schmoe] speak of being amazed at people not knowing the difference between blackies and grizz, and I share that amazement to a degree. I will say that some, actually many, people do not have enough outdoor exposure, not even reading from a book, to tell that difference. And I still say you will eventually get your wish. You want to know what amazes me? There are actually many people, I mean a butt-load of people, who believe their food is manufactured in the back of the grocery store. I mean honest to goodness, seriously think about this. That, Joe, is truly amazing! And such people are doomed to perish from history. There is a complete and total disconnect from how they eat, clothe, and survive, in their belief and in actuality.

    Now to the grizz part of this diatribe. Greater Yellowstone officials recently euthanized what is believed to be the oldest grizz ever recorded, a 34 year old boar. An amazing and resilient specimen to be sure. They said he only had a couple teeth left, and these worn to nubs. He survived, and ultimately was caught, because he was killing calves. One official stated their jaws are so powerful he was basically gumming the calves to death. Impressive power! The best part is his location though. The lower end of the Green River basin in SW Wyoming. So in my mind anyway, though we do not have verification, and these was a solitary boar, they are in Colorado and Utah now. As they should be.

    We were fools for attempting to eradicate such animals before we came to our senses. We were fools to rampage through the land with no thought to the future. But animals are far more resilient and adaptable than we think they are. Both the preservationists and the over consumers are foolish to believe otherwise. It’s a fictional tale, but the statement is very much true. As Jeff Goldblum’s character Ian Malcolm said in Jurassic Park, “Nature always find a way. It crashes through barriers, sometimes violently, but well, there you have it”. Such a true statement. Long live Old Ephraim.

    • Totally agree nature will persist in some form or another as long as the planet will support life, but we are having serious effect on many species that will be lost forever…
      Joe Schmoe will obviously have to reply for himself…

  63. And I am sure he will. And that is fine. Open dialogue is always great. My one complaint here would be we are getting away from the original point of the thread: where they are and where they ain’t. I would like to see us get off the rabbit trail and back on track. Grizzlies are verified in Idaho, Montana, Washington, and Wyoming. With populations ever expanding. They are now very likely creeping into Utah and Colorado. I have long believed them to have had a remnant population in the San Juans anyway, but there is no verification of that. And I personally am in favor of them being re-introduced into extirpated areas, at the very least, Arizona, California, Nevada, New Mexico, Oregon, and Texas. Plains states, and the western edges of Mississippi River border states, would probably need to occur naturally, if at all. There will always be debate, but in time, as long as there is an attitude that some will be hunted, euthanized, etc, so people dont take the shoot, shovel, and shut up approach, I believe many people from all sides of the argument can reach a, maybe sometimes grudging, agreement, that they belong here. So can we please get back to the where they are, where they ain’t, and where they may be?

  64. Joe Schmoe says

    Let me be clear that I don’t actually hate Christians, although I do hate hypocrites, which I find many alleged Christians to be…but then again, I find most people to be such regardless of their religious beliefs. With that out of the way, I’ll just reply to a few things.

    1) More people is more people, whether they’re born in the city or the country. Yes, these city people moving out into the country that think they are green are hypocrites. Driving a Tesla doesn’t make you green, especially when you move out into the countryside and build a bunch more houses everywhere. But 5 kids growing up in the country eventually become adults and need houses too. Don’t kid yourself either by thinking that your country life is any more environmentally friendly. We all consume, we all take up space, we all throw away a ton of garbage, including plastic that takes hundreds, if not thousands of years to break down. Then there is the urban sprawl issue. All of us result in more development, whether we came from the city or not.

    2) Yes, elk, cougars, and grizzlies have done well in recent years. Now let’s examine that a minute. First, the Wyoming fish and game has been feeding elk in the winter months to keep the populations up. Also, elk certainly are more resilient than mule deer, maybe in part because they are more prone to avoid humans and therefore are less prone to end up dead on the highway? As for cougars and grizzlies…it’s amazing how well a species can recover when they are highly protected. Grizzlies have recovered because you can’t kill them, and this law is enforced very seriously. The problem here is that we always go from one extreme to another…we virtually wipe grizzlies off the face of the earth, then we completely protect them until their population becomes problematic. At what point do we need to loosen the restrictions on grizzlies like they are finally starting to do on wolves? To be clear, I am happy to see both species recover, but at some point I think these are resulting in our declines in mule deer and moose. I’m no wildlife biologist, but we need a clear plan on how to balance these species and what number the ideal population should be to achieve this…rather than just protecting with no clear end in sight.

    3) Sure, nature always finds a way…until it doesn’t. Plenty of species have gone extinct, especially at the hand of humans. Humans have an amazing ability to do irreparable damage without question. Just take an incident like chernobyl. The scary thing is how close this came to literally making an entire continent uninhabitable for 10,000 years…and it would have had tens of thousands of people not given their lives to stop it! Did we learn our lesson? Nope. Japan has a nuclear meltdown on the coast in 2011 after an earthquake/tsunami. Really?…they didn’t think a tsunami would one day be a problem on the coastline? It’s ridiculous! I’m no nuclear engineer, but I could see the clear problem with that scenario. It’s only a matter of time before we have another such incident too.

    I appreciate the thoughts Mark Holt. I mean no offense, just sharing my opinions…wherever they may fall.

  65. Mark Holt says

    I could throw out stats too, which we can all sort of do. But your opinion is as valid as mine or anyone’s, so we’ll just agree to disagree. I do re-iterate my main point though; let’s all get back to the original topic of the thread. Where grizzlies are, where they ain’t, where they may be, and where they could be.

  66. Mark Holt says

    Hey BCC, what’s the latest word on grizzly expansion. I keep up as best I can, it I havent lived in Idaho for over 20 years, and my buddy isn’t in the best of health, so he doesnt get around outdoors like he used to. I did see a grizzly was verified way down in SW Wyoming, right up against the Utah border. I firmly believe strays have moved into Utah now, and likely Colorado. Of course I’ve long believed Colorado had a small.population anyway. This could help put new genes in the pool. As someone with more connections and resources and being closer to the action, what type of info might you have? Thanks for the column.

  67. Modern bison were native to FL and were there when the Spanish arrived – but disappeared shortly thereafter. Modern transplants exist on private lands, but don’t range free. Three species (at least) were here in the l
    Pleistocene – modern bison, B antiquus and B latifrons. At least B antiquus and of course modern bison interacted with Man. New info may be available now, that is as of 1980s.

    Nice info on grizzlies, thanks!

    My view is they must be hunted or their “culture” will change to view humans as just another edible item.

  68. Brandon McHenry says

    I don’t know exactly when this article was published but it should be updated to note that in 2021, Jamie Jonkel, a member of the Interagency Grizzly Bear Team and a Montana FWP Bear Biologist confirms there are no population gaps in Western Montana at all.

    Grizzlies have been in the Sapphires, Miller Creek South of Missoula, Bitterroots and Bitterroot Valley, Flint Creek Range, Pioneer Range, Beaverhead Range, Big Hole Valley, Pintler Range (Anaconda), Boulder Range, Garnet Range, Tendoy Range, Little and Big Belt Ranges, and last Fall at Lolo Hot Springs two Grizzly bears for the first time in over 100 years.

    I have personally encountered Grizzlies (Photos confirmed by Mr Jonkel) in the Skinner Meadows area of Big hole valley and tracks in Miller Creek and along the Bitterroot river.

    If you hunt or recreate in Western Montana, assume the possibility of a Grizzly encounter and take the necessary recommended steps. Bear spray and/or sidearm. When berry picking (This time of the year) I carry both bear spray (as well as everyone in my party) and a 12 Ga alternating 00B and slugs (10 round mag). I hope I never have to kill a bear, but it’ better than the alternative.

    • Yes, the range has been expanding, but it is hard to find reliable data. If you can point me to a source where Jamie Jonkel actually says there are no population gaps, I would like to read it. Thanks

  69. Paul Lamont says

    First, I’m so happy I found your website! Second, I’d like to add that we used to have grizzly bears in Texas. The only confirmed grizzly in Texas was an old male that was killed in 1890 in Jeff Davis County in far west Texas. However there is a strong likelihood that they were once more common and had a larger range. There was/is plenty of suitable habitat in the Texas panhandle and parts of North Central Texas for the great plains grizzly. In Montague County on the Red River across from Oklahoma a grizzly skull was found. (The skull has vanished, which calls the find into question. Some say it was a very large black bear skull, and I don’t think a hoax can be ruled out.) There were credible sightings of grizzly bears and grizzly tracks out in far west Texas up until about 1920, although there is no proof. I’ve talked to fossil collectors and professional paleontologists who have told me different and sometimes contradictory things about grizzly bear fossils in Texas. I’ve known some who said they themselves found grizzly teeth and jaws out in the Trans-Pecos, and that although they were probably never common there, they at least were there in larger numbers than what was left in the 19th century. I once heard a tour guide at Longhorn Caverns say that grizzly bear fossils had been found in that cave and several other Texas caves in the Austin area. However, I can’t find definite proof. But we at least had one! And the poor old feller was shot in 1890.

  70. Randy Osga says

    Have there been any possible Grizzly sightings in Colorado/ Pagosa Spring/ South San Juan Wilderness area in the past 3 years?

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