The grizzly bear’s long curved claws dug a channel in the semi-frozen earth, staying steadfast to catch its prey that scurried farther down the burrow. More than a dozen cars parked alongside the road, only a few admirers sat within. Walking up to the other spectators, I quickly summarized my escape route in case of an emergency. The two-year old grizzly was roughly 600 feet away, focusing on her task and not interested in adding human to its daily intake, yet I felt the need to be prepared.
It took her a good portion of an hour to get her afternoon snack, then she foraged on roots. The park rangers came and sectioned off the area that was closest to the bear. I doubt it made any difference if she did decide to charge.
This is my third visit to Yellowstone National Park in the same amount of years, but this was my first grizzly encounter.
My favorite entrance into the national park is West Yellowstone, Montana, just beyond the Idaho border and my least favorite is from Cooke City (due to the town ) on the east side of the park above the Cody entrance.
Staying at West Yellowstone, you’re closer to the volcanic activity you came to see (Old Faithful and other geysers), bison are easily seen (singles, twins or triplets roaming – not huge herds) and if you’re a photographer the resident elk herd that graze the meadow alongside the river, call this area home. This is where you’ll want to start your day (don’t worry about missing them, they stay in the area).
City of West Yellowstone is where you can see grizzly bears and wolves up close. The Grizzly and Wolf Discovery Center, south of town across from McDonald’s, is home to three wolf packs and eight grizzly bears. Each bear has its own personal story, yet all have in common of being a nuisance bear or cubs of a nuisance bear. I’m not a fan of zoos, yet I am all for this bear habitat. The outdoor enclosure is size appropriate for when they release the bears out together (one goes out by himself, he must not play well with others). The attendants hide food for them to find, making them behave like bears. It was an awesome sight watching one stand on its hind legs, using his front paws to bend down a tree to get the meat placed up high.
Wolves in Yellowstone are pretty elusive. The pack I saw I needed an eagle-eye and my high-powered lens. Even then, it was hard. The Center has six beautiful wolves, made 0f four males and two females, making packs: Granite Pack, High Country and River Valley Pack. There is an inside viewing/education room that makes a great place to get out of the weather and get you as close as you can possibly get to these magnificent carnivores without being in danger.
The Center is open 365 days per year and a pass is good for two consecutive days.
Okay, your turn……
Have you been to the Grizzly and Wolf Discovery Center or one like it?