There are two different types of bears that live in Yellowstone National Park: black bears and grizzly bears. Whether you are interested in seeing either of these two carnivores in person or simply want to learn more about these creatures, you’re in the right place. Just how many bears live in Yellowstone National Park? And what should you expect out of a visit to Yellowstone?
In this article, we will go over an estimate of how many bears live in Yellowstone, including both the black bear and grizzly bear populations. We will also address what these carnivores eat within the park, where you can see them should you choose to visit, and how long bears in Yellowstone live on average. Let’s get started now!
|Yellowstone National Park||Bear Facts|
|Number of Grizzly Bears in the Park||100-150 within Yellowstone; 700-750 in the greater Yellowstone ecosystem|
|Number of Black Bears in the Park||Unknown; very common|
|Mating Season||Springtime, with cubs born in wintertime|
|Diet||Fish, rodents, baby elk, pine nuts, vegetation, other mammals|
|Where to See Bears||Northern Ridge; black bears are common throughout|
|Average Lifespan in the Park||15-30 years|
Number of Bears in Yellowstone National Park
As of 2019, there are an estimated 150 grizzly bears within Yellowstone National Park proper, and an immeasurable amount of black bears. In the greater Yellowstone ecosystem, roughly 700-750 grizzly bears exist, and there are likely double the amount of black bears. When you consider the fact that black bears are the most common bears found in North America, it isn’t surprising to hear that Yellowstone Park Rangers haven’t spent much time tracking the population!
Grizzly bears are a different story. Yellowstone and Montana are the only locations south of Alaska and Canada that have any grizzly population at all. This is largely due to uncontrolled human interference and hunting of the grizzly bear in the 1970s. Similarly to the wolf population in the United States, grizzly bears are still listed as a threatened species.
While Yellowstone is a relatively safe haven for both grizzly and black bears, the surrounding states bordering this National Park don’t offer the same protections. Grizzly bears and black bears have home ranges that stretch for hundreds of miles. It just goes to show you how much Yellowstone matters for the overall protection of both of these species!
The History of Bears in Yellowstone National Park
Both black bears and grizzly bears have a storied history in regards to their time in Yellowstone National Park. Their infamy is largely due to the fact that National Park Rangers and Managers did not control visitors or bears from 1910-1960. This led to guests feeding bears from their cars, the side of the road, and more.
Both the grizzly and black bear populations grew so accustomed to receiving food from visitors that there was an average of 45 bear-related injuries per year from 1930-1960. It took decades for the National Park Service to return the bear populations back to their more wild instincts. Park Rangers advise visitors about proper bear behavior daily.
Even to this day, both grizzly bears and black bears seek out campsites, trash cans, and more. Given their highly adapted sense of smell, it is easy for bears to find any and all human food within Yellowstone. Bears who grow too bold in their hunt for food are removed from the ecosystem immediately.
What Do Bears Eat in Yellowstone National Park?
Speaking of what grizzly bears and black bears eat in Yellowstone, it isn’t just human snacks and camp dinners. These apex predators eat a variety of things, including fish, rodents, baby elk, pine nuts, vegetation, and other mammals. Grizzly bears and black bears need to eat far more things in the fall season as they prepare to hibernate. In fact, they are capable of putting on up to three pounds each and every day in preparation for their long nap!
Where Can You See Bears in Yellowstone National Park?
If you are interested in seeing bears during your visit to Yellowstone National Park, there are a number of different locations for you to check out. Black bears are commonly sighted throughout the park, often near crowded campsites during the summer. This is why it is important to always utilize any and all provided bear safety equipment. This includes storing food in bear boxes or your vehicle.
Grizzly bears are less seen in Yellowstone, but they have been sighted along the Northern Ridge of the park, in both Hayden and Lamar valleys, and more. However, it is important to note that you may not be able to tell the difference between a grizzly bear and a black bear in Yellowstone simply by looking at them.
While grizzly bears are also known as brown bears in other parts of the world, they are not always brown. Likewise, black bears are not always black, often found in shades of brown and tan. However, one distinguishing feature to look out for when it comes to identifying grizzlies over black bears is that grizzly bears are much larger than black bears on average.
If you are planning a visit to Yellowstone National Park, it is important to know how to be a safe and informed guest before arriving. You should be sure to prepare for your time in bear country, as these highly intelligent creatures often get in trouble due to their sense of smell. Be prepared, be smart, and take your time. Perhaps you will see a bear in Yellowstone National Park!
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