Moran, Wyoming

Photograph Grizzly Bears at Willow Flats Overlook

Originally added by Tsalani Lassiter

Grizzly Bears are an iconic species. Watch them graze in large open meadows and photograph them from your car.

Time of Year - Spring

Grizzly bears are one of the most magnificent animals alive. In North America these impressive creatures can weigh 800 pounds and once roamed from the tip of Alaska to the southern edge of Mexico. These solitary omnivores thrive in thick dense forests, open meadows, and large river valleys. However, due to issues such as hunting and habitat destruction, their population has dwindled. In the United States, grizzly bears inhabit around 5 percent of their original range and reside predominantly in Alaska and a few localized areas of the United States. One of these areas is Grand Teton National Park, and is prime grizzly bear habitat. Of the approximately 1500 grizzlies left in the lower 48, around 600 of those bears are located in Grand Teton and Yellowstone National Park. 

In the spring bears emerge from their higher elevation dens eager to feast. During this time bears move down can be easily spotted foraging in the large open meadows and hillsides of the park. This is a great time to photograph these amazing animals along roadsides from the safety of your vehicle. The bears are most active during dawn and dusk. About an hour before and after sunrise and sunset are the ideal times for grizzly viewing. 

*Note: Spring is when all the grizzlies come out of their dens, making it a prime time for bear sightings. However, it is also one of the most dangerous times to be around them as they are hungry and fervent to fill those empty stomachs. So keep this in mind and be extra cautious out there.

Viewing Area - Willow Flats Overlook to Pilgrim Creek Road

There are many areas in the park to see bears but this is a very active area. Starting at first light (before sunrise) head north on highway 191 from the willow flats overlook. Drive slow and keep your eye out on both sides of the road in each meadow. In 3 miles take a left on Pilgrim creek (dirt road). Head down Pilgrim creek for two miles until it dead ends. Again be sure to keep an eye out for bears. They may already be grazing or heading out of the tree line. They like to eat the grass, roots of plants, as well as dig for worms and small animals. You can either wait along either road at a meadow or continue to loop. Also be on the look out for other cars already pulled off as there is a good chance they have already spotted a bear. It may feel as if you are the only one out but once a bear is spotted a few cars pull over suddenly you may find there are 50 other cars pull over. It's a Bear Jam =)

What You Need - 

For your safety as well as the bears you must stay at least 100 yards from bears. If you want to get a good photo of a bear be sure to bring a DSLR / mirrorless camera and a big zoom lens (100-400mm, 600mm). You can use a tripod if you want to get out of your vehicle or prop your lens on your cameras window. If you get lucky you'll be shooting quite a few shots so make sure to have extra memory cards and batteries. Consider wearing layers, as it can be well below freezing in the early morning hours and spring high temps are usually between 35-45 degrees. 

*Note: Grizzly bear sightings may merely be a fleeting glimpse before they head back into behind trees or they may last a few hours while the bears munch in an open field. Always be on the lookout and keep your head on a swivel as you do not want to startle a grizzly. Carry bear spray on you at all times when you are in bear country, and always obey park ranger instructions. Other protections such as a bell or a whistle may come in handy.

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Tags

Photography
Forest
Wildlife

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