We met with our friend Wes Larson who is a researcher and bear biologist, known on instagram as @grizkid. Below is the information he shared with us about his favorite animal, grizzly bears!


In the early 1900’s the United States essentially declared war on predators, and throughout the west, wolves, cougars, coyotes, foxes and bears were killed indiscriminately. Grizzly bears were seen as especially dangerous and these predator control programs led to grizzlies becoming extinct throughout most of their historic range. There were, however, still a few strongholds for the iconic bears, and the newly formed Yellowstone National Park was one of them.


Photo by Wes Larson


During the first half of the 20th century, grizzlies within Yellowstone could be easily spotted feeding in the trash dumps located in the park, and every night hundreds or even thousands of visitors would gather to see the spectacle of hundreds of bears eating food waste. In the 1960’s and 70’s park biologists started to realize the negative consequences of these feedings, and dumps were systematically closed and trash within the park was “bear proofed.”


Since the 80’s big steps have been taken to reduce the potential for human/bear conflict in Yellowstone National Park, and the population has steadily grown. These steps include installation of bear safe boxes in every campsite, as well as better bear safety education and training for both frontcountry and backcountry visitors. In 2022, grizzly bears are thriving and there are more than 150 grizzly bears within Yellowstone National Park, and roughly 800 within the entire greater Yellowstone ecosystem.


Photo by Wes Larson


Visitors to Yellowstone are always excited to potentially spot a grizzly bear, and sightings of the great bears happen on a daily basis in the park. If you are visiting Yellowstone and want to see a grizzly, you will want to be out driving around during the early hours of the morning and the late hours of the evening, as these are the best times to spot bears. The Lamar Valley, Hayden Valley and East Entrance Road are some of the places in the park where you have the highest probability of a grizzly bear sighting!


If you do get lucky enough to see a grizzly in Yellowstone, make sure you give the bear AT LEAST 100 yards of distance. If you are going to be walking the trails or hiking the backcountry in Yellowstone, you will want to make sure you are carrying bear spray and making plenty of noise as you hike. By taking the proper safety precautions you can enjoy the experience of spotting one of the most dynamic and iconic animals in Yellowstone!


Photo by Wes Larson


Grizzly Fun Facts


Scientific Name: Ursus arctos


Life Span - 20 to 30 years


Speed: 35-40 mph


Claw Length: 2 to 6 inches


Tree Climbing Capability: Younger bears and cubs are great at climbing trees, but adult bears can climb as well


Vision: Likely similar to human vision. Color vision and good night vision


Number of Teeth: 42


Feeding Habits: Omnivorous, carnivore, opportunistic generalist


Average Weight: Males: 413 pounds, Females: 269 pounds


Courtship: Mid May through mid July


When are Cubs Born? Late January or early February, in maternal dens


Are Grizzlies Hibernators? Yes, grizzlies are considered true hibernators!


Litter Size: Female grizzlies usually start giving birth at around 6 years of age and their litters will have 1 to 4 cubs. Cubs stay with mom for 2.5 years


Explore more from: In Park

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