Grizzly Family

Article and photo by Charlie Lansche

I had the good fortune of watching this Yellowstone grizzly family over the past few days as they peacefully foraged and grazed in an open meadow. What a privilege it is to be able to witness the natural behavior of these wilderness icons. Bears bring joy and astonishment to thousands of visitors to the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem each year.

That said, I’m sorry to report that these cubs lost their lives not long after I made this image. They were both reportedly killed by a male grizzly. Sad and horrific as this seems, it is a natural behavior. Male grizzlies will kill cubs to facilitate procreation with a female. Life is fraught with danger, and that holds true for grizzlies too.

grizzly bear mama and her cubs
Grizzly bear mama with her cubs. Photo by Charlie Lansche

Which brings me to my next point. Eight grizzlies have been killed recently within an hour of my home in the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem. Three by natural causes (a sub-adult and these two cubs featured here were killed by boars during the mating season in Yellowstone National Park). And 5 bears were euthanized by wildlife managers here in Island Park, Idaho. And before anyone points fingers at wildlife managers, those of us who live and recreate in the bear country must look in the mirror. It’s our fault that these five bears were killed.

These deaths could have been prevented. All of them – mothers with cubs – had become conditioned to eating human food and thereby posed a danger to people. The old adage is true: a fed bear is a dead bear. Period. Long-time residents and visitors alike must bear the responsibility (no pun intended) to properly secure bear attractants.

That includes garbage, bird feeders, BBQs, restaurant grease, and other scented items that can attract bears. And we must also stop the practice of intentionally feeding bears, as some residents are known to do for entertainment. Campers must be vigilant to secure their garbage and avoid the practice of throwing food, beer cans, and trash into the fire pit as a means of cleaning up. And please keep food out of your tent, and anything else with a scent like toothpaste, deodorant, etc. We must do this for our own safety, that of our neighbors, and for the safety of our bears. Bear the Responsibility! (pun intended). After all, they were here first.