Grizzly Bear Risk in Wind River Range and other Wyoming Areas


Original Post
splitclimber · · Unknown Hometown · Joined Jan 2007 · Points: 5

my wife wants to pull the plug on our wind river trip this August because she is worried about grizzly bears.

I need to alleviate her concerns because I really want to go there to backpack and climb.

Any experiences with grizzly bears in the wind river range? or tetons? or other areas in Wyoming?

Worse or better than other areas?

this is the only prior thread on the topic that I could find

https://www.mountainproject.com/v/bears-in-the-cirque-of-the-towers/108130296#a_108130316

ckersch · · Unknown Hometown · Joined Apr 2013 · Points: 150

I hear you need to watch out for them if you're near a school...

Stagg54 Taggart · · Unknown Hometown · Joined Dec 2006 · Points: 10
splitclimber wrote:my wife wants to pull the plug on our wind river trip this August because she is worried about grizzly bears? I need to alleviate her concerns because I really want to go there to backpack and climb. Any experiences with grizzly bears in the wind river range? or tetons? or other areas in Wyoming? Worse or better than other areas? this is the only prior thread on the topic that I could find mountainproject.com/v/bears...
They are definitely there...I've seen them in both the Winds and Tetons.
Jake wander · · Unknown Hometown · Joined Aug 2014 · Points: 165

i havent been to wind river yet, but i have carried a bear can and its really not that big of a deal. the big can weighs 2lbs 9 oz. if youre carrying multi day backpacking gear and climbing gear, adding that to your weight wont be significant. and if youre taking enough food to fill it (i filled a can for a 5 night trip to CO last aug with food for just myself), it doesnt take up anymore space in your pack than a stuff sack.

also in that thread you linked, someone said "To all the folks telling you otherwise (in regards to hanging food or putting it in cans)... They do have a point, but have they ever had encounters?" personally i wouldnt take that approach. even if a car accident is unlikely, you wouldnt say "dont wear a seat belt in your car, to all the folks saying otherwise... have they ever been hurt in a car accident while not wearing one?"

really simple safety measure, in my experience.

Robert Michael · · Unknown Hometown · Joined Aug 2014 · Points: 116

They are known to be in the northern part of the range, though not anywhere close to the numbers they have in Yellowstone and the Absarokas. Some say they are spreading south, which is likely.

I've been solo in the Winds many times and never felt worried about grizzlies, but it's a personal choice. Last fall I led a friend up an Absaroka peak, it was her first time in griz country, and she was afraid and worrying to the point that it really put a damper on the day. If you think your wife may be that way, it's probably not worth getting her out there.

If you do go, consider the Cirque or Titcomb. There is so much human traffic on the main trails there that a grizzly encounter is incredibly unlikely. I have not heard of griz sightings in the Cirque, but there have been problems with black bears, with proper food storage being the issue.

Carry pepper spray, make noise (especially when visibility is poor), stay together, and store food properly and you shouldn't have any issues. But again, if she's worried enough that it might affect the experience, it's probably better to go somewhere else.

The Winds are incredible, though.

splitclimber · · Unknown Hometown · Joined Jan 2007 · Points: 5

thanks for the responses so far.

we would get spray and we have bear cans and would be really good about food prep and storage.

We are used to black bears but the grizz puts the fear in my wife. :)

Good suggestions to go to more popular places. we would plan to go to the cirque and titcomb basin.

Old lady H · · Boise, Idaho · Joined Aug 2015 · Points: 265
splitclimber wrote:thanks for the responses so far. we would get spray and we have bear cans and would be really good about food prep and storage. We are used to black bears but the grizz puts the fear in my wife. :) Good suggestions to go to more popular places. we would plan to go to the cirque and titcomb basin.
Hey, Google grizzly bear playing in sprinklers! Several videos, one from Island Park Idaho, not far from Tetons/Yellowstone. They're just another critter to consider, after all. My bike commute through downtown Boise puts me in mountain lion territory!

Best, Helen

Oh, and don't leave your rope/shoes/soft goods where rodents can get to them.
Brock M · · Mountain West · Joined Jan 2013 · Points: 5

I've spend a healthy amount of time in the winds including backpacking the length of them last summer and I have never had nor heard (first hand) of any ill-fated interactions with bears. Just be smart, carry spray, hang food/use a bear canister, carry a bell, make some noise now and then, and don't eat in your tent.

Arlo F Niederer · · Colorado Springs, CO · Joined Mar 2009 · Points: 385

I'm a Wyoming Native born and raised there. Been regularly visiting the Wind Rivers as a kid since 1959 and as a climber and backpacker since 1970.

The Winds are getting too popular so please stay away so you don't get eaten by a bear (lol!)! In reality, your wife's fear is greatly exaggerated.

I've only had a direct encounter with a bear in the Winds once, and never with a grizzly. It was on a trip into the Cirque of the Towers in the 1980's. A bear was raiding a different camp every night for the week we were climbing there. It finally raided our camp - we thought we had our food hung properly but this bear managed to get our food. I was told later that this was a "problem" bear relocated "away from people" - however, it was relocated to the second busiest area of the Winds - and its experience with people is probably why it was smart enough to get our food. This was before we carried bear spray.

This summer, another black bear was raiding camps from Washakie Creek down to Big Sandy. I started a thread "nuisance bear in the wind rivers," where you can read the details. The bear became a nuisance because people improperly stored food (which it managed to obtain) and it consequently associated people with food. Wyoming Game and Fish euthanized the bear. I spoke with a horse packing service and there was a black bear on the east side near the Cathedral Peak area this last summer.

In general, wild bears don't like people and tend to move away from areas where there are many people, as long as they don't get food rewards from people. Grizzlies like people even less. If you are visiting the more popular areas, the chance of an encounter is less.

If you follow proper food storage and cooking techniques, you will not have a problem. I personally use the Ursack instead of the cans - lighter and packable. I put the food into LOKSACKs to cut down/elimate smells and place these into the Ursack. A forest service trail crew asked us what we were using last summer and they were OK with the Ursack. (I've had way more trouble with Marmots than bears!)

Contact the Pinedale forest service district prior to your trip and they will let you know of any bear sightings or problems - that's how I found out that the nuisance bear had been euthanized. I usually contact them before a trip just to see if we need to be extra careful. Another source of information is the Great Outdoor Shop in Pinedale.

Generally, and as another poster mentioned, the chance of a grizzly encounter is more likely at the northern end of the Wind Rivers, since the US has increased their numbers in Yellowstone and in the wildernesses around Yellowstone. However, the farther south you go in the Winds the less likely you are to see a grizzly.

There are good bear country lectures available on youtube from NOLS. The ones from Dr. Tom Smith have excellent information. This video is training for NOLS leaders which guide many trips into the Winds:



This video will help you prevent problems and hopefully reduce your wife's anxiety about a potential problem. Your biggest risk will be driving to and from the Winds, not because of a grizzly encounter!

ScottJM · · Montana · Joined Dec 2015 · Points: 0

Very good advice above. Educate yourselves and take appropriate / prudent safety measures. I spend more time concerning myself with the weather in bear country than I do worrying about bears.

s.price · · PS,CO · Joined Dec 2010 · Points: 1,348
Old lady H wrote:Oh, and don't leave your rope/shoes/soft goods where rodents can get to them.
Damn rodents
Midnight rodent attack.
Blaine Basin, CO

Oh yeah, got a shoe as well.
mpech · · Unknown Hometown · Joined Sep 2013 · Points: 6

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_fatal_bear_attacks_in_North_America

The fact that the wikipedia page on bear attacks is binned by decade, with every encounter listed, should give you a sense of how common this sort of thing is...

Steve Williams · · Denver, CO · Joined Jul 2005 · Points: 235

You've probably got a better chance of being struck by lightning. . .

DavisMeschke Guillotine · · Pinedale, WY · Joined Oct 2013 · Points: 200

They're definitely there. I've had two encounters, both times the bear took off into the woods. First encounter was Slide Lake (Green River Lakes), second was an unnamed lake out of the New Fork Lakes trailhead. I've seen big paw prints around Elkhart Park, but as others have said, the large amount of summer traffic keeps them away from those major trailheads.

A friend in town who studies them has said that they are present throughout the entire range. Obviously not so much in the southern end, but the lower elevation, ample food sources and vast wooded spaces could cause them to take up more residence in the very southern end of the range as well.

As others have said, bear spray, safe food storage, and good campsite selection do a lot to prevent an encounter. If you plan on Titcomb Basin or the Cirque for a trip, you have very little to worry about. I would be more worried about mosquitoes, depending on what time of year you're coming.

Being freaked out about grizz is pretty common. I see a lot of people that are preoccupied with seeing one and it ruins the entire trip. The Winds are remote. Even the busiest trail heads see a fraction of the traffic that the less known trail heads in the Tetons see. The Forest Service "estimated" about 100,000 people used the Winds last summer. I say estimate because they used the number of people who signed in at the trailhead to come up with a number that seemed reasonable.

As a side note, this is why it's important to sign in when you use trailheads! That information is used to get use days, number of users, etc., which in turn determines funding. You may think you're cool by scoffing at the "gapers" and skipping the trail sign in sheet. The Wind River Range is grossly underfunded for trail maintenance. Currently, 500 miles of trail is what the budget allows for maintenance. Only a fraction of that is actually maintained because of a shrinking budget from the top of the ladder. Since you don't pay for permits for access, there is no way to "make" any money.

Anyways... that was a helluva tangent. Have fun if you decide to make a trip out. It's definitely worth it!

Luke Lindeman · · Lancaster, PA · Joined Jul 2015 · Points: 0

I've gone to the Tetons once a year for the past 3-4 years and haven't seen a Griz once. I've heard that they're around, but haven't actually spotted one. If you're up high climbing/backpacking, you're likely to see a black bear or two. They like those alpine meadows. Otherwise, I think you're going to be fine. The bear can is more for Marmots and other rodents as well as precaution.

My time out there was late August/early September, if that matters.

Good luck, have fun!

John Barritt · · OKC · Joined Oct 2016 · Points: 1,053
Jake wander wrote:i havent been to wind river yet, but i have carried a bear can and its really not that big of a deal. the big can weighs 2lbs 9 oz.
http://www.taurususa.com/product-details.cfm?id=233&category=Revolver&toggle=tr&breadcrumbseries=RB2

Weighs less than a bear can......guaranteed to help the missus sleep at night. JB
Petsfed · · Laramie, WY · Joined Mar 2002 · Points: 925
John Barritt wrote: taurususa.com/product-detai...;category=Revolver&toggle=tr&breadcrumbseries=RB2 Weighs less than a bear can......guaranteed to help the missus sleep at night. JB
At 48 oz, it weighs 5oz more than a bear can, unloaded, and you still need the bear can unless y'all plan to sleep in shifts. And bonus, if you pick it up right now, you might be practiced enough with it come August to hit a bear, provided you *throw* it.

Short-range self-defense shooting is very difficult, and I would not get my life on it without years of dedicated practice.

As far as bears in the winds, I've seen plenty of sign, but never met the brutes. Good bear protocol sees to that.
John Barritt · · OKC · Joined Oct 2016 · Points: 1,053
Petsfed wrote: At 48 oz, it weighs 5oz more than a bear can, unloaded, and you still need the bear can unless y'all plan to sleep in shifts. And bonus, if you pick it up right now, you might be practiced enough with it come August to hit a bear, provided you *throw* it. Short-range self-defense shooting is very difficult, and I would not get my life on it without years of dedicated practice. As far as bears in the winds, I've seen plenty of sign, but never met the brutes. Good bear protocol sees to that.
Weighs nearly the same as a bear can (doesn't sound as cool but is correct)......Guaranteed to help the missus sleep at night.

DISCLAIMER; A 454 is NOT a substitute for a bear can (although the weight is similar) or a bear bag. A 454 is NOT an actual sleep aid, although it may help you relax. Read all warnings and exercise firearm safety at all times. Keep out of reach of children. Firearm training and proficiency is recommended. Comply with all Federal and local laws. Wyoming does not reciprocate California concealed carry permits. When in doubt contact your State representative and/or the Department of Wildlife and/or the Park Ranger in the State Park or National Park you wish to carry a firearm in. Always wash your hands before eating after handling a firearm or cartridges. Do not attempt to walk, pat your head and chew gum at the same time as carrying a 454. Do not wear Burt's bees honey flavored lip balm in bear country without a 454. AND.....NEVER UNDER ANY CIRCUMSTANCES THROW A 454 AT A GRIZZLY!

I fixed it ;) JB
Old lady H · · Boise, Idaho · Joined Aug 2015 · Points: 265
John Barritt wrote: Weighs nearly the same as a bear can (doesn't sound as cool but is correct)......Guaranteed to help the missus sleep at night. DISCLAIMER; A 454 is NOT a substitute for a bear can (although the weight is similar) or a bear bag. A 454 is NOT an actual sleep aid, although it may help you relax. Read all warnings and exercise firearm safety at all times. Keep out of reach of children. Firearm training and proficiency is recommended. Comply with all Federal and local laws. Wyoming does not reciprocate California concealed carry permits. When in doubt contact your State representative and/or the Department of Wildlife and/or the Park Ranger in the State Park or National Park you wish to carry a firearm in. Always wash your hands before eating after handling a firearm or cartridges. Do not attempt to walk, pat your head and chew gum at the same time as carrying a 454. Do not wear Burt's bees honey flavored lip balm in bear country without a 454. AND.....NEVER UNDER ANY CIRCUMSTANCES THROW A 454 AT A GRIZZLY! I fixed it ;) JB
Thanks! I needed this laugh today!

OLH
Petsfed · · Laramie, WY · Joined Mar 2002 · Points: 925
John Barritt wrote:Wyoming does not reciprocate California concealed carry permits.
Why would they? Wyoming no longer issues ccw permits. You just put your gun in your pocket and go about your business. Fun fact you pick up from living here.
Jason Todd · · Cody, WY · Joined Apr 2012 · Points: 953
Petsfed wrote: Why would they? Wyoming no longer issues ccw permits. You just put your gun in your pocket and go about your business. Fun fact you pick up from living here.
Not quite factual. WY still issues ccw permits but you don't need one to carry concealed as a resident. Non-residents need a ccw from a reciprocal state to carry.
Guideline #1: Don't be a jerk.

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