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Grizzly Bear Risk in Wind River Range and other Wyoming Areas


Arlo F Niederer · · Colorado Springs, CO · Joined Mar 2009 · Points: 460

DADY:
Go and read my prior post about my encounters with bears in 49 years of camping/climbing in the Winds.  I tallied up the days spent camping in the Winds and it adds up to 2 and 1/2 years!

The highest likelihood of bear encounters is the Green River Lakes area due to proximity and connection to the Greater Yellowstone ecosystem.  This is true for all of the northern Winds.

The second most likely spot for bear encounters is east of the continental divide.

The least likely place for an encounter is the southern Winds west of the divide.

Another way to decrease the chance of an encounter is avoid habitat that the bear like.  I think one of the reasons I haven't encountered many bears is that I'm a rock climber, so I'm often camping at or above timberline, in one of the many, many cirques in the Winds.

If you look at the geomorphology of the Winds, there is a broad relatively flat, heavily forested peneplane along the western flank of the Winds.  This is better bear habitat than in the high cirques along the divide.

I think one of the reasons there aren't more grizzlies in the Winds is that the forests are mostly lodgepole and alpine firs.  Grizzlies prefer whitebark pine.  But it's great habitat for brown and black bears.

People worry about grizzlies, but satistically there are more encounters with black and brown bears.

As I advised in a prior post, call the forest service in Pinedale and the Great Outdoor Shop and ask where there have been sightings.  Then you will know what your chances of an encounter are.

Another useful thing to know is how to recognize bear scat and other signs.  I've been in areas where I haven't seen any bear sign.  Where I've seen sign, it was very old, perhaps from even over a year.

Skibo · · Unknown Hometown · Joined Mar 2016 · Points: 5
Arlo F Niederer wrote:  But it's great habitat for brown and black bears.

People worry about grizzlies, but satistically there are more encounters with black and brown bears.

Grizzly bears are brown bears (Ursus arctos).

Brian in SLC · · Sandy, Utah · Joined Oct 2003 · Points: 15,387
Skibo wrote:

Grizzly bears are brown bears (Ursus arctos).

Not as a subspecies.  Grizzlies (horribilis) are quite different than a coastal brown bear in Alaska.

Black and brown bears in the rockies are Ursus americanus.  Coloration can be quite varied...I've seen a gorgeous cinnamon colored bear in the southern winds.  Really reddish.
Ryan Pfleger · · North Lake Tahoe, CA · Joined Sep 2014 · Points: 20
Brian in SLC wrote:

Not as a subspecies.  Grizzlies (horribilis) are quite different than a coastal brown bear in Alaska.

Black and brown bears in the rockies are Ursus americanus.  Coloration can be quite varied...I've seen a gorgeous cinnamon colored bear in the southern winds.  Really reddish.

When you're talking about brown bear as a species and not morphology, then you're talking about Ursus arctos  or a subspecies. And middendorfi and horribilis  are actually quite similar, apart from size. Also Ursus arctos horribilis , like Ursus americanus, are found throughout most of the Rockies. They are only absent in Utah, Colorado and New Mexico, but present in Wyoming, Nevada, Montana, Alberta and British Columbia.

Skibo · · Unknown Hometown · Joined Mar 2016 · Points: 5
Brian in SLC wrote:

Not as a subspecies.  Grizzlies (horribilis) are quite different than a coastal brown bear in Alaska.

Black and brown bears in the rockies are Ursus americanus.  Coloration can be quite varied...I've seen a gorgeous cinnamon colored bear in the southern winds.  Really reddish.

There are black grizzly bears and brown black bears.  Both grizzly bears and coastal brown bears are considered brown bears (as are the brown bears in Europe)--all are Ursus actos. The accepted common name for Ursus arctos is "brown bear".  Yes, there are subspecies as you note, but they are all brown bears.  Black bears (Ursus americanus) are black bears whether they are blonde, brown, or black.  The Rockies includes Wyoming and Montana, where there are both black (U. americanus) and brown (U. arctos) bears.  So, your statement "Black and brown bears in the rockies are Ursus americanus" is incorrect.

Brian in SLC · · Sandy, Utah · Joined Oct 2003 · Points: 15,387

No one refers to grizzlies in Wyoming or Montana as brown bears.  Well...maybe folks who don't know better.

University of Montana's mascot?  Hint:  not a brown bear.

Jaren Watson · · Idaho · Joined May 2010 · Points: 2,505

Are we still talking about western Wyoming?

There are only two species of bear here, unless I’ve been woefully misinformed.

Black bears, which account for roughly 99% of bear sightings around here, are usually black but not uncommonly are brown. Less frequently, they can be cinnamon or blond.
Grizzly bears.

Throwing “brown bear” in the mix can cause misunderstanding since it’s unclear what kind of bear is being referenced. At best, it requires clarification.

As for bears in the wild in this part of the country, what’s left to be said? Arlo has detailed the useful information (twice!) based on impressive experience in the area.

Skibo · · Unknown Hometown · Joined Mar 2016 · Points: 5

Ok guys, just because U. arctos horribilis is called a "grizzly" doesn't preclude it being classified as a brown bear among biologists (i.e. folks who know better).  See https://www.itis.gov/servlet/SingleRpt/SingleRpt?search_topic=TSN&search_value=180543#null which is the standard reference for biologists.  Brown bear is a general term used (among biologists, taxonomists, etc.) for Ursus arctos, which includes grizzly bears.  Black bear (whether black, blonde or brown) is the proper/common name for U. americanus.  Where both U. arctos and U. americanus occur, you have to be careful in using "brown" as a color descriptor or as a species descriptor.  Niederer states "People worry about grizzlies, but satistically there are more encounters with black and brown bears".  This implies a distinction between black bears, brown bears, and grizzlies.  He also says "Grizzlies prefer whitebark pine.  But it's great habitat for brown and black bears."  Again implying that there are grizzlies, blacks, and browns. He does not say "brown black bears" which would be more accurate. If you're going to present yourself as an authority, you must use accurate terminology.  And yes, I live in grizzly country, and I call them grizzlies.  I also lived in Alaska, where grizzly bear is not used as often as brown bear, even in the Interior.

Brian in SLC · · Sandy, Utah · Joined Oct 2003 · Points: 15,387

Hey, call 'em what you want!  If you're chattin' up a local who lives and works in Wyoming or Montana, I'm sure they'll appreciate being corrected.  Ha ha.

Just for fun....some info on bears:

Here's a quiz from Montana Fish and Game.  Note how they refer to each type of bear.  Take the bear identification test!  (I passed with flying colors!).

http://fwp.mt.gov/education/hunter/bearID/

http://www.craigheadresearch.org/grizzly-bears.html

RIP John (I grew up just down the hill from him):

https://missoulian.com/news/local/legendary-wildlife-scientist-john-craighead-dead-at/article_1228eede-70b7-5c45-92cb-0e1b71af9d4e.html

Fun video...Ben Moon!


Good times...
Skibo · · Unknown Hometown · Joined Mar 2016 · Points: 5
Brian in SLC wrote: Hey, call 'em what you want!  If you're chattin' up a local who lives and works in Wyoming or Montana, I'm sure they'll appreciate being corrected.  

I'm not saying they're not grizzlies, as that is the standard name for brown bears in the Rockies and some other Interior areas (and that is supported by the ITIS taxonomy link I provided) , what I'm saying is that "brown bear" denotes a species that includes grizzly bears as a subspecies.  And I am a local in Wyoming and Montana, and yes, as I said, I call them grizzlies, as that is the accepted term.  But they are brown bears as a species, just like a brown or blonde U. americanus is a black bear as a species.

Jaren Watson · · Idaho · Joined May 2010 · Points: 2,505

Brian, cool copy of Grizzly Years! Doug Peacock is an American treasure. Amazing man.

Ryan Pfleger · · North Lake Tahoe, CA · Joined Sep 2014 · Points: 20
Brian in SLC wrote: Black and brown bears in the rockies are Ursus americanus. 

I've seen the video, I've read the book, and quite a few more besides. Cool that you know Doug Peacock, I hear he is quite a character.

The only people I have heard refer to Ursus americanus as "brown bears" were people that didn't know what they were talking about, but maybe your experience is different. I think we are on the same page in knowing that in the Rockies a brown colored bear can be either Ursus americanus, or Ursus arctos horribilis. Grizzlies can be black as well, although I've never seen one, and Doug Peacock writes about a big black Grizzly which I think was in the Mount Washburn area of Yellowstone. It's been quite awhile since I've read that book.

I don't know that living or working in bear country particularly means that a person knows what they're talking about as you seem to hint at. But on the off chance that it does... I lived in Idaho, where there are both grizz and black bears, for almost 40 years. Just this week I've seen two black bears at my house. I recall grizzlies have been extinct in Utah for about 100 years. But I have seen some bears in the Wasatch and Uintas. Do you see many bears around your house, Brian in Salt Lake City?

Edited to say: Sorry if that seems antagonistic. It rained last night and is supposed to snow a foot or so in the next few days. No climbing is making me grumpy.
Brian in SLC · · Sandy, Utah · Joined Oct 2003 · Points: 15,387
Ryan Pfleger wrote:


Do you see many bears around your house, Brian in Salt Lake City?

Just the girlfriend.  Ha ha.  Still get a chuckle out of that video of the gal gettin' her kayak eatin' by a bear...so, we annoy each other around the house by saying "bear...no bear"...and on and on.



Still makes me laugh!

Edit...no worries!  My point is/was that folks refer to grizzlies as grizzlies in Wyoming and Montana.  Not brown bears.  Sure, they can be brown colored.  Got it.  Brown-phase black bears...you can call them brown bears, but, I agree its confusing if you really mean black bear or grizzly.  No biggie.  Good entertainment to chat about bears.  We like seeing those bears.

Born and raised in Montana.  Spent a bit of time there in the backcountry.  

Bit scarce for bears here in the 'burbs of Salt Lake County...  Been charged by a "brown bear" (ha ha) in Alaska (Chichagof Island).  Spent time on Kodiak dodging bears (them fellers are HUGE).  And in the arctic.  And in Denali.  Etc.

Most people at a glance can't tell the difference between black and grizzlies.  And, that's ok.  Give 'em some space and respect.  I don't think they really deserve their "boogeyman" status but get why folks get nervous when they're not at the top of the food chain at night, in a tent, in bear country...  

Back to the OP, I think if you're "bear aware" and practice good camp habits, your risk is pretty darn minimal.  And, what a treat to see a bear in the wild!
Ryan Pfleger · · North Lake Tahoe, CA · Joined Sep 2014 · Points: 20
Brian in SLC wrote:

Just the girlfriend.  

Haha. Hopefully she doesn't read Mountain Project. Now can we talk about all the different types of cougars in Utah?

Brian in SLC · · Sandy, Utah · Joined Oct 2003 · Points: 15,387
Ryan Pfleger wrote:

Now can we talk about all the different types of cougars in Utah?

What I've heard, is, don't make direct eye contact, and, let them buy the drinks.

Ryan Pfleger · · North Lake Tahoe, CA · Joined Sep 2014 · Points: 20

That video is hilarious. "Gosh darn it! It's the end of September, you're supposed to be asleep!"

Arlo F Niederer · · Colorado Springs, CO · Joined Mar 2009 · Points: 460

Sorry to start a big flame about brown vs black vs grizzly.

My only point was that the habitat is less favorable to grizzlies, and IMHO (and experience in the Winds) more likely to see black bears.

DavisMeschke Guillotine · · Armchair Asshole · Joined Oct 2013 · Points: 225
Arlo F Niederer wrote: Sorry to start a big flame about brown vs black vs grizzly.

My only point was that the habitat is less favorable to grizzlies, and IMHO (and experience in the Winds) more likely to see black bears.

This. Although the entire range is Grizz country, you are less likely to run into one south of Elkhart Park trailhead and above treeline. Not to say you won't see one above treeline or south of Elkhart, but they are much more concentrated up north and on the East side of the Divide. Carrying bear spray and hanging your food are the best preventatives.

Jaren Watson · · Idaho · Joined May 2010 · Points: 2,505


All one needs to know is herein contained.
Harumpfster Boondoggle · · Between yesterday and today. · Joined Apr 2018 · Points: 113
John Barritt 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. 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

Idiotic Okies think guns are the answer to every problem, who knew?

Guideline #1: Don't be a jerk.

Wyoming, Montana, Dakotas
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