We really didn’t want to see any bears in the park itself, that would probably mean our paths crossed on a hiking trail. We were perfectly content to know that there are some 300 grizzly bears and who knows how many black bears “somewhere” in the woods enjoying their berries and salmon dinners.
We went to see real life bears at the Grizzly and Wolf discovery center in West Yellowstone, a non profit education and bear rehabilitation center. The center has about 8 rescued grizzly bears and two packs of wolves. These bears were either abandoned as cubs or were removed from city areas when they became used to eating human trash. Instead of being destroyed these bears now serve to educate and inform humans about co-existing with bears. They also help the park service test out various trash containers for being bear proof. You can see that not all designs are successful at keeping them out.
One major take away that we had from the Discovery Center and by visiting Yellowstone, was a realization of the effects humans have had on the land and animals over the few centuries of Europeans coming to America. Unlike the Native Americans that co-existed with the land, Europeans have sought to transform and tame the wilderness. Grizzly bears used to be found in a wide range from Alaska to Mexico, in the great plains and as far east as the Hudson Bay area. Before Europeans arrived, some 50,000 to 100,000 grizzly bears lived in the continental USA. Over the last 100 years, grizzly bears have been eliminated from 98% of their original range due to unregulated hunting / poaching and loss of habitat to human activities.
At least USA and Europe have laws and efforts for conservation in place, and grizzly numbers are increasing. Bears and other animals in Asia, Russia, Africa face what seems insurmountable obstacles. They are often killed in competition for resources with local farmers, lose their habitat to de-forestation, and populations are decimated by hunting for body parts that are sold as traditional medicines.
Visit World Wildlife Fund (WWF) to donate and find more conservation information. Most importantly we need to educate the next generation about building a future in harmony with nature.
Roma and Natalia are world travelers, photographers, and an all around fun couple. When they are not travelling far away continents or driving around USA in their trusted Highlander, they can be found in San Francisco, California.