There are groupies who follow their favourite bands across the country, people who flock to country clubs to play golf and fireworks junkies who can’t wait for the next opportunity to smell gunpowder. Did you know grizzly bears have their own loyal band of followers?
It’s no secret if you want to set up a meeting of bear groupies, just park a fine-looking grizzly at the side of the road. Attendance will flourish. However, in my wanderings around Grand Teton National Park, it quickly became obvious there was something more going on here.
There were the obvious visitors like me. In addition there was a highly addicted group of real grizzly bear chasers comprised of people who lived in the area. I asked one guy from Jackson whether he was part of the group but he said no – he only made it out two or three times a week!
Here’s how it worked as best as I could figure out. The group would fan out across the limited number of park roads in areas where they knew bears often used. When someone spotted a bear, they would text or call each other and quickly assemble for a meeting. When the bear disappeared, they would scatter like a huge dragnet, focusing on areas they knew the bears frequented. Along the way there were frequent stops to talk to other bear followers and compare notes.
One day I was chatting with an older guy who spoke lovingly of the bears as if they were his grandchildren. He had amazing knowledge of the bears – where they spent the nite, familiar routes and the identification numbers of all the local grizzlies. Just as we were bemoaning the lack of sightings, he excitedly proclaimed that we should get more information from the bear guy who just drove up. Who knew there was a bear guy?
We walked up to the unassuming blue truck and those two were quickly talking everything grizzly. I knew he must be the real bear guy since he spoke with even more knowledgeable authority and I could see a can of bear spray poking up out of a jacket pocket.
The two men compared all the information from the day in graphic detail, including the routes the bear had taken and where they might appear next. They were puzzled by a young bear that had recently left its mother and hadn’t yet established a predictable routine. Despite all this information, they knew of the current location of the same number of bears as I did – none.
While they chatted, and I stood there enthralled and amused, other members of the bear club came and shared their knowledge and frustration by the current drought of bears – no sighting for a few full hours! None of these band of loyal followers seemed fussed about photography and all of them had watched bears for countless hours. They just wanted more.
I understood the sentiment. If only I lived close to the Grand Tetons, I would definitely join them.
The Grizzly Family Tree
From talking with various people, I eventually put together the following story about grizzlies in the Grand Tetons. There was an original grizzly mom who had a female cub. Years later she had three cubs and her mom had two cubs. At some point the older mom took one of her daughter’s cubs. Speculation was that three were too many cubs for the young mom. The next spring the adopted cub was back with her birth mom. Of course large males kept entering the picture at opportune times. The hot news this past spring was that the young mom had just set the three cubs out on their own the previous week. They were still hanging out together and we had the opportunity to see them.