Glacier, Yellowstone and Grand Teton manage roadside griz differently

Which method works best?

Actually it seems to me that there are too few differences in result so far to make a determination.

Glacier hazes roadside bears; Grand Teton, Yellowstone let people close. By Cory Hatch, Jackson Hole News and Guide.

Back in the days before 1970, Yellowstone let people feed sandwiches and twinkes to bears along the roadside. About 60 tourists were injured a year as a result. Yet there was a great outrage from the public when the practice of roadside feeding was stopped.

Today bears are coming back to the edge or roads, but feeding is not allowed. Injuries are few to none. If injuries increase, how will the public and Park Service react?


  1. jburnham Avatar

    I have mixed feelings about this. One one hand, I love seeing bears in Yellowstone and I’m happy to spend an entire day watching them from the roads. But I’ve also seen a frustrating amount of bad behavior by people watching bears. Everything from getting too close, surrounding a bear or blocking its path, tempting with food, and letting a (leashed) dog out of the car with a bear close by.

    I’m always amazed at how fast the rangers arrive though, and they seem to do a good job managing the crowds once they get there. Either way, the best approach will surely include a good dose of people management.

  2. Cutthroat Avatar

    I like this…“It’s dangerous to have bears that close to people, because people are so unpredictable,”…

    If you took a survey of the general public I’m sure the overwhelming consensus would be that the bears are the unpredictable ones, even though in reality the opposite is true.

    I too have mixed feelings…not sure there is any one “right” way to manage this for all areas concerned. I do think it is a testament to the bear’s tolerance of humans and unwillingness to inflict mortal injury (in most cases) that the sow in the Yellowstone cub petting incident didn’t attack. I believe it is the case that in the majority of grizzly attacks the bear is merely neutralizing the threat, not attempting to mortally wound. If it intended the latter it could most easily dispatch a human with very little effort. Again, if the public were surveyed as to these statements, I’m certain the consensus would be quite the opposite.

    If Yellowstone’s approach helps promote a better understanding of the bear and changes the public perception of it as a “massive human flesh eating carnivore”, to paraphrase a former public official, then I’m all for it.

  3. Larry Thorngren Avatar

    I spend time in each of these parks and prefer the Yellowstone approach. I have watched armed rangers fire cracker shells at bears innocently feeding on the hillsides near Logan Pass in Glacier and it seems like they are over-reacting to the bears presence. They also shoot rubber bullets at those “dangerous” bighorn ewes and lambs near Many Glacier, which is insane and likely to injure or kill these gentle animals.
    I think both parks suffer from a hover-mother syndrome when it comes to protecting visitors from the hazards of being in a wild national park. We need more naturalist type rangers in both parks instead of the bullet- proof- vest wearing, badge heavy, M-16 equipped cops they often hire.

  4. Alan Avatar

    Let’s face it, in surveys both official and unofficial (you can easily conduct one yourself by speaking to tourists), the majority of visitors to Yellowstone come hoping to see bears, wolves or both. Many come for that reason alone. I believe I read that bears are still number one, though it may now be wolves. The drop off is then rather dramatic to bison, elk, thermal features etc. If you consistently haze all bears away from the road two things are going to happen as they become less and less visable. One: fewer people are going to travel long distances to visit the park. Two: those who are bound and determined to see bears are going to traipse into the back country looking for one, possibly increasing bear/human encounters. Far better to allow some controlled viewing at the road side.
    Having said that, every situation is different. Every bear is different. Every crowd is different. As was explained to me by an interpretive ranger in Yellowstone, a small group of photographers with a well known black bear in the off season is going to be handled differently than a grizzly boar walking through the Old Faithful parking lot in July; just as a well known grizzly sow with cubs (like 264 or 399) is going to be handled differently from an unknown bear. All makes sense and allows for both the protection of the resource (in this case the bears) while allowing for, what is to many, a once in a lifetime opportunity.
    I tend to agree with Larry’s last sentence. There are some very good interpretive rangers in Yellowstone. These are the folks we want working bear jams.

  5. Save Bears Avatar
    Save Bears

    Well Glacier has had the same policy for quite a while now and they still set a record for the most visitors last year..

  6. Mike Avatar

    ++ They also shoot rubber bullets at those “dangerous” bighorn ewes and lambs near Many Glacier, which is insane and likely to injure or kill these gentle animals.

    They do this to save their lives. A ton of people speed on Many Glacier road and kill bighorn. There are blind curves there. I almost saw a giant bull moose hit by a Honda Civic in a 25 MPH zone there. The Civic never would have seen the moose. It was behind a bush. Personally I would love to see automated tickets in the national parks like we have on the tollways here.

    The Many Glacier road is the finest all around wildlife viewing area I have seen in the lower 48, and the animals are in constant danger by people speeding. The rangers have a really tough job there. The animals are funneled into the area by high mountains and cliffs, so when they bolt, they only have a few select places they can go to.

    I film grizz in Glacier and I’ve never had a problem with a ranger. In fact, I find them accomodating and friendly. Maybe it’s because they know I am more concerned about the welfare of the animals than getting a shot I can make money on. Often times the rangers will follow me around. Last fall, a Ranger who is a friend of mine asked “do the animals follow you around?”

    That saiod, I do have issue with how the park has recently handled bears(the Two Medicine grizzly family they destroyed and the black bear that had a cracker shell exploded insideof it).

  7. cc Avatar

    Both methods seem to be working quite well for the respective parks. The best thing about Yellowstone’s management is providing habitat for less dominant bears. As Kerry Gunther says in the article “If you tried to discourage [bears] from using [roadside habitat] it would reduce the carrying capacity in the park for bears.”

    It’s a bonus that so many people get good looks at bears there and hopefully that increases their awareness and appreciation of bears. There’s no substitute for seeing them acting naturally in their naturally habitat.

    In my experience the Yellowstone rangers, both interprative or law enforcement, do a great job managing the bear jams. They’ve always been very informative and respectful while giving the bear space and the people a safe viewing.

  8. Alan Avatar

    SB: Please note that my comments were with regard to Yellowstone. I have not seen surveys, nor have I talked extensively with tourists in Glacier. Yellowstone is a unique park and I think you would find the average person more likely to visit if they are likely to see bears and (or) wolves than if not.
    Even when company visits from out of state, and they want me to “show” them the park, I ask, “Do you want to see Old Faithful?” Without fail it is always, “No! We want to see some wildlife!” And almost always, “We want to see a bear!”
    For me personally, when I visit Glacier it is for the spectacular mountain scenery. When I visit Yosemite it’s for the waterfalls and hiking trails. Grand Canyon; well, the canyon! But Yellowstone means wildlife to a lot of people. There are a few places around to see bison, and plenty of places to see elk and deer and pronghorn; but Yellowstone is the best place in the world to see wolves and grizzly bears. Glacier may have these animals in good supply; but like the man said they don’t have Lamar Valley or Hayden Valley.
    In bad economic times, btw, visitation to National Parks always goes up because it’s a relatively cheap vacation.

  9. Mike Avatar

    Good points, Alan. That said, I’ve always had far more luck viewing grizz consistently in Glacier than Yellowstone during the summer and fall. Spring might be very different.

  10. Save bears Avatar
    Save bears

    I have been to both parks in all seasons, and I have far more luck with bears in Glacier, than I ever have in Yellowstone…believe it or not, I love to go to Yellowstone to watch the Bison, I spend hours just sitting and watching them, I find them very fascinating..

  11. Alan Avatar

    I guess that says one of two things: Either they don’t do a very good job of hazing roadside bears in Glacier, or hazing doesn’t work.
    None of that changes the fact that most people visit Yellowstone to see wildlife, and most of those want to see bears and wolves!

  12. Save bears Avatar
    Save bears


    I guess it all depends on who you talk to, as to what their priorities are, it is really no big deal, what the parks are doing seems to be working right now.

  13. Cutthroat Avatar

    “cc” makes a good point (also brought out in article) in support of YP policy with regard to the additional habitat available Yellowstone bears due to no hazing policy. Especially, since it is apparent what Wyoming’s policy is towards less dominant bears who seek safe habitat outside of park (capture/kill/relocate). Seems to be more tolerance for these bears in Montana when they move outside of Glacier and thus, seemingly, more available habitat.

  14. Cutthroat Avatar

    Should have said, “in support of YP policy for YP”, as I would agree that it appears what both parks are doing seems to be working.

  15. Alan Avatar

    Well there have been surveys done; but you are right it’s no big deal. What matters is that whatever the parks are doing seems to be working where it counts. There seems to be no shortage of viewing opportunities in either park and conflicts are at an all time low.

  16. Linda Hunter Avatar

    There is an excellent paper on this subject which was written in 2005 I believe:

  17. Joe James Avatar

    Having experienced both philosophies of bear-human management I must say I prefer the Yellowstone-Teton approach over that employed by Glacier. After spending countless hours watching both Black and Grizzly bears in GYE area without incident, we went to Glacier for the first time in 2006. The scenery was spectacular but the wildlife viewing was a disappointment. In one incident, we watched three Park employees haze a little Black Bear off the Avalanche Lake Trail. What really bothered us about the incident was the number of “hikers” who complained about having to wait for the bear to be moved off “their” trail. We’ve never heard people in YNP complain about seeing a bear. Quite the opposite, for most folks it seems to be the highlight of their trip and does more to foster a love of the National Park system than just about anything else with the exception of maybe a Wolf sighting.

    Another point I’d like to make is that in 2008 we had the good fortune to get to spend three days in Katmai NP. Granted, the coastal Brown Bears in Alaska are much more tolerant of people than their cousins in the Rockies but attitude of the NP staff was incredible. In Katmai, the bears have the right of way and it’s the humans who are herded about. If a bear wants to nap on the trail, the tourists wait, and wait, and wait. I really liked their approach of managing the tourists and letting the bears be bears. It was an incredible experience, something every lover of bears should get to do at least once.

  18. aphoto4you Avatar

    I agree what u had to say…
    I spend 6 months in both parks in the past , Yellowstone and Grand Tetons..And have seen both sites..I also beleive in safety. And dont beleive in putting bear down just cause of people stupidity…

    It is comon sence to be prepared with bear spray that most tourists dont have and wish not to invest into it..

    However i also have seen some rangers in Yellowstone over reacting.. and on other hand have seen voluteers at Grand Tetons national park not knowing what they talking about over reacting..Grand Tetons didnt have moose attack in history of the park..But treat moose jam like bear jam..I think that is little to much..

    Volunteers need to learn about wildlife and habitat before they become volunteer…Many have that Power struggle…syndrome..



Subscribe to get new posts right in your Inbox

Ralph Maughan