Movement of bears into this good habitat was inevitable. Meanwhile Gallatin County Commissions say wolves, bears cougars are a big detriment to Bozeman, West Yellowstone areas-

In Yellowstone Park where the Gallatin Range rises there is some of the very best grizzly habitat.  For a long time grizzlies have also ranged about 10 miles north of the Park in this generally rugged mountain range.

The Gallatin Range ends near Bozeman, and now grizzly bears occasionally range into the forest area overlooking the fast growing small city. There is likelihood of human conflict with bears in the Gallatin Canyon which runs down the entire west side of the range with a lot of lodges and subdivisions and a crowded highway, and some bears will be hit on the highway as are hundreds of deer, elk, black bear and bighorn sheep every year.

The northern part of the Gallatin Range doesn’t have as much grizzly habitat as the southern, so the population there will probably never be large.

Hyalite Basin in the northern end of the Gallatin Range near Bozeman. Copyright Ralph Maughan

Meanwhile, Gallatin County commissioners are being influenced by some outside agitators and are currently devising a predator policy that has a very negative tone.  Folks in Bozeman, Belgrade, the Gallatin Canyon and West Yellowstone need to attend the two meetings being held. The first is on May 3. A second will be on May 30. Both are in the same place. The meetings will begin at 7 p.m. in the Community Room of the County Courthouse, 311 W. Main St., Bozeman.

Story on bear expansion. Study: Grizzlies moving into Gallatin Canyon.By Laura Lingquist. Bozeman Chronicle.

Here is a story on the county’s large predator policy, County considers predator policy. Belgrade News.

– – – – –

Update. May 4

Here is the May 4 story on the results of the Gallatin County large predator meeting. About 70 people attended.

About The Author

Ralph Maughan

Dr. Ralph Maughan is professor emeritus of political science at Idaho State University. He was a Western Watersheds Project Board Member off and on for many years, and was also its President for several years. For a long time he produced Ralph Maughan's Wolf Report. He was a founder of the Greater Yellowstone Coalition. He and Jackie Johnson Maughan wrote three editions of "Hiking Idaho." He also wrote "Beyond the Tetons" and "Backpacking Wyoming's Teton and Washakie Wilderness." He created and is the administrator of The Wildlife News.

36 Responses to Grizzly bears are reoccupying the Gallatin Range north of Yellowstone Park (with update May 4)

  1. timz says:

    Notice —
    “Skinner said he has been quietly meeting with hunters, outfitters and others to come up with a plan that works in Gallatin County.”
    Don’t suppose any of the “others” are biologists or pro-predator folks.

  2. atlas says:

    I wonder how long it will be until the GYE griz population interbreeds with the Northern continental population.

  3. Mike says:

    You’d think the higher education levels in that area would prevent this kind of illogical campaign by Skinner and the commission.

    Not surprised to see hunters and outfitters “quietly” putting together anti-predator plans.

    I’m sure they’re considering science and ethics, lol.

    • Nancy says:

      “You’d think the higher education levels in that area would prevent this kind of illogical campaign by Skinner and the commission”

      Mike – after I read your comment, I had to dig out my copy of The All American Patriot Newspaper (Vol. I, No.5 Jan. 2010) given to me by some friends that received it while passing thru the Bozeman area.

      Page 4 includes a full page interview with Bob Fanning, which continued on page 22 (where another full page was dedicated to the interview)

      Pages 12 & 13 are full of color photographs (and comments) taken when Sarah Palin dropped by nearby Billings and thrilled the locals (sure that alone, will make the rag a collector’s item someday 🙂

      There’s even a tame little article on page 9 titled How to overthrow the government, using the “precinct system”

      • Ralph Maughan says:


        Progressives would do well to understand how to change things using the precinct system to gain control of a local political party.

        It is conceptually very easy to gain control of a political party at the grass roots level. The tea party did it, and now they can often “purge” office holders and candidates that are not sufficiently extreme for their taste.

        • Nancy says:

          You’re right Ralph 🙂

          • CodyCoyote says:

            Local control of the political process at the precinct level has, regrettably, worked all too well for the religious right , vis-a-vis school boards. There’s a lesson there.

            In Park County Wyoming, the only halfway progressive county commissioner just announced he’s not running for reelection. The remaining four range from moderately conservative to utter abject rubythroated hardcore conservative. One is even the past Prez and still primary activist for the local Sportsmen for Fish and Wildlife chapter ( Wyoming’s largest ) and a local anti-wolf outfitter ( who had a client hunter kill a griz a few years ago with a rifle from a distance because he thought the bear was threatening him and got away with it ) has announced he’s running for the open seat.

            Wyoming has had state management of grizzlies for years, since they were merely ” threatened” not ” Endangered”. As such, Wyoming keeps it’s non-Yellowstone bears bottled up inside an arbitrary boundary drawn around political features not ecological and refuses to let them disperse to nearby prime habitat. It’s very counterproductive. They trapped 75 bears last year…and moved them to the same 6 drop points inside that Zoo boundary , when they could just as easly transport them to some place outside the zoo in Idaho or Montana. But relocation ks not in the operator’s manual ( thank you cattle barons).

            We are a long ways from a good predator conservation program in the GYE and beyond. As far from that goal as ever. This Gallatin bear situation is just the latest example.

  4. sleepy says:

    Grizzlies inhabit the Gravelly Range west of the Gallatins so this doesn’t come as much of a surprise.

  5. Jeff says:

    That was my thought, it seems like this range has probably been occupied for the past decade at least—otherwise it seems like the population is growing to the south faster than it is to the north and west of Yellowstone.

  6. Ralph Maughan says:

    I probably should add that while the county’s large predator policy is negative toward all predators, the hearing tonight will very likely focus almost entirely on the wolf.

  7. Dan says:

    I chuckle and smirk at people who tell me they pack heat to defend themselves from wolves.

    I pack heat whenever I’m even close to hiking in griz country.

    Although, I deeply respect the griz, I am fearful of the griz.

    • Mike says:

      I fear people packing heat more than I do grizz.

      • Immer Treue says:

        Someone posted statitics a while ago that it was safer for both the person and the bear if the person carried bear spray rather than “heat”.

        • Savebears says:

          Immmer, Mike has an agenda, unlike you..

          • Mike says:

            Look at the stats. You have a much better chance of killing yourself with your own firearm than you do of being attacked by a grizzly.

    • SEAK Mossback says:

      The primary environment where it seems like a handgun could have a distinct advantage over pepper spray is inside your tent. When we went on an 8 day hike in the NW section of Yellowstone a couple of years ago, I ended up lugging along a portable electric fence, after reading about a group that camped at High Lake (where we spent one night) and had to quickly evacuate from their tents and camp which were subsequently pretty well destroyed by grizzlies coming through that night, attracted by elk remains in the lake that the campers had not noticed. We did not see much fresh sign, and it appeared most of the grizzlies had moved out of the area (which was a whitebark pine graveyard), and at least a few were frequenting a friend’s orchard near Gardiner. However, since you can now carry a firearm in Yellowstone (subject to applicable state laws), it made me wonder what it would take to comply with Montana and Wyoming law. I have no desire to pack visible heat while hiking in Yellowstone, nor to apply for a concealed permit in a state where I don’t reside, so that gets into the definition of a concealed weapon. Here it is legal for anyone to keep one in a pack without a permit, but for states that require a permit for a concealed weapon, what constitutes one? Would it be legal to disassemble a revolver and have your hiking partner carry the cylinder while you carry the frame hidden in your packs without a permit — so that you can later assemble it in your tent?

      • Savebears says:

        Several states have reciprocal agreements, so if you have a permit for your home state you might be legal in these states. For my money, I will still chose my bear spray, even for use in the tent, I would rather be exposed to the spray than try to shoot a bear in a highly chaotic tent situation. Spray wears off, bullets and bears don’t.

      • jburnham says:

        You can find more information for Montana here.

        One thing to keep in mind is that anyone can carry concealed outside of city limits (backcountry) in Montana without a permit.

      • Jeff says:

        You can carry a gun or wear a gun on your hip (or anywhere provided it isn’t concealed)in Wyoming without any type of permit. The legislature was batting around the idea of allowing concealed weapons without a permit but I can’t remember if it passed or not.

        • SEAK Mossback says:

          Thanks all. The reason a reciprocal agreement wouldn’t work easily for me is that a permit for concealed carry is no longer required here, although it is possible to get one (I guess to be eligible in other states). I normally don’t worry too much about tents, but a couple were killed in their dome tent a few years ago in the Arctic Refuge — they had a Marlin 45/70 but only managed to get the lever open. We use mostly taller, roomier Eureka tents around here, particularly for boat camping but the ones that hold up best for packing light in high wind areas are just thin coffins. On the North Slope, the grizzlies have a diet of about 1/3rd meat, mostly that they kill themselves and there are lots of them and they can be pretty creepy. A young friend and I woke up one morning in a really out-of-the-way high valley, and after a short stroll encountered to two adult bears. One left, but the other with beautiful long blond pellage crouched belly-down and showed a long intense interest in us. When we started to leave, he got an excited look like a cat and launched. We managed to get him stopped without using my emergency grizzly tag, by turning abruptly back and yelling and waving, but it gave me the creeps to think we had slept soundly in a low clip flashlight tent just a quarter mile away up a little creek. If there are two tents, at least you can face them directly toward eachother, leaving the ends open, so the occupants of either can quickly take care of a problem for the other.

          • WM says:

            ++Would it be legal to disassemble a revolver and have your hiking partner carry the cylinder while you carry the frame hidden in your packs without a permit…++


            In most states the “concealed” carry law applies to the gun actually being loaded while concealed. If the gun is unloaded and concealed – no problem. Just keep a speed loader handy for a revolver. I don’t know of any clip loaded hand gun that is grizzly bear worthy, although, if I recall correctly some idiot shot a grizzly in Denali with a .45acp last year.

            I am with SB on the bear spray, now. I have seen open carry chest holsters that pretty much disguise what one might carry in them (rectangular nylon chest holster with flap, capable concealing a large bore revolver).

            In the end, one wonders whether a law enforcement type would write up somebody in the back-country for a concealed weapon charge anyway. Though, some overzealous NP ranger in Jellystone on a bad day just might.

  8. Chuck says:

    While I have a great respect the grizzly bear, I don’t fear it. I have taken the time to educate myself and be prepared/bear aware. I would love to see grizzlies in Central Idaho, but unless they make the trek on their own I don’t ever see the government relocating them here.

  9. sleepy says:

    Re the June, 2010 posting about the 2 grizzlies spotted on the plains, it looks like they escaped capture. Hopefully, they made it somewhere rugged and safe, maybe one of those island ranges or the breaks as posters said.

  10. Kayla says:

    Go Grizzlies!!! Now I personally hiked the entire Gallatin range from Bozeman to Yellowstone Park back in the 80’s and there was grizzlies in the range then. So think how it must be now.

    What I do not understand, which goes for Jackson and elsewhere also, how so many people can live in the Yellowstone are and give voice approval for the wildlife. But when the predators and wildlife are right outside of town then they go berserk. Now if these people cannot live with the wildlife then WHY did these people move here in the first place. I personally trust grizzlies more then people it seems anyday.

    Go Grizzlies!!!

  11. Chuck says:

    I remember several years ago when the agates were hanging out below Dunraven, we were watch the pack and a photographer came up to me and started talking about sneaking down there to get some good pictures and then he lift his shirt slightly and showed a pistol in his pants and said he would be safe. I am curious, how many people under the circumstances that a grizzly was at a dead on run 10 feet from them could hold their pistol steady enough to get a shot off let alone hit the bear??? I couldn’t, so that’s why I pack bear spray.

    • Immer Treue says:


      Such simple and good advice. I would also advocate carrying bear spray for those who “fear” wolves, in particular if you are with dog(s) in wolf country. Such common sense, rather than artillery.

    • Kayla says:

      Chuck, do hear what you are saying and am with you on this. I could not either and carry both bear spray and a horn. But when am in the Thorofare, I meet all of these horse packers carrying their 45 magnums. Now I have had close encounters to various grizzlies in the wilds and many a grizzly is just as afriad of us as we are of them it seems. Grizzlies in my opinion are great teachers for wilderness ethics for they cause us Human Two Leggeds to be alert what is happening around us and to keep a clean camp.

      Go Grizzlies!!!

      • Elk275 says:


        “45 Magnums” Never heard of such a creature. Forty Four Magnums yes, 45 Colt yes, 500 Smith and Wesson magnum yes and 45 Long Colt yes. I carry a 41 magnum with 250 grain hardcast at 1100 feet per second just at a 1000 foot pounds of energy at the muzzle.

      • SEAK Mossback says:

        It can be difficult to give up “clinging to your gun” (to loosely quote our president), for cultural as well as almost superstitious or religious reasons (especially if it has worked out for you before). I find myself falling into the latter category after an incident in the mid-1990s. I had spent 15 years wandering areas around here that were thick with brown bears, and had developed a history of such a high ratio of benign encounters to scary ones that I had fallen into the same complacency that I see over and over again in young people from outside the region I’ve worked with, who tend develop a belief (based on the same pattern of experience) that brown bears are just plain cool and not dangerous.

        After an October day of counting cohos in mostly pool habitat along a more open river bed, I found myself checking out a small bushy side tributary in the evening on my way back upstream to camp. In retrospect, it was not a place that should have visited alone, particularly late in the day, and I would certainly not do so now. There was ample bear sign, including some very small cub tracks. As I arrived in the highest accessible reach, I noticed a very fresh coho jaw laying on a gravel bar in front of me. Stooping over to examine it, I noticed the water film moving, still settling off of it! It was a sobering sight, but I continued anyway because I only had a few yards to go before the end of accessible fish habitat at a barrier falls. I took about 4 or 5 more steps, when a brown bear that was tucked behind an alder protruding from the right bank suddenly came into view 45 feet away. She was backed into the bank, watching the stream and preparing to pounce on 2 or 3 cohos moving in the current. I saw her about half a second before our eyes met, and I remember saying “It’s alright, mama”. Oddly, I still did not experience a shot of fear and adrenaline, owing I’m sure to many years of similar encounters with outcomes that seemed almost predictable. What happened next was so lightning fast that my brain seemed not to register anything unusual, until she’d eaten up about half the distance between us. I heard a shot, it almost seemed unclear from where, and saw her absorb the shock of a .338 rife slug up her nose and somersault up by my feet, quickly transforming the stream as far as could be seen from a slight glacial gray tint to bright crimson. Only then, did I experience a major adrenaline shock.

        I felt a strong urge to return to camp and, and carrying only a leatherman tool in waning light, saw no reason to stick around to immediately recover the hide and skull, which are required from any killed bear — whether hunted or DLP. I’m unsure exactly how I had thought she was a sow when I attempted calming words, and I observed no cubs, but I did check enough to verify that it was a female that did not appear to be lactating.

        All three of us returned in the morning with a pack board, knives and other tools. As we approached the site, I waded through some fairly deep holes in the creek to avoid dense overhanging alders on the banks, but fortunately one of the other guys climbed up on the bank to little promontory from which the kill site could be observed 60 or 70 yards away up the narrow, bushy creek bed. He announced there were bears, and we all gathered on the vantage point to check it out. They appeared to be a couple of large cubs, probably yearlings. One went over and tugged at her belly. I felt sad, thinking it was trying to nurse and wondering how I had missed seeing them with her the night before. But it quickly occurred to me they had to be too old to be nursing. We needed to haze them off to get to the carcass, so we started waving and shouting. They moved around a bit more but showed no indication of leaving, so I fired into the gravel the edge of the bar close but well off to the right side of them.

        Immediately after the shot, we heard a roar and saw an adult bear emerge from behind a log and brush behind and to the left of them, look down the creek at us and lung into the alders in our direction.

        We discovered that morning that it is possible to hurdle through alder thickets while fully suited in chest waders. We gathered out at the river and agreed there was no sense making any further attempt. However, when calling in to report the situation, we were reminded of the law and the need to make every reasonable attempt to recover and deliver the hide and skull. The only reasonable attempt we could collectively imagine was to wait 5 more days for our helicopter pick-up, to examine the site from above at mid-day and, if clear, to land in the nearest opening at the river and go in quickly to retrieve what we could. As we arrived over the site, we saw two bears on the kill that jumped into a “hedge” of young spruce only 30 feet away on flood plain, which was otherwise covered with leafless alder. Hovering overhead, we could see them pacing around in the tiny thicket, but we could not induce them to break out and run for the big timber. That was the end of our effort, and I figured everything would be flushed away in freshets. However, a couple of guys made a long hike up to the site the following June and recovered the lower jaw, from which an extracted tooth indicated age at 14 years.

        One June, 8 or 9 years later and perhaps a mile upstream, my assistant carrying the same rife stopped at about 8 feet an apparent predatory attack by a huge, thin male with a horrific healed skeletal and spinal injury. It’s an old Winchester model 70 (not stainless, with an awkwardly long barrel and wimpy sights), but it has taken on the status of a religious talisman in his mind and will always remain what he reaches for first. However, I believe there is hope for younger generations to develop confidence and to place their faith in an aerosol can rather than a firearm, as their personal talisman. Aside from the fact that I should not have been at that scene, it’s quite likely that on that windless evening a well-deployed can of bear spray would have worked perfectly to repel that sow, while saving us further effort and excitement. However, any successful defense beyond luck (she might have stopped 5 feet away, hackles up, growling and clacking her teeth for a second, and then vanished) would still have required some uncertain mystical combination of what? (instinct? divine guidance?) bordering on an out-of-body experience. Keep your aerosol handy and practice! Then believe in it — but don’t be afraid to replace it regularly as recommended, unlike a proven old firearm that has no expiration date.

        As far as the Thorofare packers and their single action revolvers — if they haven’t changed since my memory of the several I met over 40 years ago, then I doubt they will be switching to aerosol cans anytime soon. Bear spray was not invented by 1890, and therefore it follows that they will not carry it today.

        • Mike says:

          Sad story. No doubt bear spray would’ve been better for all.

          The biggest threat to wildlife has and always will be guns.

        • jburnham says:

          Thanks for sharing SEAK, I always look forward to reading your comments.

  12. NativeMontanan says:

    Reality is very few people would have the aim and the fortitude to be capable of delivering a killing shot to a griz while under attack. The majority of these fools tramping around with their “heat” are more of a danger to themselves and the rest of us than the bear is. The more they talk about the power of their heat the more I believe they are clearly compensating for what they feel they lack in the nether-regions.

  13. I saw a grizzly while staying with a friend of mine who lives in the Wyoming Greater Yellowstone Area — practically from his back yard! They are majestic creatures, but I’ll still definitely be carrying a healthy supply of pepper spray when I go stay with him again!


May 2012


‎"At some point we must draw a line across the ground of our home and our being, drive a spear into the land and say to the bulldozers, earthmovers, government and corporations, “thus far and no further.” If we do not, we shall later feel, instead of pride, the regret of Thoreau, that good but overly-bookish man, who wrote, near the end of his life, “If I repent of anything it is likely to be my good behaviour."

~ Edward Abbey