Grizzly bears emerging from their dens now

Some are already out-

For the next month grizzlies in Idaho, Wyoming, Montana, and Canada will emerge from their dens.  Some are reported to already be out hunting for the first tender grass and for winter carcasses.

In the last few days there have been stories alerting people to the fact of the bears “awakening” in Banff/Jasper, the area around Glacier National Park (U.S.) and the Greater Yellowstone ecosystem.

Here is a Yellowstone Park News Release. Yellowstone Grizzly Bears Emerging From Dens

In years past, grizzlies have injured the unwary (often antler hunters) at this time of year.






  1. Leslie Avatar

    Been so dry, hope they will find things to eat in these next coming months.

  2. Ralph Maughan Avatar
    Ralph Maughan

    One thing I should add is that to some degree Yellowstone Park bears will be emerging to a Park with fewer people because the roads won’t be plowed.

    Three weeks more time without the many tourists is more of a curiosity for us than anything much to the bears though, I suppose.

  3. Rancher Bob Avatar
    Rancher Bob

    Just for the sake of water cooler talk what are peoples views on the available winter carcasses, were there more carcasses when there were fewer wolves. Meaning more sick old elk that died and laid frozen in the snow, then found by bears in the spring.
    Or are there more carcasses now with wolves killing elk every couple days.
    Also what is the survival rate of today’s cubs VS the days when there were no wolves.
    I very seldom hear anything about wolves impact on grizzlies or other predators for that matter, other than coyotes. Just looking for information or views.

    1. Immer Treue Avatar
      Immer Treue

      Rancher Bob,

      Just questions. Are grizzly numbers increasing or decreasing? If increasing, does that equate to more available food? With delisting talks, might that mean increasing?

      I really don’t know all that much about bears, and don’t have grizzly where I live. But won’t they eat just about anything?

      Not trying to make a point, or put you on the spot, just wondering myself.

      1. savebears Avatar


        Based on the information that has become available the last few years, Grizzly bear numbers are increasing and are actually quite a bit higher than was though before. The DNA study preliminary reports are showing quite a bit more population numbers in the NW part of Montana that was thought. Bears area also increasing their ranges and now starting to inhabit areas that they have not been seen for over a 125 years.

        Despite what some are claiming, bear numbers are growing and I believe they will continue to grow, Yellowstone is not enough habitat, never has been.

      2. Robert R Avatar
        Robert R

        I do know that a bear will come back to where an old carcass was the year before.
        The delisting starts in 2014.

        Bob you bring up some good questions.

      3. Rancher Bob Avatar
        Rancher Bob

        Around here if the grass greens up shortly after they come out they’re no problem. No grass they go looking for what ever’s easy, that means the neighbors calves. One would find a winter kill from time to time, we even had a program where we drug road kill up in the foothills so they would have spring feed. Now with wolves cleaning up those road kills and winter kills we stopped.
        The local biologist believes grizzly numbers are increasing mostly because of their expanding range, but has the rate of increase changed I don’t know.
        As for a bears diet your right they will eat just about anything but right now it seems there is less for the bears in the spring from now until green-up. Amy way work calls, later.

        1. Leslie Avatar

          It’s been the mildest winter in years here with little snow. The elk and deer have been doing well as they can move anywhere they want to with so little snow. The wolves here have been eating deer as far as I can tell–haven’t found one elk kill yet.

          Grass is just beginning to come up; bluebirds are arriving. These bears will wake up to no winter kill and the local wolf packs have been quite disrupted by the fall hunt.

    2. Nancy Avatar

      RB – an interesting read regarding your questions:

      Starting to feel like spring in your neck of the woods? Saw my first Bluebird a couple of days ago (a week early 🙂 and heard geese “honking” their way up the valley also.

    3. SAP Avatar

      Rancher Bob –

      one difficulty in answering the question about wolf effects on carcass availability is that our winters have changed so dramatically since 1995.

      Early 90s, we actually had some hard winters, driven in part by cooling due to volcanic eruptions (Phillipines, if memory serves, leading to relatively high concentrations of ash in the global atmosphere. Ash bounces solar radiation back into space = cooler temperatures. See also “geoengineering”).

      All told, though, the presence of wolves likely means that ungulates in poor condition will die from predation rather than from exposure / starvation. This article
      reached an unsurprising conclusion (but worth taking the time to verify scientifically):

      Wolves “change the variability in scavenge from a late winter pulse dependent primarily on abiotic environmental conditions [eg, temperature and precip] to one that is relatively constant across the winter and primarily dependent on wolf demographics . . .”

      Since most bears den up in the winter, this means less carrion laying around for them to eat when they emerge. Big male grizzlies have adapted by staying awake part of the winter to usurp carcasses from wolf packs. That behavior would be entirely too risky for female grizzlies with cubs, as well as lone bears that lack the size and temperament to stand off a wolf pack.

      Wolves have killed bear cubs. Clearly, it has not been a major factor in population growth, as the grizzly population has grown even when wolf numbers were quite high in and around Yellowstone. It happens, but it’s rare.

      Unlike an elk calf, a grizzly cub can take refuge in a tree while Mom deals out some fearsome reprisals on the ground.

  4. Ida Lupine Avatar
    Ida Lupine

    I have always thought of this as one of nature’s miracles (of many). I haven’t seen bluebirds yet – but we are starting to get our spring birds, and they are in pairs! Juncos are still at the feeder, so it isn’t Spring quite yet. One day they all head North and are gone, until next winter! 🙂


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.

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