What a bear really does in the woods…in Yellowstone

During my time in Yellowstone, I witnessed some truly extraordinary wildlife encounters. Yet none compare with the experiences of Doug Smith, the leader of Yellowstone’s Wolf Project. Doug has studied wolves for almost thirty years and has been in Yellowstone since 1994. In the course of his winter research he covers a lot of ground in the park and observes wildlife being wild. When I worked in Yellowstone, I became friends with Doug and was grateful for his generous sharing of his amazing experiences. I enjoyed his stories of unusual wolf behavior, new research findings, and his updates on my “adopted” wolf, 495M, at the time the largest wolf ever recorded in Yellowstone.

And my thanks to Doug for sharing with us once again from his work a glimpse of wildlife most of us don’t get to see.  While tracking a pack of about 50 wolves in Hayden Valley recently, Doug snapped this mesmerizing photo of a remarkable scene: a grizzly bear standing over a fresh bison carcass.

Wolf researcher Doug Smith took this recent photo of a grizzly bear on a bison carcass in Yellowstone. (Photo Doug Smith/NPS)
I asked Doug about the photo and the origin of the bear’s bison meal, as grizzlies are known for stealing kills from wolf packs. His guess is that the “bear found and controlled the dead bison from the start. It’s not really touched yet and it’s very recent activity so the wolves likely got nothing.” From the look on the bear’s face, he has no intention of sharing his meal!

For more information, read my interview with Doug Smith in National Parks Traveler on his research, or my Eulogy for a Wolf: A Happy Ending for Yellowstone’s 495M on Wildlife Promise.