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The perfect shot isn’t worth it: how to safely view and photograph grizzly bears

MORAN, Wyo. — Bears are a popular attraction in Grand Teton National Park, especially during the spring season. But with limited staff this summer, it’s important to know how to behave in the presence of Grand Teton’s wildlife.

Spring makes it difficult for bears to find food at higher elevations, drawing them closer to the valley floor where biscuitroot and other food sources are available. Some bears will take advantage of being close to roads and people to keep their cubs safe from boars or other wildlife. With more bears than usual frequenting the roads, it’s critical to give them space and photograph from a distance.

It is always safer to view bears from inside your car. Be sure to give them plenty of space if they are going to cross the road. If you do get out of your car in the presence of a bear, the National Park Service says that you should stay at least 100 yards away from a bear. Bears can run up to speeds of 30 mph which gives little or no time to react. It is always recommended to have bear spray on you where you can easily access it.

If you see someone is getting too close or not following proper etiquette, say something. Park staff can only be in so many places at once. It’s important to give bears plenty of space for our own safety, but also to make sure they don’t become comfortable being approached by humans.

Never run around bears or get in the line of travel of any wild animal. This only irritates them and could result in being charged.

A recent encounter with 399 and cubs being chased by a crowd of photographers from Pilgrim Creek north to Colter Bay is a growing concern that could result in someone being seriously injured. When getting the “perfect shot” becomes more important than safety or wildlife’s wellbeing, it might be time to reconsider whether that shot is worth it. In the end, stressing out a mom with four cubs will only push her further into the woods, where no one is able to view these animals.

Bears often hang out near the roads in springtime for safety, and because there's more food. That doesn't mean it's safe to get closer to them.
A ranger tries to scare mama bear away after crowds got too close for comfort.

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