Early Rising Yellowstone Grizzly Will Probably Be Lonely For A While; Most Bears Still Snoozing

A grizzly that popped out in Yellowstone Park last week will probably be lonely for a while yet, as most bears are going to sleep for another month or so, a Wyoming wildlife biologist said.

Mark Heinz

March 13, 20233 min read

Grizzly winter
(Cowboy State Daily Staff)

A grizzly spotted chowing down on a bison carcass in Yellowstone last Tuesday was likely an early riser and won’t have much company for a while yet, a wildlife biologist says. 

“Once March hits we expect some calls to roll in reporting grizzly bear activity, but we don’t anticipate most bears to make their den exodus until later,” Dan Thompson, a large carnivore specialist with the Wyoming Game and Fish Department, told Cowboy state Daily.

The hibernation could last through “April and even into May in the case of females with this year’s cubs,” he added.

The National Park Service reported the first official sighting of a grizzly bear this year, described as an adult weighing about 300-350 pounds, in the Pelican Valley, which is in the central-eastern part of Yellowstone. 

Heavy Snow Won’t Keep Bears Down

Massive snowfall across much of Wyoming has affected other wildlife. Game and Fish has implemented emergency feeding of elk in some parts of western Wyoming.

However, bears – grizzlies and black bears – aren’t sleeping in because of the heavy snow, Thompson said. And it’s doubtful they’ll be phased by it once they do start popping out of their hibernation dens. 

“In the ursid world, I doubt they really see more or less snow as an ‘extra challenge,’ their overall life strategy is based on adaptability and the fact they have such high dietary plasticity demonstrates their ability to roll with the punches regardless of the annual ebbs and flow in the natural world,” Thompson said. 

Humans shouldn’t project their weather concerns on animals so hardy and adaptable as bears, he said. Also, grizzlies in particular tend to retreat to the highest reaches of the mountains to hibernate, areas where spring, such as it is, arrives even later than in the rest of Wyoming.

“Basically, the details and minutiae that we as humans consternate about is just part of life for most wildlife,” Thompson said. “In most areas where grizzly bears den (high elevation areas) there is a lot more winter to be had.”  

Could Be Difficult For Hunters 

While the bears are likely to take it in stride, heavy snowpack could make it difficult for bear hunters who hope to get out for the spring season, Thompson said.

Black bear hunting seasons are scheduled for May 1 through June 5. And given the amount of snow across many of Wyoming’s mountain ranges, it could indeed be difficult for bears to slog their way into the favorite spots of hunters. 

Grizzly bears aren’t legal to hunt in Wyoming, yet. 

Gov. Mark Gordon, as well as all three members of Wyoming’s U.S. congressional delegation, have pushed for grizzlies in the greater Yellowstone region to be removed from federal endangered species protection, possibly within a year.

The Wyoming Legislature also passed a price hike for nonresident grizzly tags – if and when a hunting season is opened for the bruins – from $6,000 to $7,500. 

Share this article



Mark Heinz

Outdoors Reporter