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Yellowstone Black Bears

Most people would agree that a trip to Yellowstone National Park would not be complete without seeing bears in their natural habitat. With a population of only 500-650, not knowing exactly where to look for these beautiful creatures can leave you disappointed when your trip to the park is over. Below you will find a behind-the-lens guide from the professional photographer, Mike Carmo, on the spots he likes to scout out for our little (big) furry friends!


From 1910 through the 1960's, bears within the park were fed by tourists. This led to a high number of injuries to visitors, damage to personal and park property, and a loss of fear of humans on the bears part. I know you can picture it: Yogi Bear and Boo-Boo cruising around for the coveted pic-a-nic basket!

It is important to note that while seeking out a bear to watch or to photograph, you are in their environment. Respect for these giant creatures is important. Respect their space, don't approach them under any circumstances, and keep a good distance! Remember, a photograph may look like it's up close and personal, but that photographer has a hefty lens that can zoom in with absolute clarity! Can't achieve the same results using your phone? Just buy a print from a photographer ;)

After years of searching out our bear friends, Mike finally found the bear sweet spot, Tower-Roosevelt. He sat along the road, sometimes for several days in a row, hours on end, to catch that perfect shot. The bears he encountered on his 2022 trip to Yellowstone were near the Tower Falls location. There were two momma bears (sows) about a mile from each other, each with two bear cubs. One sow had two black bear cubs and the other had a black and a cinnamon cub.

The life of a black bear cub is very similar to a toddler; lots of eating, napping, and playing. Momma bear will go foraging for food while the bear cubs run about and play, often venturing a bit away from mom...but never too far!


Nothing Cuter Than a Bear Cub!

In Yellowstone, 50% of the population of black bears are black, the other half is cinnamon ( Average sizes for black bears are between 210-315lbs for males and 135-200lbs for females. Their lifespan is between 15-30 years.

During Mike's most recent trip, the mother bear of these two cuties was more at ease with the humans nearby, possibly because she was older and more used to the onslaught of tourists in her backyard. These two siblings spent a good bit of time napping up in the trees while momma bear was keeping guard below them, also napping. One day, he sat for four hours shooting this bear family. In that time period, the bears were sleeping for a good portion of it! You have to be quiet, patient, and in the right location to catch a glimpse inside the life of a Yellowstone bear.

When To Visit Yellowstone

Yellowstone is HUGE. Like, take the states of Rhode Island AND Delaware, combine them... and it's STILL bigger than that! North to south, 63 miles, and east to west, 54 miles, the park covers an area of 3,472 miles. You can find wildlife all throughout the park, some areas being easier to spot than others. Your beloved photographer spends the bulk of his time in the Lamar Valley and Slough Creek regions of the park. This location is the northeast section of Yellowstone. He will tell you that this is the most active area in the park for wildlife that he has witnessed. While he did not encounter any grizzly bears on this trip (2022) he has in the past!

The northeast region of Yellowstone is best to visit during May and June if you want to catch a glimpse of a sow and her cubs. Black bears mate in the spring, hibernate and give birth the next winter, and emerge that spring with their cubs from the dens. Mike says there have been days where there are over 100 people gathered along the roadside watching the bears, and other days where its just him and small group, sometimes all alone, shooting (camera!) the bears.

Be Bear Safe!

Remember, these are wild animals. YOU are in THEIR habitat! Unless you have dreams of reliving an Oscar-winning Leonardo DiCaprio scene, DONT. TOUCH. THE. BEARS. Support a photographer who has spent days and hours scouting the magnificent beasts and buy a great shot to hang in your family room, hunting cabin, or kid's bedroom. Be safe, support your National Parks, remember to pack-in and pack-out, don't litter, and be respectful. Let's leave a great impression on the next generation to support the wildlife and conservationists!

Best Wishes - Gen

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