A few Beartooth Bear EncountersEarly Winter
by Dan Hartman
Oct. 29, 2019We've been busy with this early winter catching us all by surprise. Many projects I had planned for October had to be scrapped or done in cold and snowy conditions. We brought our last load of wood in just ahead of a snowstorm that dumped close to a foot of snow. It's been below zero the last few nights. That put an end to any projects that includd digging as the ground is now frozen solid.
The early winter has also jump started our pine marten season. Two males from last winter have arrived, also a female and a youngster passed by. The male we call white chin is looking in the window at me right now.
Our winter birds have also returned. Grosbeaks, stellars jays, gray jays, clarks nutcrackers, hairy woodpeckers, chickadees, nuthatches and a dusky grouse are daily visitors.
Back in September, I had a few grizzly encounters in the Beartooths.
One occurred when I stopped to inspect a squirrel midden. A grizz blew at me from just a few yards away back in the trees. A few seconds and he blew again to my left, this time a bit closer and I saw him through the pine boughs. Next time he sounded off he was directly behind me. I had my bearspray ready, but made it back up to my car without incident.
A few days later, I was with Kurt and John and their photo group. We were working a pika colony, just fifty yards off the road. Suddenly someone said, "BEAR!!" I turned expecting to see a bear approaching, but no, a young grizzly was already standing amoung us, only 10-12 yards away. Instantly the guides and I got everyone moving back into the trees and headed toward our vehicles. Suddenly a second bear appeared to our left. The first bear approached even closer, but we calmly talked him into leaving. Soon both bears climbed upslope and disappeared.
I think the fact only one photo of the bear was taken is testiment to how well the guides handled the whole situation. Choosing leaving the area over taking photos.
Days later I was back in the Beartooths with my good friends, Gary and Adrienne. We were passing by a boggy meadow when I thought I spotted something a hundred yards or so out. We stopped and glassed the willow patch. Suddenly a grizzly raised up from the follage, then another and still another. A grizzly sow and twin two year old cubs.
Because one of the cubs sported an injured nose and upper lip I recognized it as one of the bears Kurts photo group and I had the encounter with earlier. Over the next two days I watched the bears as they fed on a gut pile. On every occasion the three bears were together, which means that day in the pika colony, the sow grizzly was there also.
Cindy, Kelly and I were approaching Little Bear Lake when a large grizz crossed ahead of us. We watched until it re-entered the forest a minute or so later. I back tracked the bear and was amazed at how long the stench of the bears passing hung in the air.
The last day we were able to make it up to the gate that closed Beartooth Pass for the season. Cindy spotted a grizzly climbing a snow covered slope a mile above us. I got the glasses on him just as he walked a high ridge and crossed over the pass at 11,000ft.