Yellowstone Reports

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Clan Of The Cave Bear

Old Bear Den
by Dan Hartman

March 27, 2012

My good friend Brad and I were looking for a place to hike before an approaching storm. An old bear and sometimes lion den fit the bill, as the slopes leading in were somewhat free of snow. I must admit, I was surprised how far up the canyon it was, as I have not visited the location in three years. When we finally reached the rocky outcropping that concealed the den, I realized how little the site had changed. I had first stumbled on this crack in the ledge while exploring with Jeff Hogan in 1986. When Jeff looked in something hissed at him. I got a penlight and peered in. Far back in the cave was a black bear. She continued to use the den for five to six years, and then the cave was empty. About fifteen years ago I happened by and discovered mountain lion tracks trailing out of the entrance. This recollection is what intrigued Brad as he’s always on the prowl for lions.
Well, the den lay quiet with no sign of usage. We were checking out the entrance when Brad discovered something half buried in the sand. He held
it up and exclaimed, “bear jaw!”. And it was. A piece of upper jaw holding several teeth. It obviously had some age to it, probably at least ten years. We could only suppose at this point but the best-case scenario would be it had died in the den and the bone had been carried to the entrance by some scavenger.
Another interesting aspect at the den site is a petrified tree section that protrudes from the outcropping. Fragments of the log litter the slope below.
The wind was picking up and the skies were darkening as we worked our way back out. By the time I pulled in our drive an hour later, it was dumping snow.

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View slide show

Bear Jaw

Cave Den

Sleeping Chamber 10 Feet Back

Brad Examines His Discovery

It's A Bear Jaw

Petrified Tree Log Imbedded In The Outcropping