YELLOWSTONE NATIONAL PARK – Footage shot in Yellowstone National Park captured images of a grizzly bear venturing too close to a herd of bison calves before being run off by a bison mother.
The video was recorded by Bo Welden, a naturalist wildlife guide with Jackson Hole Ecotour Adventures based in Jackson Hole, Wyoming.
The encounter between the bear and bison occurred in late May, while he was guiding a group through the Lamar Valley in northern Yellowstone. According to Welden, the Lamar Valley is well-known for having a large number of bison.
At the time, he received a tip that a bison had died fairly recently in the area and was visible from the road. Welden saw this as an opportunity for those in the group to potentially see predators that would feed on the bison carcass.
After watching wolves feed on a different bison carcass, Welden and his group moved toward the bison carcass they learned about and positioned themselves across a river from it. As they waited for the carcass to be discovered by a predator, a herd of mother bison and their calves milled about upstream.
Their positioning paid off, as a predator soon appeared.
"We saw this bear coming around the corner," Welden said, adding that the bear was about 6-7 years old. "We saw that the bear was kind of sneaking around that nursery herd, probably hoping to pick off a younger bison."
The video showed the bear coming out of the brush, only to be met by a mother bison. The mama bison charged toward the bear, scaring him away from the younger bison.
The bison's maternal instinct versus the bear's instinct to feed
Adult bison can prove to be a formidable force against bears. According to Welden, a bear similar to the one shown in the video weighs about 450 lbs, whereas an adult female bison could weigh about three times as much at around 1,300 pounds.
He noted that while predators, such as bears and wolves, may try to separate young bison from the herd, female bison usually come to the rescue to push the predators away and bring the separated young back into the herd.
As the encounter occurred in late May, the season came into play. According to Welden, spring is when bison calves are born and so are still small enough for predators to see them as easy prey.
"The spring is a very critical time for grizzly bears and other predators to eat young ones because they're new on the landscape, they're protein-rich, obviously," Welden said.
He noted that this is critical for grizzly bears in Yellowstone, as, unlike their Alaskan counterparts, much of their diet is vegetation.
"So, the bears, the wolves, they tend to go for those young ones because they know once those get a little bit bigger, those animals will be harder to kill and harder and harder to catch up to," he said.
Wildlife safety in Yellowstone National Park
While views such as those captured in the video may leave many awestruck, Welden noted the importance of park visitors being mindful of their safety around wildlife.
He said visitors should remain at least 100 yards away from bears and wolves at all times, and at least 25 yards away from animals such as bison, moose and elk.
He also recommended that hikers carry bear spray with them as they venture through the park, but the likelihood of having to use it is slim.