The bear paparazzi in the Grand Tetons has disbanded.  Much to our dismay, we are no longer allowed to park closer than 100 yards in our cars, or even stand up through our sunroof!  Tom Mangelsen, pictured below – he’s one of the ‘good guys’ in the white hat – calls this situation “ridiculous.”

  • Because of increasing bear jams around two grizzly mothers, Grand Teton National Park changed wildlife viewing rules Wednesday to keep people in vehicles 100 yards away from bears and wolves.

Tom Mangelsen at Bear Jam

  • The move drew immediate reaction from a prominent nature photographer, who called the restrictions “ridiculous.”
  • Previous park rules prohibited people from “willfully approaching” within 100 yards of bears or wolves but only while on foot or horseback.
  • The 100-yard prohibition now applies to vehicles, too, according to the recent clarification.
  • With grizzlies 610 and 399 and their cubs venturing around the Willow Flats area, large groups of people are stopping, and bears and cubs have been photographed darting between cars.

Grizzly No. 399 crossing road

  • Park officials also will not allow vehicles to stop along a 100-yard section of road near Jackson Lake Dam where dense willows have grown close to the pavement.
  • “Having cars parked in that area has become even more problematic,” Skaggs said. “Bears have gone in the willows and then popped up next to people. This is an untenable situation given that grizzly 610 has charged people in cars twice recently.”

Bear No. 399 crossing road

  • Those incidents led the park to prohibit people from standing up through vehicle sun roofs within 100 yards of bears, upsetting photographers who have been regularly shooting the roadside grizzly families.

Tom Mangelsen with camera peering through the sunroof of his Toyota.

“I seriously doubt if previous superintendents would have gone so far as to say people in their vehicles can’t stop within 100 yards of bears or wolves,” Jackson wildlife photographer Tom Mangelsen said. “I think this is laughable and incredibly retaliatory.”

“The new regulations underscore park hypocrisy,” Tom said. “While the park is trying to protect animals from those who would congregate along roadsides for a glimpse of a bear or elk, hunters are allowed to shoot and kill elk in the fall.  Hunters leave gut piles covered with human scent. Wildlife managers who trap problem bears do so with human food, further habituating them to people,” he charged.

“I have never seen an agency so hypocritical.”

“This is one of the most rich places to see wildlife,” Mangelsen said of Willow Flats. “You could go hiking in Willow Flats and the dense vegetation, but you can’t stop on the road, which is absolutely ridiculous.”

Read the full article in The Jackson Hole Daily at:

8 thoughts on “BREAKING NEWS: New Rules Effectively Eliminate ‘Bear Jams’!

  1. I’m okay with the decision. let’s not stress her. let’s let her have some peace. If anyone got hurt, it wouldn’t be becuase she’s malicious. But they’d still be badly hurt…or killed. no one likes to be dogged continuously, especially a doting mom.


  2. the picture, the cubs look unnerved. they should be happier, have the world by the tail, but they look uncomfortable. let them have peace.


  3. Thanks, Mary Lou. I appreciate your comments, and actually agree with you. Wildlife enthusiasts are very sensitive to the plight of the animals they photograph. It’s always a trade-off, of course, how close do we dare get vs. not stressing them out. The only thing I would point out is that these two research grizzlies in the Tetons (No. 399 & No. 610) seem to have purposely chosen to raise their cubs close to roads and people to stay away from their natural predators, who don’t themselves normally venture that close to humans. We are the lesser of two evils, apparently.

    Incidentally, I am totally amazed that you/anyone other than my friends has found this site. I guess I didn’t realize the power of the internet. Thanks for stopping by.


  4. I read alot of wildlife news. I live in Kansas, (used to live in Montana) where we have our own problems. recently, someone shot a cougar here because, “i saw him, there.”
    Are you kidding me?
    Studies have shown mountain lions have travelled through kansas, never having been detected, or harming anyone, and we have deer mutilating farm crops, not to mention mutilating cars and some drivers….. not that I am against deer.
    My thoughts are, we have habitat, we have tons of natural prey, and so far, mountain lions haven’t hurt anyone’s ability to get a deer…..and i am aghast to know that people buy DEER FOOD to lure them in to kill….is that REALLY hunting???
    But I digress.
    I just watched video of people OUT OF THEIR CARS, WITH THEIR KIDS, along the highway within 10 feet of those grizzlies. Unbelievable! Such little care for their own children, but let that griz school them on the proper protection of kids, and mama grizzly will be the loser, and her cubs, and that is wrong. She can run 30mph, and leap forward I am betting 20 feet in the blink of an eye. What are the humans thinking? And with their kids out there!!! GEEZ!!!!!!
    I thought the adults should have been arrested, their children put into protective custody, fines doled out, along with community service, and some mandatory education.
    Mandatory sit down education before entering the park, and a signed waiver that says, If I break the rules I will pay the fine, if i am injured breaking the rules, no person or animal is responsible.
    How many people have to die because they are too ignorant to come into the outdoors…no..not just “the outdoors…..the WILDERNESS with so little respect for the wildlife that makes that wilderness their home? That belongs to THEM. We are company. Act like it.
    Momma Griz has been more than gracious, we must protect her and her family from the people.


    • Last month a grizzly killed a man in Yellowstone. (His wife played dead and survived.) The Park officials determined that the grizzly was protecting her cubs, just acting “naturally,” and therefore decided not to track down the grizzly and/or retaliate in any way. I was very happy to see that kind of enlightened attitude. In years past it might not have gone so well for the grizzly.


      • I was happy to see that too!
        Notice she took out the one that seemed to pose the biggest threat, the larger male, and did not maliciously maul the woman, she rendered everyone motionless and retreated with her prized babies.
        Chicken me, I would drive through the parks, MAYBE camp in a CAMPER, no back country hiking, and no camping in a tent. Not MY habitat.
        I understand why some people DO camp and hike, but, look,… carry the new bear spray, put your hand on the trigger, and if you USE it, LEAVE immedeately, and stay outta there till late fall!
        Maybe you photographers, who so graciously share your work, (and I live vicariously through YOU!) can get a permit to go back in there….I think the rest of us should stay clear, except on the roads.
        My family drove through Yellowstone and Glacier, when I was kid, we saw bears, I kid you not, a black bear, at my car window, our cocker spaniel Butch at my feet…I was very nervous, we never got out, did not stay there. I was six years old, and knew the bear could break the window if he wanted to.
        I used to hike to Giant Springs near Great Falls, with my peanut butter sandwiches, lunch there, hike home, it was the early ’60’s. No bears, no cougars….Now I read they have seen migrating grizzlies just north of Great Falls! Unbelievable! Awesome!
        I understand if bears prey on livestock that becomes a problem, but if they are just there, being bears, then, it’s about time! It’s been a LONG wait for ’em to make it back to their rightful habitat!
        On the subject of the griz that killed the Yellowstone hiker, I was chagrined to see some of the headlines…”Bear that killed hiker allowed to wander free!” As though some disservice had been done…Seriuosly, anyone coming to a Park or Wildlife area, should have to attend an orientation class, the rangers can talk about littering, respecting the flora and fauna, proper ettiquette in someone else’s country, the reality of moose, bears, elk, deer and mountain lions, their habits, habitats, hunting styles, etc. people food and wildlife. Hiking ettiquette. Hiking SAFETY! Rule #1 hike in January! Ha! Rule #2! food left out that brings a bear into camp who mauls you will result in large fines, from either you or your life insurance policy. can we ask for the payout for an accidental death, if you strew food and trash around? Isn’t that more of a suicide attempt?


      • OH! and P.S. I was just reading at the Montana Grizzly info site, that even though a bear, who lives to be 6 years old, may produce up to three cubs every couple years, it’s rare for one of them to live to adulthood! Nature is tough! and then there are cars to contend with aside from the elements, male grizzlies, etc.


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