Weblog of Leland Rucker
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Moving Bear Jam

Another journal entry from Yellowstone. Save for Alaska, there is no place we love more than the area around the Lamar Valley, the valley of the wolves. If you have never been there, you owe it to yourself to see this place.

Near Tower Falls, we slow down in a narrow section and pull over. A black bear mother and two black cubs are scrambling above the road along some pretty unsure terrain above us on the left, knocking down little rocks and debris. A tall, friendly ranger, standing in the road, walks over to tell us we’re in a “moving bear jam.”

On the right side of the road, the Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone looms. On the other, where the bears are scrambling, some tall volcanic tubes and a sheer cliff of ancient volcanism. Anne asks the ranger if it’s the same mother&cubs that frequent this area, with the female cub whose paw was run over and walks with a limp.

The ranger acknowledges as much, but adds that it was the male’s foot that was run over, and he adds that it seems to be healing, almost two weeks after the incident. The male keeps much closer to mom than the smaller, inquisitive female. He doesn’t seem to be favoring it now, but we are all aware that an injury like a wounded foot could easily cost a yearling bear his life.

There are only a few cars and about ten of us humans, and we watch them, first one of the cubs, then the mother and the other cub, tumble down the loose gravel onto the pavement just a few yards behind the car. The mother lets the female, which is the more adventurous of the two, stay back until we are closer to the cub than she. The male is sticking pretty close to mom.

The ranger, assessing the situation, says it’s OK for us to walk along behind the bears up the road along this narrow stretch. Don’t want any cars coming around the corner too fast with the bears walking along the road, he says.

Billie opts to walk them all the way, while Anne and I go back to pick up the car, turn around and catch up. We watch them eating and walking and playing before they all head up into the forest. The mother lets the female forage along the road with us on the other side, seemingly not concerned about any danger.

Another charmed half hour in the company of bears.

– Sept 27 2004


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