Wyoming Bear Relocation Report Reveals Grizzly Bear Details | Wyoming News

A reading of the Wyoming Game and Fish Department Annual Report Grizzly bear relocation report is a window on a wild world.

Beyond last year’s numbers – 45 bears trapped, 30 euthanized, 19 displaced – there are startling details about bear behavior. For comparison, in 2020 the agency said it captured 26 bears. Eighteen of the bears were euthanized.

Among the unusual incidents was the subadult male captured in Park County who exhibited “bold behavior around guest lodges and trails, including following riders repeatedly.” The bear was euthanized.

Brian DeBolt, large carnivore conflict coordinator for the WGFD in Lander, said the bear’s behavior is a good example of an animal losing its fear of humans.

“It obviously associated people with some sort of food source,” he said.

Park County

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Park County, which includes the eastern entrance to Yellowstone National Park and the gateway community of Cody, had 43% of all bear capture events in the department in 2021, down from 56% in 2020.

“It’s most definitely the busiest,” Debolt said, adding that the county has the longest bear conflict season in the state and the most varied types.

Part of it is simply because Park County is so big, he added.

Park County residents have had close encounters with other bears based on the department’s annual report, including these two in June: a bear hanging out in a guest lodge and eating hay in the mangers with pavilion horses; a bear that was captured after chasing a dog through a group of people.

This elderly male grizzly bear was captured and euthanized after acting aggressively towards boaters on the Shoshone River downstream from Cody, Wyoming, last year.

Photo courtesy of Wyoming Game and Fish

In the fall, a bear was captured after feeding in a pumpkin patch and corn maze while another was trapped and euthanized after hanging out about two miles downriver from Cody and displaying a “aggressive behavior towards people rafting on the [Shoshone] River.”

“He was a really old buck,” DeBolt said. “I’m sure he was half starved to death.”

The bear would bluff the rafters, hitting the water with its paws, he added, estimating the age of the bear at around 25 years old. A photograph on the cover of this year’s grizzly report shows the old boar’s worn teeth.

“Twenty is pretty old for a bear,” DeBolt said. “You live there, walking every step in the woods, it weighs on you.”

The oldest bear ever identified in Wyoming was 34 years old. Animals are aged by counting the annual rings of their teeth.

Monitoring area

Many of Wyoming’s bear problems were outside of the designated watch area, an area designated by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service identifying the best biologically suitable habitat for grizzly bears in the Yellowstone region.

The Surveillance Zone was established in 2012 as the area in which Interagency Grizzly Bear Study Team counts bears and their mortalities to monitor the population. Bear deaths outside the watch area are also counted but do not appear in the mortality thresholds. Mortality thresholds help guide agencies in their efforts to keep bear populations within the watch zone.

In the three states where the surveillance zone was drawn – Montana, Wyoming and Idaho – 65 grizzly bear mortalities were recorded by the bear survey team last year, 11 of those in Montana and six from l ‘Idaho. Seven of them were bears that likely died in 2020 but weren’t found until 2021.

Of the total, 39 died in the surveillance zone and 19 outside. Fifteen of the bears that died or were killed were females, seven of which were subadults with a female cub killed by another bear. In another classification, 15 of the deaths are classified as “known, under investigation”.

The highest number of bear deaths recorded over the past decade occurred in 2018, when 68 grizzly bears died, five likely the previous year and 50 in the AMD.

In 2021, it was estimated that at least 1,069 bears lived in the Greater Yellowstone ecosystem – the highest number since studies began in the 1970s.


Grizzly bears trapped, euthanized or released in Wyoming are recorded in an annual report by the Game and Fish Department, along with some details about some unusual incidents. This bear was photographed in 2014 in Yellowstone National Park.

Kimberly Shields, NPS


With the grizzly bear population increasing, due to animal protection under the Endangered Species Act, prime habitat inside areas like Yellowstone is being taken over, forcing some bears out protection of the mountains.

“Yellowstone is the bucket and the bucket is full,” DeBolt said. “That’s why they keep coming out of there.”

The Bighorn Basin, the region between the Absaroka Mountains to the west and the Bighorn Mountains to the east, is one such area where grizzly bears cannot or will not be able to earn a living. There, three bears were killed, two years old and an adult female, in mid-May after falling into the cemented channel at Heart Mountain.

Other bears have been captured after following the Shoshone River eastward, similar to an expansion across the plains seen east of Glacier National Park and the Bob Marshall Wilderness in northwestern Montana.

“We see bears as close to Bighorns as they are to Absarokas,” DeBolt said. “We have had confirmed grizzly bear sightings closer to Fort Collins [Colorado] than the center of Yellowstone. The bears are definitely expanding.


Hank the Tank, a black bear suspected of breaking into about 30 properties in California’s Lake Tahoe area last month, has nothing on grizzly bears in Wyoming for forced entries. Hank was later identified by DNA as three bears.

A Fremont County bear has been captured and killed for “numerous conflicts involving breaking into trailers, trucks visiting camps, [and] attempt to enter [an] busy tent” along the East Fork of the Wind River. In Park County, a grizzly bear was captured and killed for breaking into a barn through the wall.

The incidents underscore the strength of the grizzlies. Males range from 300 to 700 pounds and females can exceed scales of 200 to 400 pounds.


A grizzly bear walks over the Gardner River near the Boiling River parking lot in Yellowstone National Park last May. The park is the main safe haven for bears in an ecosystem that spans three states.

Jacob W. Frank, NPS


One of the most common reasons grizzly bears are captured and euthanized is livestock depredation. Twenty-eight bears were captured in 2021 as the game and fisheries department targeted bears killing livestock. Among them, 16 were euthanized. In 2020, livestock depredation resulted in the deaths of 13 Wyoming bears, and six others were euthanized elsewhere in the Greater Yellowstone ecosystem for killing sheep or cows.

The worst offenders killed several cattle or sheep. A bear captured in Fremont County, an adult female, has been euthanized after killing at least six calves in 11 days. In Sublette County, a subadult male killed six yearling cattle in two weeks, prompting authorities to trap and euthanize the bear.

“There’s no rhyme or reason why there’s more one year and not the next,” DeBolt said. “And not all bears profit (from livestock).”

Bears caught accidentally or that are not repeat offenders may be released elsewhere. In 2021 in Wyoming, the bears were moved 19 times compared to nine in 2020.

Keeping bears out of trouble is now a nearly year-round task, with little downtime for bear managers, DeBolt said.

“I don’t know what’s causing it, but we definitely have bears going to bed later and getting up earlier,” he said. “In Bighorn Basin, they have to stay awake as long as they can to put on enough fat to get through the winter.”

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