Grizzly bear baby boom in Yellowstone triples cub count in national park

Wish you could read more good news? Subscribe to the Goodnewspaper to get a beautiful print newspaper filled with positivity delivered in the mail every month.

Two grizzly bear cubs sit in a grassy field, one has a stick in its mouth.

Two weeks ago, Yellowstone National Park made headlines when a mother grizzly bear was spotted out and about with five cubs in tow — the biggest grizzly bear cub litter ever seen in the park. 

Grizzly bears in that region of North America typically only have one to three bear cubs a litter. 

Frank van Manen, the leader of the Interagency Grizzly Bear Study Team, said it was possible that an “adoption” event had occurred, in which two mothers give birth in the same year, and one ends up taking on the sibling’s cubs. 

A grizzly bear mom with two little cubs in Yellowstone National Park
Photo courtesy of NPS/Eric Johnston

In an interview, van Manen told Wyofile that if the bears had all been born in the same litter, it would be the first five-cub litter “recorded in the history of the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem.”

“Whether it was an adoption or whether it truly is a five-cub litter, it just amazes me that every year there’s some new surprise to us, even after intensively studying this population for more than 50 years,” van Manen said. “I just think that’s cool.”

Grizzly watcher Bill Hamblin said that in the weeks that have followed, the mother has only been spotted with four cubs, and that it’s possible that one of them may have sadly passed away. 

Since then, Hamblin told the Cowboy State Daily that he spotted the mother grizzly “on five different occasions” with the remaining cubs, and they were in good health. 

On top of this record sighting, Hamblin is baffled by the sheer number of cubs that have been spotted so far in 2024. 

Since they started emerging in the spring, the total count of unique grizzly bear cubs spotted has ticked up to a whopping 18 — triple the average number. 

“That’s more than we’ve ever seen,” Hamblin said. 

Two grizzly bear cubs sit in a busy area in Yellowstone National Park
Photo courtesy of NPS/Jim Peaco

In the U.S., grizzly bears are protected as a threatened species. After federal-led efforts to remove grizzly bears throughout the 20th century, they were nearly driven to extinction in 1975

Fortunately, when they gained protection under the Endangered Species Act, the bears began rebounding. Due to federal conservation efforts and the implementation of “critical recovery zones,” they have continued to increase in population. 

Hamblin is happily surprised by the 18 cub sightings so far in 2024, and feels like it’s a good sign of the grizzly’s continued recovery. 

Like fellow grizzly fan van Manen, Hamblin has spent decades observing the bears. He lives in Idaho Falls, Idaho and makes the trip out to Yellowstone every spring with his friend Gary Gaston to photograph and observe the bears from a safe distance. 

“I like to sit back, sometimes a mile or two away, with powerful binoculars or spotting scopes and just watch the bears’ natural behaviors,” Hamblin said. 

When they’re not dining on elk calves — and sometimes bison — the bear families have been spotted by Hamblin and Gaston on high ridges, digging around for their favorite snack: roots.

“You can always see the mother bears digging around,” Hamblin smiled. “And then the little ones see what mom is doing, so they start doing it too.”

Header image via Byrdyak / Wikimedia Commons (CC BY-SA 3.0)

Wish you could read more good news? Subscribe to the Goodnewspaper to get a beautiful print newspaper filled with positivity delivered in the mail every month.

Article Details

July 3, 2024 11:24 AM
A great white shark - the main icon of "Shark Week" - swimming in the ocean surrounded by fish.

Shark Week is already eyeing a host for next year, and the future is 'female'

The show has run with a host for 24 years straight, and one thing has stayed the same. But as women lead the field of marine biology in greater numbers, the tides could be changing.
A red fox labrador stands opposite a cheetah, a fence in between them. The dog is on a leash being held by a trainer.

Conservation dogs train for anti-poaching league... by practicing at the zoo

These conservation dogs will go on to fight the poaching of endangered species.
No items found.

Want to stay up-to-date on positive news?

The best email in your inbox.
Filled with the day’s best good news.