Yesterday, the Moose-Wilson Road opened up after a number of days of being closed early, due to grizzly bears being seen there for the first time since Grand Teton National Park’s inception. Many cried foul, but the park service stood its ground and kept it closed as long as grizzlies were present. With so many black bears seen every year on the road, why the sudden change in policy? Was it really worth closing off an entire road?
The park cites that “…when there is a conflict between conserving resources and values and providing for the enjoyment of them, conservation is to be predominant.” My first reaction was to side with those that felt the park had gone too far, but once I got past the fact that I wasn’t getting photos of my favorite animal, I accepted the extra protection. I’m completely happy knowing that not only are grizzlies back there, but that they’re fully protected back there, unlike some other areas of the park where they frequently can, and do, cross paths with hunters.
Yesterday, with grizzly bears seeming to be out of the area, they opened the road up again and while fall is all but gone in most areas of Grand Teton National Park, visitors were delighted to see a bouquet of colors all along the entire formerly closed stretch of Moose-Wilson Road. Photographers were stopped all over the roadsides capturing the yellows, fluorescent oranges and bright greens on aspen trees as they intermingled with bold, burnt reds on the hawthorn bushes.
Later in the day though, Grizzly Bear #610 was spotted once again, thus prompting another closure of the road. For those that haven’t traveled the road before, it’s a very narrow and winding road lined with thick vegetation in areas where bears frequent as they feed on the hawthorn berries. One might wonder though, with so many black bears, why close it for grizzly bears? Black bears are much more docile than grizzlies. While you can get away with being in close proximity to a black bear (though of course, it’s not recommended at all), a grizzly bear is much more likely to let you know it doesn’t want you near it, especially if she has cubs. Add to that a number of locals that unfortunately speed through on their way to/from work, as well as a large percentage of people that don’t know the difference between a black and grizzly bear, and it’s a pretty solid recipe for disaster. With the animal still on the endangered species list, the park is out to do all it can to ensure those animals continue to thrive.
I had, at first, felt that the park had overstepped their boundaries in closing off the road, but in knowing that those grizzly bears are protected as well as they can be, it’s good to know that I’ll most likely be seeing them happy and healthy in the spring again.