Playtime With Momma

Grizzly bear with her cubs of the year, Grand Teton National Park, Wyoming
Grizzly bear with her cubs of the year, Grand Teton National Park, Wyoming
Photo By Jennifer Leigh Warner

Anytime that I can get an opportunity to photograph a family dynamic of animals in the wild, I jump at the chance. I was delighted in June of last year to learn through social media that there were two grizzly bear sows in Grand Teton National Park that had emerged with two cubs of the year each.

After getting this exciting news, I jumped into my car and drove the 951 miles from San Jose, California, to Grand Teton National Park in Wyoming. Although I knew that the bears had been seen in the park, I was at a bit of a loss on where to begin searching for them. I had learned of the bears through social media, so I returned to the web and crowd-sourced my information. I had hoped by reaching out to the hundreds of photographers I am friends with on Facebook that I might get one or two who had some insight on a grizzly bear location. What I didn’t expect was the outreach of photographers, all of whom had a love for these bears and were not only willing to share the location of the last place they had seen them but also gave me detailed maps and even messaged me minute-by-minute updates on what was going on in the area.

I arrived on Pilgrim Creek Road in Grand Teton National Park and was stunned by the beautiful yellow and purple wildflowers that carpeted the landscape. I stared out into the wildflowers, willing a bear family to become the central characters in this magical landscape. As if on cue, grizzly bear 793, also known as “Blondie,” emerged from the woods with two bear cubs in tow. She led her cubs through the wildflowers and, as if to show off her pride and joy, began to play with them right in front of me. I photographed this tender moment that she shared with her cubs before she made her way across the field and back into the woods.

Ten days after I photographed this once-in-a-lifetime shot, Blondie and her cubs receded into the woods and out of sight of the watchful eye of park visitors. That same month, the U.S. Department of the Interior removed the Yellowstone Ecosystem grizzly bears from federal protections under the Endangered Species Act. Because of this, bears like Blondie who often wander outside of Yellowstone and Grand Teton National Parks could fall victim to trophy hunting. OP

See more of Jennifer Leigh Warner’s work at experiencewildlife.com.

Canon EOS 5DS, Tamron SP 150-600mm F/5-6.3 Di VC USD at 600mm. Exposure: 1/1250 sec., ƒ/6.3, ISO 3200.

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