Yellowstone Literally Can’t Afford to Lose Grizzly Bears

Apex predators have returned to Yellowstone – and that includes the iconic grizzly bear. Within the park, about 150 bears have established their home ranges, while in the greater Yellowstone area, nearly 600 grizzly bears have been counted. But with the return of the 500-pound bears comes the bear jams that are created on the park roads when auto-bound visitors slow down and even stop mid-road to watch a grizzly that has ambled into view. Referred to as roadside grizzlies, they are a big hit with visitors but not always with park management.

According to WyoFile, managing the traffic created by bear jams costs the park a minimum of $50,000 a year. It also requires park staff to be diverted from other jobs. Indeed in 2011, 2,542 staff hours were required to manage 1,031 impromptu bear jams that popped-up inside the park. “We are spending a lot of time, staff time and overtime,” said Kerry Gunther, bear management biologist for Yellowstone. “Managers are wondering…should we do something different?”

A recent report, “The Economics of Roadside Bear Viewing” co-written by Gunther, reveals the economic powerhouse those bears really are – and thus suggests the answer should be no. The $50,000 required to manage bear jams is dwarfed by the $10 million dollars generated for the local economy precisely because the iconic grizzly can be seen wondering roadside. The report shows that visitors would pay an additional $41 per person to ensure seeing a wild grizzly. Furthermore, roadside bears create 155 local jobs that otherwise would not be there if the bear disappeared deeper into the park.

The conclusion of the report was that while Yellowstone Park could save $50,000 a year by managing grizzlies away from roads, this internal park decision would have broader financial consequences amounting to nearly 4% of the regional economy. So, if you are planning a trip to Yellowstone anytime soon, you can rest assured that you still have a chance to spot a grizzly bear – or two.



Yellowstone tourists shooting – with cameras – a grizzly mama and her two cubs!


Jennifer H.
Jennifer H.2 years ago

I don't understand why Wyoming has such a hard time comprehending that the biggest draw to their state is WILDLIFE. The tourist income comes from people hoping to see wolves, bears, anything nature has to offer. It seems that since big polluters moved into the state they have lost their respect for their wildlife and the economic income it brings. Tourist income does not come from people hoping to see an oil well or fracking rig. Keeping wildlife somewhat accessible is what keeps tourism running. You can't even count on Old Faithful for being on time any more! I have made many, many trips to Wyoming all in the hopes of seeing wildlife. It has alot to offer if they were just smart enough to understand that.

Janis K.
Janis K.2 years ago

Thanks for sharing.

Charmaine C.
Charmaine C.2 years ago

I thought the whole point behind going somewhere like Yellowstone is to rubberneck the awesome scenery and the awesome wildlife! No point zooming straight through, is there?

$10 million versus $50 thousand...yeah the economics come down on the side of the beautiful bears as it should.

Danuta Watola
Danuta Watola2 years ago

Thanks for sharing

Lisa Millar
Past Member 2 years ago

Thanks for sharing the bears are wonderful

Marian A.
Marian Austin2 years ago

Yellowstone is wonderfilled

Teresa W.
Teresa W.2 years ago

thank you

Val M.
Val M.2 years ago

I would definitely pay to see a Grizzly bear!

Marie W.
Marie W.2 years ago

Grizzly Bears like wolves are cornerstone species.

Janis K.
Janis K.2 years ago

Thanks for sharing.