You’ve survived a bear encounter in Yellowstone, too?


That’s a big paw. This is Erysse’s small hand over a fresh bear track in Yellowstone National Park. We’ve waited until now to tell our bear encounter story. Here it goes.

Late last fall, we went hiking in the park with Kim Hoberecht just before the Grizzlies went into hibernation. Our guide, who didn’t seem like the musical type, was singing constantly.

“Works better than a bell,” he said.

“A bell?”

“To scare away bears,” he clarified.


The frightening thing about our two-hour trek through the grasslands isn’t that we saw no evidence of other humans. That’s fairly normal in Yellowstone.

No, it was the fact that we saw plenty of evidence of bears.

The tracks we saw were very fresh, Hoberecht said.

We don’t carry firearms. I’m not sure if our guide was armed. But had we encountered a hungry bear along the path, I’m not sure if we would have known what to do, city slickers that we are.

“I’m not worried,” Kari said. “I don’t have to outrun the bear.”

“You don’t?” I said.

“I just have to outrun you.”

Ha. Ha.

Not so funny when the sun is starting to set, and the tracks are getting … fresher.

We didn’t see any bears that day, but we did a few days later, deeper in the park. Fortunately, we were far away when we did.

Have you ever had a close encounter with a bear in a national park?

Christopher Elliott

Christopher Elliott, a.k.a., Dad, is a writer who spends way too much time in front of a computer.

  • Jim Zakany

    Never in a national park – not even Yellowstone. But in northern Ontario. Yes. Several times.

  • Christopher Elliott

    Agreed! We are hoping to get up to Alaska, maybe this summer. If we come through Vancouver, we hope to see you.

  • Zod

    You do know the joke about bears, bells and pepper spray, right?

    • Christopher Elliott

      No. Do tell!

      • Zod

        I’m probably not telling this right, it’s been many years since I heard it…

        Forest ranger is telling a group of hikers to keep an eye out for bears while hiking. He warns them about Grizzlies especially. As a precaution, he recommends that hikers wear bells on their clothing so to warn bears so that they won’t get startled and to carry pepper spray to spray into the air to confuse the bear’s sense of smell.

        One hiker asks how they can tell if there are bears around and the ranger says to look for bear scat. Then the hiker asks how to tell the difference between regular bear scat and grizzly bear scat. The ranger tells him, Grizzly bear scat usually has bells in it and smells like pepper spray…

  • Jan Davidson

    Had a black bear lean on the front of my dad’s new station wagon when we were driving thru the park when I was a kid!

    • Christopher Elliott

      That’s gotta be exciting!

  • alsous

    I was out picking blue berries in the mountains of Montana by myself and saw a head look up over the top of the bushes. I thought it was a dog and said, come here, puppy and the animal started up the hill toward me. As it got closer it looked at me and I looked at it and it was a full grown bear. I said, you aren’t a dog, and it seemed to think I wasn’t what it expected and it headed down hill and I headed up hill. Two berry pickers but two who shouldn’t have met. I was probibly twenty feet from the bear when he took off down hill. It was the end of my berry picking for the day.

  • lohayes

    Hello Elliott family! It was great to see you in Orlando. I once had a bear encounter in Yellowstone. I remembered not to get TOO close. Lucky, for me I had a long lens when I came upon a Grizz rolling in the flowers. You see a picture of him here:
    Hope to see you again soon!

    • Christopher Elliott

      Great shot. It was nice to see you in Orlando, too. We’ll be in your area later this year, and hope to stop by and visit … but can you handle all the kids?