It was all due to white pine nuts – or lack thereof! Due to a poor white pine nut crop in the high elevations, black and grizzly bears were forced to find alternative food sources to fatten up before hibernation. They turned to another of their favorite fall foods…berries. Lots of native berry shrubs grow on the banks of the Yellowstone River and its tributaries near Gardiner and the bears certainly found them. As a result, we had bears aplenty during September and October and it was not uncommon to see 4-5 different bears a day within just a few miles of Gardiner.
One popular black bear spent several days eating chokecherries just below the river bridge in Gardiner and another grizzly bear made several appearances near town including a Sunday afternoon stroll onto the Gardiner High football field which brought our family football game to an abrupt end (see picture)! We even had a juvenile black bear try to walk into our church one Sunday morning.
We also learned one important fact about grizzly bears, thanks to our good friend’s experience with a grizzly bear in her garden. For two nights, a large male grizzly bear made a nocturnal visit to their garden and systematically dug up two rows of carrots and potatoes while their curious horse “Paintchip” watched from his corral just a few yards away. The big griz gobbled up every carrot he found but left the potatoes alone after a few test bites told him that potatoes were not his thing! We enjoyed a dinner with our friends the next evening featuring baked spuds complete with bite marks from the finicky bear. Only in Gardiner!