The 264 Era - Remembering a Grizzly (page 1 of 2)
About 100 large mammals are killed by motor vehicles in Yellowstone National Park every year. This is the story of one of them.

The Beginning


It was October of 1995, she was four years old, and it was my last day in Yellowstone National Park that year. Snow was falling heavily when I came upon the grizzly. She was eating what looked like the last few remains of a yearling elk. I stood in the snow for a little more than three hours, photographing the bear whenever she did something interesting. The falling snow and bad light made for awful images, but I was glued to the scene regardless. At the time, this was the closest I’d ever been to a grizzly bear and I was fascinated. I knew I’d always remember the experience, but what happened next was even more memorable.


Between eating and sleeping, the bear would occasionally walk in a circle, sniffing the air with her nose held high. After doing this many times she came directly into the group of people that had gathered by the roadside. Of course everyone scattered and the situation became chaotic as the bear grabbed a backpack that someone left on the ground. Rangers cleared everyone away and closed the area. I later found that the backpack belonged to a hunter who put deer scent on it to attract deer. I guess he didn’t realize the scent of a deer would also attract bears. The bear’s penalty for the hunter’s stupidity was being tranquilized and given a radio collar and an identifying number by Yellowstone’s bear management folks. From that time on the bear was known as “Bear 264”, or simply “264”.

Her Territory and Fame


264 centered her territory around a long section of roadway in Yellowstone National Park. This made her the most visible grizzly in Yellowstone, and the subject of documentaries, magazine articles, and millions of snapshots. She gave countless park visitors, including Norman Schwarzkopf, a once in a lifetime view of a grizzly in the wild. I was lucky enough to see 264 nearly every spring and fall since that first snowy encounter in 1995. In spite of her close proximity to populated areas of the park, she ignored campgrounds and tourist attractions. She was what they call "a good bear". For some reason I never got a great photograph of 264, but trying was a rewarding experience. I got an education in bear behavior and made many friends in the process.

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Copyright 2003 Dean M. Chriss