Story Behind the Photo

Written and Photographed
by Mark Gocke

The grizzly bear. It conjures up all sorts of images and emotions in all of us. Sometimes it seems all we hear is the negative press when it comes to this species…this bear is being moved for killing cattle, this organization is litigating to keep them listed, these people got too close trying to get a good picture, those people left their food out and the bear got into it…the rhetoric of conflict goes on and on. But as the negativity swirls around this animal, we must not forget how far we have come. Twenty years ago, it was an absolute rarity to see a grizzly, let alone photograph it, even in Yellowstone National Park. Today, you can see multiple bears in a single day, outside of the national parks. This mother and cub were photographed on the Bridger Teton National Forest, along highway 26, near Togwotee Pass. Yes, there were probably a dozen people photographing and at least that many more just watching, but fortunately everyone was well-behaved, keeping a safe distance from the bear, keeping quiet, respecting the people around them, and everyone left that day with a life-long memory and even some great photographs to share, as well. As I look at this photo I can’t help but have hope. While it can be easy to become jaded when dealing with this species, we have to continually remind ourselves how lucky we are to be able to have these kinds of experiences. Truly, the recovery of this species in the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem will go down as one of the greatest wildlife management stories of our time.

Mark Gocke is a wildlife biologist who struggles with a serious addiction to photography. He has learned to cope by having an occasional craft brew and now, at times, has found he can have fun without necessarily snapping photos. Mark also happens to serve as the Wyoming Game and Fish Department’s Information and Education Specialist for the Jackson and Pinedale regions.