Tag Archive | Yellowstone

The Grizzly Bear

Ursus arctos horribilis

March 8, 2022

Ursus arctos horribilis, also known as the Grizzly Bear, is one of the most feared animals in the world. When the first explorers and fur trappers began to explore what would become the great American West, tales of a huge, ferocious bear soon made their way back east.

A grizzly bear at Yellowstone in 2010 from https://thegirlygirlcooks.blogspot.com/2010/10/yellowstone-national-park.html

It was that intrepid pair, Lewis and Clark, who gave the bear its name. From the Infallible Wikipedia:

“Meriwether Lewis and William Clark first described it as grisley, which could be interpreted as either ‘grizzly’ (i.e., ‘grizzled’—that is, with grey-tipped or silver-tipped hair) or ‘grisly’ (‘fear-inspiring’, now usually ‘gruesome’). The modern spelling supposes the former meaning; even so, naturalist George Ord formally classified it in 1815 as U. horribilis for its character.”

There was, of course, good reason to think of the animal as fear-inspiring. An adult male weighs between 400 and 790 pounds! Females are smaller with a weight range of 250 to 400 pounds. At an average of 6 ½ feet in length and 3 ½ feet tall, it would sort of be like having a pro basketball player combined with a sumo wrestler; a truly intimidating beast. Oh, and did I mention that its front claws are between 2 and 4 inches in length?

With the expansion of human civilization there has been a marked decrease in the grizzly population over the last 500 years. In 1850, grizzly bears were found in all of the western half of the US from the Canadian border to Mexico. Population in what would become the lower 48 states is estimated to be between 50,000 and 100,000 animals.

Their numbers have, however, decreased significantly. The Infallible Wikipedia shares:

“There are about 55,000 wild grizzly bears located throughout North America, 30,000 of which are found in Alaska. Only around 1,500 grizzlies remain in the lower 48 United States. Of these, around 1,000 are found in the Northern Continental Divide in northwestern Montana. About 600 more live in Wyoming, in the Yellowstone-Teton area. There are an estimated 70–100 grizzly bears living in northern and eastern Idaho. Its original range included much of the Great Plains and the southwestern states, but it has been extirpated in most of those areas. Combining Canada and the United States, grizzly bears inhabit approximately half the area of their historical range.”

In last week’s Tuesday Newsday, I shared information about the creation of Yellowstone National Park. In the 1950’s and 60’s, especially, Grizzly Bears and Yellowstone became synonymous. It was during this era, particularly, when the explosion of visitors, combined with an abundance of grizzly bears combing the park dumps and trash cans for a meal, collided.

What happened was an increase in bear and people encounters, similar to those often seen in movie footage of the time:

In the early 1970’s, policy changed with an all out effort to return bears to their natural ways.

Of course, I did not know all this when the hubby and I arrived at Yellowstone on September 1, 1980. As far as I knew bears roamed everywhere in the park and were around every turn. This is my mindset when, just after sunset – about 8:30 p.m. – the hubby has gone on foot to pay for our campsite.

There I sit, all by myself, the camp sites around us empty… when I hear it. The hum of an engine and the crackle of a loudspeaker, the words – at first – unintelligible.

I watch as a station wagon, bearing the National Park logo, rolls slowly into view, emerging from the dark forest. There are speakers mounted on the roof and someone from inside the safety of the car is, apparently, determined to scare any and all visitors half to death. The loud speaker cracks with sound and a solemnly intoned message blares into the quiet night to those foolish enough to camp there:

The author with a grizzly bear when visiting the University of Alaska Museum of the North at Fairbanks in March 2017

“This is bear country!” (static sounds follow) “Store all food securely in your vehicle” (more static)… “Fear… fear… fear…” (static). Okay, I made that last part up, but by now you have the picture. The message repeats as the car slowly disappears into the night. By now I am certain that grizzlies are going to emerge from the woods and make a meal of me, a certainty since all that would be between us and the 500 pound beast is a flimsy tent wall.

By the time the hubby arrives back in camp, I’m good and freaked out. Even so, we get a fire started, dinner fixed and eaten. And then I get really weird. I’m on my hands and knees, with flashlight, searching for that one kernel of corn I’m certain I dropped during the meal which, if smelled by a bear, will encourage them to rip into our tent and have us for a midnight snack.

My travel log entry reads as follows:

“I became almost fanatical in seeing that everything was securely locked away and bear proof. No bears tried to eat me during the night.”

My entry says ‘almost’ – there was no ‘almost’ about it. I was fanatical.

During two subsequent trips to Yellowstone, in 1982 and 1989, we became obsessed with trying to find a bear. It was during the latter trip that we did, finally, see one. It was about a half a mile away, across a valley, and it took a pair of binoculars to confirm. That was it. The only grizzly we ever saw in the wild.

Even so, bells tied to shoe laces do offer that extra bit of noise which is a good idea since you never, ever want to surprise a bear. Although we’ve seen grizzly in captivity a couple of times over the years, I think I’d rather not encounter one in the wild. A very horribilis idea.

As always, a link or two for those who want to know more:

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Grizzly_bear

A pretty good documentary if you have 45 minutes:

Nat Geo Bears of Yellowstone:

Honda Civic

Popular for decades

July 14, 2020

1972 civic ad 2July 14, 1972 marks the date the Honda Civic was introduced. The Civic was, arguably, the beneficiary of a number of factors which catapulted it to the top of the small car class.

It was, however, the energy crisis which gripped the United States in late 1973 and into 1974 that proved to be its best marketing.

Without going down into the weeds as to the political reasons why, in 1974 the world experienced a gas shortage. The typical American of the day drove heavy, gas-guzzling automobiles. With gas costing around 50 cents a gallon, the amount of money it took to fill a tank was very affordable and not something most people considered when purchasing a car. By 1974, however, the price of gas had skyrocketed to $3 and $4 a gallon.

Enter the introduction of the compact and sub-compact car. While the big American automakers quickly rolled out such contenders as the Ford Pinto and the Chevy Vega, it was Japan’s Honda who found the winning formula.  The Civic’s cost, size, and great gas mileage marked a change in thinking in regards to the type of car a large portion of the American public wanted.

In 1973 – its first year being sold in the United States – just under 33,000 Civic’s were purchased. The following year sales were 43,000. Then in 1975, there was a 137 percent increase in sales with over 102,000 of the cars hitting the road. Since its introduction to the U.S. in 1973 until 2015, over 7.3 million have been sold.

Honda Civic’s were everywhere. Their distinctive look – sort of a tiny, boxy car – made them hard to miss. At the time, however, it was other features which made them popular. From the Infallible Wikipedia:

“It was equipped with a 1,169 cc (71.3 cu in) four-cylinder water-cooled engine and featured front power disc brakes, reclining vinyl bucket seats, simulated wood trim on the dashboard, as well as optional air conditioning and an AM/FM radio. The Civic was available as a two- or four-door fastback sedan, three- and a five-door hatchback, as well as a five-door station wagon. Due to the 1973 oil crisis, consumer demand for fuel efficient vehicles was high, and due to the engine being able to run on either leaded or unleaded fuel, it gave drivers fuel choice flexibility over other vehicles.”

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On the road in July 1982 at Lewis and Clark Caverns, Montana

In 1982, the hubby and I became a part of the Honda Civic family. The five-door station wagon seemed a great choice. During those years we often took off on weekends to go camping or for brief getaways. That summer, we embarked on a two week trip which took us to several National Parks, including Yellowstone, Grand Teton, and the Grand Canyon. Our little brown wagon served us well, conveying us over 3600 miles. The next year it took us to Vancouver Island and the year after that to Colorado and back.

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At Mesa Verde, Colorado, in 1984. The hubby is getting something from the car we need for dinner.

It was a great commuter car also: reliable, comfortable, and the always good gas mileage. When we retired the car in 1986 it was not because the car was no longer working but because we had purchased a boat and needed a vehicle capable of towing.

I do wonder if trading in the Honda so we could buy a boat was the right decision, however. There’s a saying that the two happiest days in a boat owner’s life are the day they buy it… and the day they sell it. Our first boat quickly earned its nickname – the Boat From Hell – or BFH as it was abbreviated. But that’s a totally different story.

Our Honda was never the car from hell, but a reliable friend, always ready to travel on a new adventure, never once letting us down. No wonder there were millions of them out on the road.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Honda_Civic

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/1973_oil_crisis

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July 31, 1982 at the Gardiner, Montana, entrance to Yellowstone.