As grizzly bears proliferate in Montana, tourists follow

A small community navigates the challenges posed by enthusiastic bear-watchers.

  • Bordering the northeast corner of Yellowstone National Park, Tom Miner Basin is prime grizzly bear habitat. The number of bruins roaming the basin has increased dramatically over the last ten years.

    Louise Johns
  • A sow grizzly and her cubs pass through the Anderson Ranch, half a mile from the ranch's headquarters, in this photo captured with a camera trap. In the basin, the bears have everything they need to stay well-fed: vegetation, berries, caraway, carrion and, depending on the year, white bark pine nuts. A bear’s life is dictated by the food it finds, and cubs will learn from their mothers what to eat.

    Louise Johns
  • In the fields of the B Bar Ranch, visitors, wildlife enthusiasts and photographers have discovered the thrill of seeing bears up close. But the spike in tourism has brought with it challenges. For example, the road where people congregate is a dead end, so traffic tends to clog the road with vehicles coming and going.

    Louise Johns
  • A large sign posted alongside the road by the Tom Miner Basin Association informs people of important rules: drive slowly, do not trespass, respect property and keep a safe distance from wildlife. The B Bar Ranch also has an educational sign on the fence line where many of the visitors park their vehicles.

    Louise Johns
  • Two-year-old Hasell and four-year-old Esme Ramirez, Malou Anderson’s daughters, sell lemonade in front of their home on the Anderson Ranch. Esme, who heads up the lemonade stand, recently corrected a tourist, telling him he was watching a grizzly bear, not a black bear.

    Louise Johns
  • Malou Anderson is the caretaker of the Anderson Ranch. She manages vacation rentals, coordinates ranch events and leads the Tom Miner Basin Association. She also finds time to go riding across the region’s rolling hills.

    Louise Johns
  • Tourists have the best chance of spotting grizzlies during the late summer and fall months, when bears are eating as much as they can in preparation for a long winter of hibernation.

    Louise Johns
  • Hannibal Anderson grew up in Tom Miner Basin and raised a family with his wife, Julie, on the Anderson Ranch. When he was young, seeing grizzlies was very uncommon.

    Louise Johns
  • Two grizzly bear cubs dig for caraway root in a cattle pasture in Tom Miner Basin.

    Louise Johns
  • “When you grow up, (the grizzly bear) is like the boogey man,” said Tony Brady, with a laugh. His perception changed when he first saw grizzlies in Tom Miner Basin. For him, what’s special about being here is seeing the animals in their natural habitat, in one of the few places where they’re still wild.

    Louise Johns
  • Malou Anderson is the third generation living on her family's ranch in Tom Miner Basin. She walks above her home with her two daughters, Hasell and Esme. Families in the basin are navigating the challenges brought on by the influx of bear-viewing crowds.

    Louise Johns
  • A school group watches bears from Tom Miner Basin Road. Guides in the area have taken advantage of the educational opportunities.

    Louise Johns