There have been a number of human/grizzly bear conflicts in Montana news over the past few months. A grizzly bear attacking a bicyclist near Big Sky, an April attack on a Dupuyer resident and the May attack near the Sun River are just a few that come to mind. It's not quite fair to say "bear attack" when it's usually humans that are encroaching on the grizzly bears habitat, but whatever.  They have to classify the encounters as something, and I guess "human causes another bear attack" doesn't quite have the same connotation.

Regardless, it does appear that humans are interacting with and/or spotting more grizzlies in the past few decades. In this info graph from the National Park Service you can see how the grizzly bear distribution in the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem expanded outward from the 1980s through 2014.

Credit: NPS.gov

One famous grizzly, grizzly #399 is nicknamed the "Queen of the Tetons." This momma bear is 24-years-old and is responsible for an estimated 22 offspring. The Guardian.com has a great article describing the famous bear's history. #399 is a popular quest for outdoor wildlife photographers and even Dr. Jane Goodall (best known for her work with primates) is a fan of #399. Photographer Lauren Phelps Sundria captured an awesome image of the Queen this spring with FOUR cubs, as shown in this Facebook post on Wyoming Through The Lens. Four cubs is a rarity in the grizzly bear world.

Grizzly bear encounters in the immediate Billings area is certainly fairly rare. At most, we may find the occasional black bear rambling around Briarwood, Emerald Hills, or even the Yellowstone river beds. Your odds of seeing a bear obviously increase substantially around Red Lodge and the Custer National Forest. And if you're heading into the high country (Yellowstone/Glacier/Grand Teton) you should absolutely be "bear aware."