Video: Grizzly bear hit by truck in Yellowstone National Park

A grizzly bear is shown limping off the side of a road after being hit by a vehicle in Yellowstone National Park. (Mike Godfrey, At Home in Wild Spaces)

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YELLOWSTONE NATIONAL PARK — Originally set aside to preserve the world's largest concentration of geothermal features, nowadays the world's first national park is just as famous for its pageant of wildlife as it is for its geysers and rainbow-colored pools.

In a world largely denuded of its native wildlife, Yellowstone, like other national parks, offers visitors an unrivaled opportunity to travel back in time, as it were, and get reacquainted with the true character of North America and the iconic animals that once commonly roamed this vast continent.

And perhaps no animal sighting is more iconic and prized by park visitors than laying their eyes on one of the park's hundreds of grizzly bears.

But few expect to have a grizzly encounter like the one highlighted in the above video. On a quiet fall afternoon between Grant Village and Lewis Lake, a vehicle collided with and injured a grizzly bear. According to Kerry Gunter, lead bear biologist for Yellowstone National Park, the driver of the vehicle headed south, reporting the collision to park rangers in Grand Teton National Park.

It's unknown how long the bear remained motionless on the side of the road where it remained seemingly undiscovered until my family and I happened upon the site of the accident. The animal seemed dead, lying motionless for some time until I took out my camera to document the bear's location.

Staying in our car, we contacted park rangers by calling 911 and watched as the injured bear struggled to make its way back into the woods.

Though we watched the bear for some time, as you'll hear in the video, the fate of the bear is still very much a mystery. But the encounter also presents an important opportunity to discuss safety on park roadways and perhaps the internet's best-kept secret to getting the most from your national park visit.

It's often been said that our national parks are being "loved to death." And when it comes to the park's iconic wildlife, that is more than just a figure of speech.

According to data provided by Yellowstone's public affairs office, approximately 100 animals are killed each year within Yellowstone National Park — numbers that mirror statistics published by Grand Teton National Parks.

While it might be tempting to blame out-of-state visitors for the lion's share of collisions, Grand Teton National Park reports "drivers involved were almost equally local residents and out-of-state visitors," adding that "speed was often the biggest factor in these collisions."

It's not just a problem inside the parks. On one weekend in mid-September 2021, three bears were struck and two killed by cars just outside of Yellowstone National Park, according to reporting by Cowboy State Daily.

With internet travel culture gushing must-do and must-see lists, there is a very real temptation to race — or at least rush — from one internet-listed location to another. But while these lists seem helpful and informed online, the harsh reality is that it would take a lifetime to see all of Yellowstone's natural wonders and internet checklists are problematic under the most favorable of circumstances — especially if they are leading park visitors to exceed park speed limits in order to pack in all their alleged must-dos.

Yellowstone, like other wild locations, tends to display its best self in quiet, unplanned and unplannable moments. Ironically, those chasing their internet must-dos in addition to risking harm to parks and wildlife, are missing the best Yellowstone has to offer. The best way to get the most from your Yellowstone visit is to give yourself time to get in sync with nature.

Legendary naturalist and staunch advocate for the national park system, John Muir, often said, "Nothing can be done well at a speed of 40 miles a day. The multitude of mixed, novel impressions rapidly piled on one another make only a dreamy, bewildering, swirling blur, most of which is unrememberable."

Slowing down and adhering to park speed limits isn't only beneficial to parks and park wildlife, it might be the best-kept secret for getting the most out of your trip to Yellowstone or any of our National Parks.

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Mike is a writer, filmmaker and public speaker, who, along with his wife Michelle, owns and manages At Home in Wild Spaces Films, a film studio that produces informational outdoor adventure media and resources. Mike graduated from BYU with a degree in film and animation, and occasionally writes about entertainment and current events.


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