Numerous people using the trails southeast of Jackson in recent days have encountered an animal that’s either a young grizzly bear or a cinnamon-colored black bear that’s throwing people off.
Notes of a “young grizzly” near Hagen Trail were scribbled on the message boards at the Cache Creek and Nelson Drive trailheads as long ago as Saturday. Obscured footage of the blond bruin has surfaced on Instagram.
Longtime resident and Friends of Pathways employee Amy Golightly happened upon the mystery animal about an hour before dark Monday while hiking with her husband, Jeff, near a neighborhood trail that cuts up toward Hagen.
“We made eye contact, me and the bear,” Golightly said. “It was definitely keeping an eye on us.”
The animal, she said, had a light coat and a flat face. It was only around 40 yards away when Golightly spotted it, but because she got out of there promptly she was unable to distinguish if the bear had the trademark shoulder hump of a grizzly.
Her husband was pretty confident the animal was, in fact, a grizzly, and he’s had lots of experience around bears due to years working at Togwotee Mountain Lodge.
“If it was a grizzly,” Amy Golightly said, “it was definitely a young one.”
VIDEO: Kelli Jones posted this video to the story section of her Instagram profile Tuesday when she caught a glimpse of a bear near the Ferrins Trail.
The authority on the matter, the Wyoming Game and Fish Department, has not confirmed if the animal hanging around on the trails near Snow King Mountain is a grizzly.
“We’re getting reports of bears near the Snow King face,” Game and Fish spokesman Mark Gocke said. “So far the only documented pictures or anything that we’ve gotten has been of a black bear, but [carnivore biologist Mike Boyce] said he’d sure love to follow up.
“If it were a grizzly,” he said, “we’d definitely want to know.”
Grizzly bears are common in much of Jackson Hole, but it wasn’t until this year that the official distribution map maintained by the Interagency Grizzly Bear Study Team was updated to fill in all the lands around town.
The reason for changing the map was because GPS-tracked bears have gone on walkabouts into places like the Cache and Game creek drainages. Grizzlies have also recently started using the National Elk Refuge routinely come fall, drawn by gut piles and elk parts left by hunters.