Oral Histories-Bears in Yellowstone

Project Type:  Oral History
Project Status:  Ongoing

The history of bear management in Yellowstone National Park is of great public interest and provides natural and cultural resource managers with perspective regarding the work they do. The National Park Service, in cooperation with the Yellowstone Park Foundation, conducted interviews with decision makers and wildlife managers who have been involved in the park’s bear management practices. Beginning in 2006, the National Park Service identified 78 individuals for potential interviews through references by park staff and self-identification. Park staff conducted 33 new interviews with individuals from that group. Staff also converted and transcribed five existing but un-transcribed interviews vital to the subject to a digital format. Six additional interviews are scheduled as of 2009. The Yellowstone Park Foundation is supporting the completion of these interviews. The interviews were recorded on digital recording equipment, which produces better sound quality, a more secure format for preservation, and a more accessible format for the public. Park staff are also converting tapes in the archives on all subjects with the new equipment donated by the Yellowstone Park Foundation for this project. Excerpts of the bear management history interviews with slide shows are available for download.
 

Speaker
 
Synopsis
Video

Gary Brown was Yellowstone's bear management specialist. He began working in the park in 1965.
 
Mr. Brown talks about the creation of the Interagency Grizzly Bear Study Team, open dumps at Cooke City, former Superintendent John Townsley, and the creation of bear management areas.

Bill Hape was a longtime National Park Service maintenance employee.
 
Mr. Hape talks about managing garbage during the era of open dumps, about keeping bears out of food during a time when refrigeration was not available in the interior of Yellowstone, and bears in Gardiner.

Bob Howe was the Yellowstone National Park biologist from 1961 to 1966.
 
Mr. Howe talks about why he left Yellowstone for Alaska and about statements in the press that indicated that he was moved against his will. John Good, a park manager, was present and speaks in another segment of this interview.

Mary Meagher was the park curator/naturalist from 1959 to 1967 and park biologist from 1968 to 1997.  
Glen Cole was a longtime park biologist who began working in Yellowstone in 1966.
 
Ms. Meagher and Mr. Cole talk about the process of changing bear management in Yellowstone during the time that they were working on closing the open dumps in Yellowstone.

Bob Morey began working in Yellowstone as a “smoke chaser” in 1943 and stayed through 1952 when he took a job in Badlands National Park. He returned to work in Yellowstone from 1960 to 1967.
 
Mr. Morey talks about nighttime removal and extermination of grizzly bears in the Lake area and about visitor/bear interactions during the 1950s
   
   
Mr. Morey talks about visitor/bear interactions and managing bear jams in the 1950s.

Harry Reynolds, III grew up in Yellowstone where his father served as the chief ranger. He began working with the Craighead brothers while still in his teens.
 
Mr. Reynolds talks about his perspective on the conflict between the National Park Service and the Craighead brothers.

Chuck Schwartz is the Interagency Grizzly Bear Study Team leader.
 
Mr. Schwartz talks about the challenges of his job as Interagency Grizzly Bear Study Team leader.

Ted Scott was the North District Ranger in Yellowstone and a Yellowstone park ranger from 1964 to 1978.
 
Mr. Scott discusses what it was like to move bears around in the park.

Project Contact:

Charissa Reid
National Park Service
Oral Historian

Yellowstone Center for Resources
PO Box 168
Yellowstone National Park, WY 82190