A pair of Bozeman researchers say Yellowstone grizzlies are expanding their range, moving out of the park, and in to the Gallatin Range.
"There are grizzlies living in and using the Gallatin Range and people need to be aware of that when they go out recreating," said Steve Gehman of Wild Things Unlimited.
Gehman and his wife Betsy Robinson have been researching grizzly bear movement into the Gallatin Range for the last six summers. Over that time they've collected nearly 300 hair samples.
Gehman says they've seen the bears growing in numbers and expanding their range.
"The first three years we identified 20 different grizzlies in a fairly small area in the southern part of the range. In the past three years we've added eight more grizzly bears to that in the more northerly reaches," he said.
So far they've identified 21 male bears and seven females in the Gallatin Range. He believes the research shows the population is spiking.
"We had some data from the 1980's from that southern part of the range showing anywhere from zero to five grizzlies known to be in that area during any given year and that's gone up now," said Gehman.
Just over 600 grizzlies live in the Greater Yellowstone area. That number has put pressure on the bears food sources and habitat and forced them to expand outside of the park and toward the Gallatin Range.
"There is a lot of good habitat in the Gallatin Range so I think at least some of those bears will remain residents and their offspring will continue to need to find places to live," Gehman said.
Gehman says he and his wife look forward to what their research shows this summer.
"We're real curious about what happens next," he said.
To learn more about Wild Things Unlimited and their research you can visit their website by clicking here.