RED LODGE — A Red Lodge business owner was looking out her window at the perfect moment one early October morning, just as a family of grizzly bears came upon her property.
Deborah Shefner has owned the Inn off Highway 212 in Red Lodge for 21 years, but she's never seen a grouping of grizzly bears so close.
“It was exciting and terrifying all at the same time,” Shefner said this week.
That morning she was making breakfast for her guests and for some reason — which she now believes was fate — she didn’t let her dogs out.
From her kitchen window, the bears grabbed her attention immediately. “I saw the grizzly with her two pretty large cubs just walking through the yard,” she said.
Walking some 30 feet from her back porch so naturally, she pulled out her camera phone and started to record.
“I mean, I just started just taking still shots and I'm like, oh no, you need to take a video. And I popped it on the video, and I think I got a really wonderful video,” she said.
And she did. She posted the video onto the Inn’s Facebook page where it’s been shared and viewed dozens of times.
But the question is— will the sight of a family of grizzlies become more popular?
Possibly, says Bob Gibson with Montana Fish and Parks (FWP) because grizzly bears have had a resurgence in recent years, and that means sightings are more frequent.
“In the last you know, couple of decades, those numbers have really grown a lot of the areas where we think that it's okay for bears to be, in Yellowstone and in Glacier. Both places are full. There are bears taking up every corner of those places now,” said Gibson.
The grizzly bear was historically a plains animal, Gibson said, “and they slowly got squeezed sort of back into the mountains and into the wilderness areas."
Gibson says in addition, protections for grizzly bears mean populations have grown. It’s a clear signal to those living in the proximity of bears to remember to be bear aware.
It’s something Shefner knows quite well and even informs her guests about often. “I try to be, and I try to be really proactive,” she said. “Because they say a fed bear is a dead bear. So, I don't want to be contributing to that problem."
Still, the thrill of seeing this family of grizzlies so close is something she won’t soon forget.
“I'm known as the grizzly lady,” she said. “People are like, Oh, she's the one that had the grizzly in her yard that keeps that's you know, they don't even say this is Debbie she had the grizzly in her yard. She just is like this is a lady that had the grizzly'," So I guess that's who I am now.”