If there is one animal that is a metaphor for all that is wild in Yellowstone, it’s the iconic Scarface.
As I’ve written before, I’ve known this old grizzly from when he was a young cub. I’ve watched him grow. He’s watched me grow. And strangely enough, he’s been there for some of my most important life milestones.
Our lives are so deeply intertwined that it’s seems almost impossible that a year could go by without seeing the grand bruin of Yellowstone wander throughout its valleys and over its high mountain passes.
The reality is though, many professional photographers spend far more time in Yellowstone than I do and have had very little luck spotting him, much less getting a photograph of the bear.
So I know that I shouldn’t take it for granted that no matter how lucky I’ve been in finding Scarface in the past, it’s never a guarantee that I’ll see him again.
As our time in Yellowstone last summer drew to a close, I began to believe that I wouldn’t see my favourite grizzly in 2014. We were spending more and more time in his home range and while others were having luck, it seemed that ours was running out.
Late one evening, while photographing the sunset over Antelope Valley, the place where I first met Scarface, a gentleman approached to ask if I’d seen the bear down in the valley floor.
I rarely miss a bear, even if it is far away, but this one I never picked up. Before I could say thank-you, the gentleman was off and I began my search of the meadow.
Sure enough, a mile down the hill was a big, old, beat-up grizzly bear. He had a collar and he was missing an ear. But even without those tell-tale signs, no mater the distance, I just knew who it was.
Jill an I jumped for joy and took in the view, enjoying a quiet moment with an old friend.
The next night, when we drove through Antelope, we decided if we could find him again – and maybe just a bit closer.
And like the first time I met Scarface, we waited. And waited.
A car slowed, with excited occupants: Could we see the bear?
Apparently my bear spidey sense was evaporating around me. I missed another bear?
Well, not from where I was standing, I wouldn’t be able to see one, but if I walked along to the next pull out, someone swears they saw a grizzly, even though it had disappeared.
Just my luck, I mumbled.
I walked down to that pull-off and a few excited people described a bear that could only be Scarface. I started telling the onlookers around me about his history and habits and legacy. And suddenly someone was waving at me from down the road.
A young girl, determined to see Scarface for herself, had moved further along to get a better vantage point. While many would have enjoyed the sight, she was equally determined for me to have a chance to get a photo.
As I reached her location, I looked down and Scarface wasn’t in the valley bottom, he was two-thirds of the way up the hillside, somehow eluding everyone during his trek up. And though about six people were standing next to one of Yellowstone’s busier roads, Scarface was invisible to cars. He could be seen only in one small spot – move a foot and poof: out of view.
Scarface didn’t stay around for long, but as he grubbed, I was able to document him for yet another year, this time surrounded by a stunning display of wild flowers. He found me again, the old guy, and as ever, it was magical.
Now we anxiously wait word as to whether he’s made it through another winter. If he has, he’ll be 26. Not the oldest grizzly in Yellowstone, but almost. Yet, no matter how old, he will always be Scarface, legend and friend.
– D. Simon Jackson | GhostBearPhotography.com