Scarface: The Epitome of Wild

A grizzly is a formidable foe, perhaps none more so than Scarface.


Oh, he is way past his prime, 24 years old now, nearing the end of the life expectancy of a grizzly in the wild. He’s been dethroned by young upstarts and relegated to eking out a lonely man’s existence in the interstices between rival territories.

But one look at Scarface and you just know that he was a contender.

Mesmerized, I had been watching him amble through the willows on the other side of the Lamar River.

Then he turned toward me.

scarfaceSee that face? Besides the furrows across the bridge of his muzzle and the partial closure of his left eye, much of his right ear is missing.

Moving slowly but confidently, Scarface waded into the river and started across. This is his territory, after all; I was the intruder.


Those scars, of course, are evidence of a lifetime of battles won and lost.

But what’s more interesting, according to local lore, is that some of those scars are self-inflicted.


scarfaceSee that yoke around his neck? To scientific researchers he is bear No. 211 and it is said that he has been darted and tranquillized fifteen times. Some of those collars undoubtedly malfunctioned but he has repeatedly clawed at his own flesh to rip off no one knows how many others out of spite and the desire to live free and unfettered, without restraint.

ScarfaceIs there a more poignant-yet-inspiring icon in this “land of the free” and “home of the brave” to represent everything wild, everything worth living for?

scarfaceOOPS! Scarface has just landed on my side of the river – gotta go!

🙂 🙂 🙂

15 Replies to “Scarface: The Epitome of Wild”

    1. Tough life, indeed. And I thought he looked a little thin but I guess he has a few months to fatten up before winter.


  1. It’s horrific to see that huge collar, what the hell were they thinking to cruelly put on something so intrusive. Somebody, shoot the rangers, very mean.
    And the bear, the grizzly is magnificent. Wow what a thrilling encounter for you. Those photographs of him shaking off water are just superb, the rivulets you caught are almost an extended coat, a design. The shot that gives such a sense of his enormous power is when he’s half submerged in the river, you get an idea of his size and form. And man oh man he looks dangerous. Unforgettable from here, you must feel died and gone to heaven-ish from there.


    1. I’m not against collars per se, but I would certainly think Scarface deserves a break in his old age. 🙂


    1. There were about 50 of us watching, and when Scarface turned our way everyone did indeed jump in their cars. 🙂 He crossed the road less than ten yards from some cars.


  2. What a wonderful encounter, and the shots are terrific, especially the last. Your account highlights a wildlife/conservation dilemma and the use of tracking collars. Good intent, especially where carnivores are involved; but a moral issue when the animals health and well being is compromised. Who monitors the scientists and wildlife conservationists?


    1. Good questions for which I don’t have answers. I should reiterate that all I have to go on is hearsay. I tried looking online but couldn’t find anything reputable about Scarface. Sometimes legends outgrow the facts. He could have been collared more or fewer times, I don’t know. But I still think he makes for a good symbol of “wild.” Thanks…


  3. Hi I was there as well snapping away but we lost our photos any chance we could have photos emailed to us from any body there ?


  4. john could you email me those pictures please I was right beside you when you took them


    1. Were I just a tourist taking snapshots I might be tempted to share. But the very fact that a copyright notice is prominently displayed on each image should indicate that I am a serious photographer and none that I know just gives away photographs for the asking. 😦


      1. My photos were very similar to yours , we visited Yellowstone as part of our 30th wedding anniversary tour of the western USA , unfortunately later on our trip down in Arizona I had to change my SD card and lost the SD card with a lot of Yellowstone wildlife photos on. These included photos of scarface, the coyote by the picnic site with cubs and one picture of our only sighting of a wolf in the lamar. The value of these pictures are priceless to my wife and I.


  5. It’s so wonderful, John, that your photo’s and blog will be here for me, oh, and coincidently I guess for Mr Cooksley as well, to visit over the years. It is quite generous of you to spend as much time as you do for all of us to perpetually enjoy your photos and stories!!


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