"Contented Bear" Shows How Close Bears Used to Get in Old Yellowstone
September 06, 2023
Nothing combines the cute and the scary like old photographs of bears at Yellowstone. This photograph, taken by the photographer Rollin H. McKay just outside of the Tower Falls post office, is undeniably cute: the bear really does look contented.
We don't know for sure, but the bear may very well have been fed by tourists who had arrived at Tower Falls. That would, at least, account for the bear's comfort around humans. Now, feeding the bears is strictly off-limits at the park, and garbage has been securely disposed of away from the dumps that used to attract so many bears. Bearproof trash receptacles were not installed until 1970.
McKay came out West to be a barber, but quickly discovered a love of photography. He set up a professional studio in Missoula in the early 1910s and enjoyed a bustling trade in photographing western Montana for many years until his retirement in the 1940s.
In addition to taking many photographs of Native-Americans in the Missoula area, he also occasionally went farther afield, as demonstrated by this photo taken in Yellowstone.