Even in a region defined by vast wilderness, where wildlife encounters are not uncommon, a glimpse of a grizzly bear stirs something deep within — be it terror, awe or perhaps reverence. 

While Wyomingites are lucky to have such incredible landscapes, there remains  “a below-the-surface feeling of humans as being away from nature,” Ben Williamson said. As executive director of the Northern Rockies Conservation Cooperative, Williamson is working to promote a way of seeing humans and nature as more entangled and interconnected. 

It’s a philosophy that promotes coexistence and not conflict, Williamson said. To that end, the NRCC sponsored the 2023 Human-Wildlife Coexistence Photography Contest

Julia Cook’s winning image captures her shared journey with a grizzly bear. 

“I took this image after looking at some bear tracks along a muddy riverbank while on a hike,” Cook said. “I hadn’t even noticed that I was walking in stride with the bear tracks.” 

That discovery was a powerful moment, Cook said.

“I know that moment for a lot of people would be unnerving, but I truly believe when being cautious and following proper bear safety, we can coexist with grizzlies with minimal fear or risk,” she said. 

“I love knowing that we share the same home range as grizzlies, and with it, share the same rivers and forests too.”Visit the contest’s website for more information and additional images from the eight finalists.

Tennessee Jane Watson is WyoFile's deputy managing editor. She was a 2020 Nieman Abrams Fellow for Local Investigative Journalism and Wyoming Public Radio's education reporter. She lives in Laramie. Contact...

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