As it turns out, Yellowstone creator Taylor Sheridan based the harrowing grizzly bear encounters of both John Dutton and Rip Wheeler off these intense real-life experiences.
When it comes to Yellowstone, show creator, producer, and writer Taylor Sheridan has proven he keeps the show as authentic as possible. Whether it’s hiring real-life cowboys like Forrie J. Smith to take on fantastic roles like Lloyd Pierce, or using his own horses in the show – it all builds Yellowstone up as one of the best dramas to ever grace the screen, big or small.
“Some scenes with a grizzly bear are based on several real accounts of tourists getting lost in the wilderness and putting themselves in harms way,” IMDb states. This, of course, refers to the harrowing Season 1, Ep. 7 “A Monster Is Among Us” sequence in which Rip Wheeler takes down a grizzly bear. And according to the film database, it’s all based on real events witnessed by creator Taylor Sheridan.
Within, Yellowstone patriarch John Dutton (Kevin Costner) tells his lead ranch hand to track down the bear. The grizzly has already proven itself unafraid of humans, as John found out directly, along with a rogue group of tourists, just moments earlier in the episode.
Eventually, Rip discovers far more than he bargained for. Two of the tourists did indeed decide to continue to follow the grizzly… And Rip finds them dangling from a tree branch over a cliff precipice. If you’ve seen the episode, well, then you know this sequence ends tragically, despite Rip taking down the bear moments before being mauled to death himself.
Taylor Sheridan Based John Dutton & Rip Wheeler Grizzly Encounters on Real Life Experiences
It’s not just Rip’s square-off with the grizzly that [Taylor] Sheridan pulls from reality, either. “Additionally, on a visit to the park, Sheridan watched a crowd of people stand 30 feet from a grizzly, while a warden struggled to keep them back,” IMDb continues of the show creator’s real-world influences.
Speaking on the incident himself, Sheridan says “This is an animal that contests its place on the food chain with us, openly,” the database cites.
“And someone’s like, ‘Oh, it looks friendly,'” Sheridan continues. “It’s interesting how disconnected we’ve become from the natural world.”
This encounter, of course, inspired the events that transpire before Rip Wheeler faces down the grizzly. Earlier in the episode, John Dutton tries to help keep those same tourists safe from the grizzly bear, only to be lectured on his morality.
The tourists are incredibly ignorant within the episode – all hundreds of feet closer to a wild grizzly bear than they should be. This is, however, and as Sheridan states, something that happens regularly in reality – with a deadly cost.
Relive the scene below, now knowing Sheridan pulls it directly from life experience:
“Get back, before that thing eats somebody”
“Are you out of your mind?” Dutton asks the tour guide. “Get back! Get back, before that thing eats somebody.”
The grizzly bear encounter now takes on an entirely different meaning, doesn’t it? The species is often used metaphorically on Yellowstone, and for good reason. They are kings of the wilds in true-to-life Yellowstone.
“It seems friendly…” the tour guide spouts back to Dutton, ignorantly, long before Rip Wheeler proves otherwise. We’re sure we don’t have to say this to any fellow Outsiders reading on our site here, but assuming any wild animal is ever “friendly” or docile or what-have-you – is ignorant. There’s no two ways about it. Wild animals are exactly that – wild. They are not pets, friends, nor domestic in any sense.
This fictional account is meant to send a message by the production team of Yellowstone. Encounters like this can turn deadly in an instant. Being as close as these tourists are to a grizzly bear is asking for an unfortunate, unnecessary death.
As such, be smart. Don’t be ignorant. Never be that tourist. Always obey park guidelines, and keep at least 100 yards distance between you and a bear of any species.