JACKSON, Wyo.— Grizzly bears attacking hunters who have killed elk has been rare. There was a case in 1995 near Radium Hot Springs, in British Columbia, and another case in Montana in 2001.
Last September it happened again in the Teton Wilderness west of Jackson Hole. A 37-year-old hunting guide had taken a client bow hunting in the area, which is thick with grizzly bears. The client, who was from Florida, shot an elk, and they returned the next day to dress out the carcass. When doing so, a grizzly sow and her almost mature cub attacked.
The Jackson Hole News&Guide reported that an investigation by Wyoming wildlife officials has concluded that the outfitter was fatally wounded during the initial attack and likely died within minutes. This is despite his success in halting the mauling with a blast of bear spray. He then staggered 45 metres before succumbing to massive trauma and blood loss.
It was the first time in North America that a grizzly so doused with bear spray killed a person, according to bear conflict expert Steve Primm.
The details were gory and graphic, said the newspaper’s Mike Krosmrl. The guide was dismembering the elk carcass, his Glock 10-millimetre handgun four to ten metres yards away, when they heard the sound of rocks tumbling. Looking up, the client said, he saw two grizzlies running full speed directly toward them.
The client had removed his bear spray, but he had a gun. He didn’t shoot, though, fearing he would hit his guide. Instead, he threw the gun toward the guide, but in doing so the gun became useless, as it lost its ammunition.
Having suffered only minor injuries in the attack, the client then fled to a place where he telephoned for help. He was later picked up by helicopter and, after getting into Jackson, the valley’s lone town, he quickly flew from Wyoming to his home in Florida.
Grizzlies attack humans when they perceive the need to defend their food or cubs or personal space.
More rarely, they attack people with the intent of eating them. This was different.
“The evidence suggests that the desire of the bears to feed on the elk carcass was the motivating factor in the incident,” the state report concluded.
Both the sow and the cub were tracked down and killed.