This is a follow-up to the story yesterday on the mauling of a man adjacent to his home in a rural subdivision in grizzly habitat near the Idaho/Wyoming border.

E. Idaho neighbors disagree on response to bear attack. Residents acknowledge bears come with the territory, but some still want the grizzly killed. By Rocky Barker – Idaho Statesman

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About The Author

Ralph Maughan

Dr. Ralph Maughan is professor emeritus of political science at Idaho State University with specialties in natural resource politics, public opinion, interest groups, political parties, voting and elections. Aside from academic publications, he is author or co-author of three hiking/backpacking guides, and he is President of the Western Watersheds Project.

17 Responses to E. Idaho neighbors disagree on response to grizzly bear attack

  1. avatar Vicki says:

    Life imitating life. How selfish some people (Murri) are to assume that everything around them needs to change to suit their comfort level. They are in the bear’s backyard, not the other way around. Cleaning up their trash, and bear proofing it would help reduce risk. But as long as you CHOOSE to live in wildlife habitat, there is always a risk involved. If it is a risk you are unhappy with, move into a high-rise. The other neighbor seems a lot more rational.

  2. avatar Sara O. says:

    I agree with Vicki, If someone does not want to experience a chance encounter with a bear then at minimum they should take precautions around thier living space: bear proof garbage contaners, bird feeding stations, pet food left outside etc, they should know the habits of bears and be prepared for a chance encounter or they should not live in thier habitat and if they do they should certainly not want the animal killed.

    I remember a 60 Minutes a few years back, an interview with a home owner that had a house that bordered Yellowstone- of course grizzlies were on the property at night and home owner said it was “like haveing serial killers in the back yard”.

  3. avatar Vicki says:

    Thanks Sara!

  4. avatar Monte says:

    I agree that a person assumes risks when he or she moves into wild country. People who buy or build cabins in such areas do it because of the chance to enjoy nature and wildlife and with the reward comes risk. However, does anyone know of any evidence that once a grizzly attacks a human it may be more likely to do so in the future? If this were so, then I would understand the need to kill this particular bear.

  5. avatar matt bullard says:

    I think there is ample evidence that if a grizzly becomes human habituated AND food conditioned, that it poses a greater risk to humans. A bear in that condition would, I think, want to protect or aggressively defend its food source much like the bear in this instance did. However, it must be noted that the food that this bear was defending in a way that I think most people would agree is normal for a grizzly was a dead moose, a staple of its natural diet at this time of year. This was not a bear that was getting into pet food, bird seed, or garbage cans.

  6. avatar Mike says:

    I agree with Vicki. If you don’t want to live in bear country then move, most of the country is void of wildlife. Lets keep the last remaining places for wildlife…wild.

    A forest without predators like grizzlies, wolves, etc…is like a person without a soul.

    Like Matt said, the bear did nothing wrong. It was simply protecting its natural food source.

  7. avatar SAP says:

    Matt is correct. Bears that are a) unwary around people (ie., habituated) & b) associate people and developed areas with easy meals (ie., food conditioned) are clearly the most dangerous ones.

    One of the things that makes grizzlies grizzlies is their behavioral tendency to respond aggressively to perceived threats. That’s a sharp contrast to black bears and many other carnivores, who tend to retreat from threats and avoid confrontations (although they certainly will stalk something they perceive as prey).

    The likely reason for this characteristic has to do with where Ursus arctos evolved: on glaciated plains, with a lot of bigger, nastier creatures like short-faced bears (genus Arctodus, standing nearly six feet at the shoulders) and smilodons (sabre-toothed cats).

    A grizzly that wanted to survive and protect its young in such an environment may have had few options but to stand and fight. And if you study aggression at all, you know that taking the initiative can give you a decisive advantage (cf Doctrine of Overwhelming Force). Grizzlies who had that behavioral pattern would have survived and reproduced, making that kind of behavior more pronounced with every generation.

    Thus, it’s clearly a risky situation to have grizzlies and people living in close proximity. Even with a very wary “wild” bear, there’s always the risk that a person will bump into the grizzly’s comfort zone by accident — in the dark, in heavy cover, &c.

    In this case, I guess it’s a tough call about what to do with the grizzly if it’s trapped. But, I think it was just doing what grizzlies do when they’re surprised on a carcass. So far, there seems to be no evidence that the bear was getting any un-natural food rewards by being in the subdivision. Sounds like a wild bear doing wild bear things.

    If it had done this in Yellowstone or on a National Forest, the response would have been monitor the situation but take no action (other than maybe move the carcass). The rub is, will it keep coming back into this or other subdivisions?

    This case highlights a lot of issues for further thought. First, can we design these “woodland paradise” subdivisions more carefully to either funnel bears away from houses, or at least have “safe zones” with clear sight lines in the immediate vicinity of houses?

    Second, people need to be aware of the risk of running into a bear and take proper precautions (I’m sure they will now, in that particular subdivision).

    Third, ten years ago it would have been a big shock to have a grizzly out there near Tetonia (although it’s lovely country, and aspen stands are full of good stuff for bears to eat). Folks who are concerned about the future of grizzlies need to be thinking about how we get the word out that grizzlies are back, and help people get ready for living with them.

    And by living with them, I don’t mean that I regard them as “warm cuddly teddy bears” who ought to be living in someone’s literal back yard. I mean that they’re wild animals, they can be dangerous (as can moose), and that we don’t control where and when they’re going to show up.

  8. This kind of thing really burns me up! People who make a choice to live in bear country, and then are surprised that there are bears there. This wasn’t a bad bear. It was a bear doing what bears do, especially at this time of the year. It was defending a natural food source, that it desperately needed fresh out of hibernation, from a perceived threat.
    I remember watching that sixty minutes as well. It made me so mad that I must have fired off a dozen letters and e-mails. Folks in Wapiti, Wyoming (many freshly transplanted there from the city) complaining about how Yellowstone “needs to keep their bears inside the park” and how their children are in danger.
    Now I read that there is yet another big sub-division going in near there! People have to realize that about delisting the grizzly: It’s not about how many of them there are; it’s about loss of habitat and people like this (Murri).
    If people can’t learn to live with wildlife (and I mean ALL wildlife, not just the cute chipmunks and squirrels that pass through the yard) then they have no business living in places like this. They have a choice. For the animals, the choices are getting fewer and fewer.

  9. avatar skyrim says:

    The growth in this area of Idaho is out of control. A friend who is in the construction trades moved there last year and I suspect he is having second thoughts about his choice to do so. This is just the beginning of what will become greater conflicts with wild critters up there. The proposed plan of development on the west slope of the Tetons will displace huge numbers of animals, all to satisfy the needs of greedy developers and fat cat trophy homes and condos. The west annex of Jackson when it’s all over.

  10. A while back, I ran an article about the bitterness between growth control advocates and ranchers who want to sub-divide in the area. A 6-month county moratorium was just passed.

    The blog stats showed a lot of people read it, and there were a lot of comments. Here is a link to that article. Stopping Growth in Teton County, Idaho.

    This is an extension of the argument in the same area, slightly different subject.

  11. avatar skyrim says:

    A moratorium is certainly a start but 6 months is only about enough time for contractors to catch up to building orders and allow raw ground to inflate even more. I used to drive over from Jackson to Driggs to go up in the gliders at Red Baron Flying Service when they were still there. Man how that country has changed in 20 years.

  12. avatar MikeH says:

    I think they should let the bear live in that rural subdivision developers house.

    It amazes me that people would build cabins right up against the public lands in the Yellowstone ecosystem, and then complain about bears.

    The single greatest thing the environmental movement could do today (besides solving the global warming crisis)would be to buy up all the periphery ranchland bordering the rocky mountain national forests. These are the places at greatest risk of becoming mini-suburbs.

    I never understood the need to build a home that borders a wilderness area. Aren’t you defeating the very purpose? Why not just live in the city and visit instead of contributing to rural sprawl and the destruction of the last wild places? I could see moving out into the flat lowlands (say the badlands surrounding Billings or Butte, or around Cody Wyoming), but right up against the wilderness boundaries, for all to see for as long as that house stands?

    I don’t get that. Maybe it’s just human nature to want to be near the most wild and beautiful thing. I know I seek those things out when I camp, but that’s a temporary blemish that I pack up and take home.

    If I built a big house in the national forest, right next to the wilderness for all to see, I would be ashamed. I’m not even going to get into the spotlights some of these people leave on.

  13. avatar CJ says:

    How can anyone blame a hungry bear for protecting it’s food? It hadn’t gotten it from a trash can. It hadn’t broken any human- imposed rules of rural engagement. People kill eachother over less every day. If the man who was attacked didn’t want to kill the bear, isn’t his opininon more important? Rabies in a bear with no symptoms, I agree with Ralph, that is smelling a lot like manure!

  14. It’s important the folks commenting on this post read the more recent article about them putting down the bear, and Scott MacButch’s comments (he sold the property to the family).

    It’s not a brand new sub-division and the cabins are scattered.

    Read Idaho Man who survived mauling by grizzly recounts ordeal.

    Ralph Maughan, webmaster

  15. avatar elkhunter says:

    I wonder why his dog did not do anything, I would stop feeding that dog for leaving me to the birds! JK I thought that breed was very protective, I have english pointers and they are protective of me around other dogs, might be a little different if it was a 400 pound bear though.

  16. avatar skyrim says:

    “Stop feeding that dog” Out of respect for Dr. Maughan’s site I will withhold my thoughts on you and that comment….

  17. avatar elkhunter says:

    Easy skyrim, just a joke. 🙂

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