Nature writer/photographer recovering in hospital after Hayden Valley grizzly with cub mauled him

Close encounters. By Brodie Farquhar. Caspter Star Tribune.

The man, Jim Cole, has been mauled before; and was later charged but found not guilty of approaching a grizzly too closely.

Update (May 27): Friend: Man mauled by grizzly had no time for pepper spray. AP.

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  1. mikarooni Avatar

    Looks like the third time will be the charm for this guy or maybe for the bears. At some point, he should be getting the message about sows with cubs, but nooooooo. Ultimately, when you ask for it bad… you’re eventually gonna get it bad.

  2. Dan Avatar

    About 3 years ago, my wife & I went to a slideshow program that Jim & his wife did in Bozeman. I was impressed then about how much he seemed to know & care about bears. Then the following Spring a good friend of mine who worked with Bear Management in Yellowstone, spotted a man in Swan Lake Flats following around a sow & cubs. This biologist was tracking bears via airplane at the time. The incident was radioed in & Rangers found & arrested this man, who happened to be none other than Jim Cole. Later I found out that he had a “reputation” for doing this type of thing & had gotten mauled before in Glacier. He was banned from the park & then sued in order to be allowed back in.
    Later that summer, two photographers that I know witnessed him following a sow & cub in Hayden valley, and the sow bluff charged him twice! This incident was never reported however.
    Now after reading about Jim getting mauled again, it’s quite apparent to me that although he may know & care about bears, he unfortunately is doing them more harm than good with his actions.

  3. Moose Avatar

    Given his apparent history, I will shed no tears for the eventuality of him being fatally attacked…however, I hope the bear in question is not “punished”. The guy obviously doesn’t really care about bears.

  4. Brenda Avatar

    Jim Cole has been aggressively pursuing grizzly bears in the backcountry of Yellowstone for years! He hikes alone or with his friend Tim. He purposefully approaches grizzly bears to photograph them ‘up close and personal’, with his ‘short-length’ lenses. He knows he can not exhibit this level of aggressive behavior while photographing grizzlies from the road with other park visitors and possibly rangers present. Many wildlife photographers think that he has wanted to ‘get mauled again’ or ‘has a death wish’.

    Dan’s discription of Cole’s behavior in Hayden Valley is accurate. Cole was charged twice by a sow with two cubs while approaching and photographing her. The park did not pursue charges against Cole from that incident because no one had taken a photo of the event, even though many people were watching and long-lens photo equipment was available. The rangers in the Canyon and Lake districts were fully aware of what Cole did that day, but they did not want to ‘loose’ another case against Cole by having insufficient evidence.

    Grizzly bears use their extraordinary sense of smell to find food of all types. Pepper spray can dull that sense of smell for weeks! It is known that drug-sniffing dogs are not allowed anywhere near pepper spray because they will not be able to do their job for weeks if exposed. Jim Cole proudly carries 2 cans of pepper spray at all times! If Cole did manage to spray the mother bear, it will damage her sense of smell. If the sow is unable to find enough food to sustain her milk production and feed herself and her cub, one or both bears could die. Jim Cole has jeopordized the most important element of the grizzly population (a reproducing sow with viable cub) for his own personal satisfaction. His behavior is appalling! This certainly shows that he does not ‘care’ about grizzly bears.

    Some rangers in the park are aware of the individualism of Jim Cole behavior. They understand that what Cole does as a wildlife photographer is not what other photographers would do. Cole has created a record for himself and now has advanced that record one step further by being mauled in Yellowstone. Hopefully the park will recognize that Jim Cole is unique.

    Jim Cole has also received a ticket for illegally selling his books on the side of the road in Yellowstone.

  5. BobCaesar Avatar

    !The amazing thing about this is the Park Svc generally lacks the courage to stop this guy. They know darn well what he is up to! They’ll be more than happy to give you and me a ticket for some stupid little thing, but when some SOB endangers a mom and her baby – they become – “less than courageous”!

  6. Rick Rasmor Avatar
    Rick Rasmor

    Does anyone know if Jim owns a pick-up with a pop-up Alaskan Camper? If the same guy, I have a little video of him harassing wolves as well. Reported this to rangers, and they knew who I was talking about. Just shrugged their shoulders. Said he was a photographer from Bozeman (obviously with a reputation?).

  7. Peter Kiermeier Avatar

    What I saw on site that day was a green van with a Montana licence towed away by the rangers.

  8. R. Thayne Avatar
    R. Thayne

    I’ve seen Jim Cole acting stupid around grizzlies on several occasions in Yellowstone. Back in May of 2005 I saw him approach within 15 yards of a grizzly sow w/2 cubs near Yellowstone Lake. A few photographers tried to warn him to back up. He responded, “Shut up, I know what I’m doing.” He was still standing on the road, so I’m not sure any legal action could have been taken against him, but he was clearly approaching these grizzlies without any regard for his or their safety. All the rest of us had backed way up, leaving room for the grizzlies to cross the road if they wanted.

    From my observations, Jim Cole is rude and stupid. I hope he doesn’t earn one more cent from his idiotic and dangerous behavior.

  9. dave smith Avatar
    dave smith

    Photographers playing Russian roulette with bears

    There’s a valuable safety lesson to be learned from Montana photographer Jim Cole’s latest mishap with a grizzly–never approach bears. Whether you see a distant bear while you’re hiking, or spot a bear nearby bear while you’re driving along a road in Yellowstone Park, never approach bears. When you approach a bear, eventually you’re going to encroach on the bruin’s personal space and force it to fight or flee. In many cases, the bear will simply move away from you. But gambling that a bear will flee rather than fight is a bad bet. You’re playing Russian roulette with a bear. It’s a dangerous game, especially when you approach a female grizzly with cubs.

    Over the years, an inordinate number of photographers in Yellowstone and Glacier National Park have been killed or injured by bears. I doubt if many of the photographers realized they were playing Russian roulette with bears. These incidents are unfortunate, but you can’t blame the bears. When reading headlines about a “bear attack,” remember that the bear was probably acting in self-defense. It was just defending itself from a person who accidentally provoked it.

  10. Bruce Boxall Avatar
    Bruce Boxall

    Amazing in that when the report first hit–most knew it was Cole

  11. SAP Avatar

    R Thayne – I would bet that, even though he was on the road, NPS would regard willfully — and on foot — getting within 15 yards of a grizzly as illegal.

    dave smith – I agree with most of what you wrote, but recent accounts of what Jim Cole recollects indicate that he merely stumbled upon a bear in Hayden Valley. Eerie parallels with the Timothy Treadwell case — a person who has modeled some very undesirable behaviors around bears gets injured/killed, but not while actually engaged in those behaviors, but folks assume it was directly because of the behaviors.

    Actually, I would say that Treadwell’s and Cole’s behaviors of getting too close to bears indicated an overly casual attitude about bears, and that their lack of caution eventually caught up with them. Recall Treadwell’s bold pronouncements on video about how HE, NO ONE ELSE, could get away with camping in the place where he subsequently died.

    In the Cole case, well, Hayden Valley is dangerous. The scariest part about it, for me, is that grizzlies REALLY AREN’T that big. They can disappear into that tall sagebrush or a little dip in the terrain and you simply won’t know they’re there. But because the valley is so open, it deceives people into thinking all is well, and SURELY you’d see a HUGE animal like a grizzly if it was out there.

    Jim Cole should have known this, since he has been around bears a lot and published books about them.

    Maybe he was just tired or in a hurry. Maybe he would have been more tuned in and present in the moment had he not been so driven to get bear photos to sell.

    Overall, that attitude — “I know what I’m doing” — is conceited and disrespectful to grizzlies. Some First Nations won’t even speak the Real Bear’s name out loud, some people won’t photograph them even if it’s easy and convenient. It’s about respect for this amazing being, and not acting like you’ve got them all figured out.

    As a practical matter, the disrespectful behavior can lead other people to do really stupid things by emulating Cole/Treadwell, and may eventually get bears killed.

    All that said, let’s not be indecent by heaping abuse on a gravely injured person. The pain, long-term damage, and grueling rehab should be enough to make him reflect on his ways.

    [Caveat: don’t expect me to pony up to help pay his bills if it turns out he was running around Hayden Valley without health insurance!! He can sell his cameras if it comes to that.]

    My sources indicate that only two photographers have died from grizzly attacks in Lower 48: William Tesinsky in YNP in 1986, and Charles Gibbs in GNP in 1987.

  12. Sarge Avatar

    I was looking for a bear picture of Jim’s on the web last night a found out about is run in with a sow last week. What a surprise.
    I pointed out to Jim the first bear he had ever seen in the Alaskan wildeness in the late 70’s
    Hard for me to imagine that his passion for (the definitive photo) would lead to him being linked with Treadwell but I sure can see why.
    I do hope he mends ok.

  13. dave smith Avatar
    dave smith

    “recent accounts of what Jim Cole recollects indicate that he merely stumbled upon a bear in Hayden Valley.”

    Those recent accounts are from a friend of Cole’s speaking on his behalf–and what else is Cole going to say? Cole’s not going to say he got real close to the bear for a good photograph. Cole is the only one who really knows what happened out there. Whatever happened, Cole, his family, and his friends must be suffering terribly, and that’s unfortunate.

    Two major differences between Cole and Treadwell’s situations. One, the Katmai bears at Hallo Bay were far, far, far more accustomed to being in close proximity to both bears and people. Bear viewing outfits take 50-60 people a day to Hallo Bay. One biologist/guide told me you could set up a pre-school there. Most Hallo Bay bears were thoroughly habituated to people. Most Yellowstone bears are not. In general, you can get much closer to Hallo Bay bears, and it’s much safer. Most bear-viewing guides conduct themselves in an ethical manner–they back off if they see that their presence is affecting a bear, they don’t displace bears. Treadwell was a different story.

    Two, Treadwell was familiar with the individual personalities and tolerance levels of many bears in Katmai. He knew which bears were safe to get close to, and which bears to avoid. (Obviously, not all the bears.) I don’t think Cole or anyone else knows the first thing about the individual behavioral characteristics of a single grizzly in Yellowstone.

    Before approaching a bear, ask yourself a couple questions. Do you know at what distance you’ll encroach on the bears personal space and force it to fight or flee? If you cross the line and enter the bear’s personal space, will it move away, or charge? If it charges, will it stop short of making contact or put you in a hospital? If you don’t know the answer to all three questions, then approaching the bear is playing Russian roulette.

  14. Peter Kiermeier Avatar

    It´s perfectly possible to stumble into a bear unintentionally and despite all necessary precautions. It happened to me twice during hiking, first time, a few years ago in the Ukraine and – this spring – in YNP. SAPs comment above says it absolutely right! They ARE NOT that large and blend perfectly into the environment, maybe even more so in the dense forrests of eastern Europe. My first thought this time was: “Oh, let´s detour, it´s another ol´biso…..IT´S A BEAR!! The whole encounter lasted not more than 15 seconds.

  15. JEFF E Avatar
    JEFF E

    I’m going off topic maybe a little but could you give an overview of the legal hunting that happens throughout
    Europe? thank you

  16. Peter Kiermeier Avatar

    Hello JEFF E. I´ll try to be as concise as possible (and try to find a good website in english on this subject for you). It´s different from country to country, and even more different in eastern Europe. And, it´s totally different to what you are used to! Give you the example of Germany, that is surely the most regulated (Hey, after all, we are Germans and have to proof it somehow). If you want to hunt you have to learn all (and there are many) the related (pan-european and national) regulations, laws, rules, techniques, even traditions and hunting ethics – and you have to pass a test. Not yet speaking about the regulations to obtain and possess firearms. Then you better join one of the numerous hunting organisations. There´s no “free” hunting on public land. All the hunting districts are owned by somebody or “assigned” to somebody. Hunting is mostly on deer and roe, wild boar, foxes, rabbits, hare, pheasant and done either from a raised hide or by dragnet hunting (sorry, got the word from a dictionary – might be wrong). We do not have bears here and only a few wolves – they are protected species anyway. But we have the same controversal discussions about deer population decreasing or not and changing behaviour due to the presence of wolves. All this is not valid for all of eastern Europe or some remote regions of southern / southwestern Europe – if you want to hunt there, simply obtain a rifle and walk out into the woods :-))

  17. JEFF E Avatar
    JEFF E

    Thank You, I spent 5 years in Germany in the seventies and remember seeing hunters here and there. Sounds about like the states. Depends in a large part which state you live in.

  18. SAP Avatar

    dave smith – good point that I may be naive in taking their stories at face value.

    However, if he’s beat up that bad and in a fog of painkillers, it’s pretty hard to “spin” the story in a state like that.

  19. None Avatar

    Man! . . . Dave Smith should write a book on this stuff!

    (I read the thread over at YNP Forum where you made numerous valid points about violating wildlife ethics. Almost erry how that thread relates to this incident. Maybe you really should write another book on this stuff.)

  20. RedTree Photography Avatar

    I encountered a grizzly once, and I had no intention of getting any closer to it than I already was!

  21. Beewee Avatar

    A beautiful, big black bear walked right on he street in font of us in Lamar Valley(near Peppble Creek) around 5:00PM. He was eating the summer vegetation along the roads edge. We stayed in our car,and got fabulous photos of him, He didn’t seem to be stressed by our quiet presence. The eventual appearance of a ranger created the most chaos and then he drove off. Wish we could share our photos, but don’t know your protocol. Beewee

  22. Beewee Avatar

    How does one forward a photo to this blog for all to see? I have several great shots that I took from my car.
    Sorry for the mispelled words in the last entry.. I was cross-eyed after the trip.
    We also saw 2 crimsom and cream colored sows at Dunraven turn-out. ONE HAD TWINS AND THE OTHER HAD TRIPPLETS.
    Thank God for the generous people who shared their spotting scopes with the on lookers. Also have an interesting story from Lake Hotel about a black female transplanted to higher
    ground before she became “evironmentaly unstable”. Any help is appreciated. B.

  23. Cara Michelle Avatar

    One should not be ignorant to facts which they do not understand or know them well enough to speak. If I did not already know the truth, I too would claim that Jim Cole was an idiot. He is not an idiot, however. He is my UNCLE and the closest family member that I have. What happened, both times, was a complete accident due to the fact that he has spent almost every day of his life for the past few decades in bear country. How likely would it be to be struck by lightening, maybe even twice, if you spent time in a thunderstorm each and every day? He is an educated, smart man with a family who does not take risks by getting too close to bears. His pepper spray is only carried in case of severe emergency to save his life if he must, not to harm bears. The attack was traumatic for him, myself, and his friends. I would only hope that from reading this post that one might realize how ignorant it is to comment based upon speculation when most details of the event have been kept AWAY from the public eye.

  24. josh m w Avatar
    josh m w

    I hiked the same as area as Jim the day before he did last year. I also hiked it yesterday and saw a sow with a yearling. She was wearing a collar. Although I have also heard personal accounts of Jim’s bold activity around bears I would like to echo the comments of his niece Cara Michelle. When you spend an inordinate amount of time in bear country, irregardless of your behavior, you are going to increase your chances of incident. I see about 100 different wild grizzlies each year in the GYE, most of them while on foot miles from a vehicle. I am sure that despite my extreme caution, my chances are higher than most people posting on this blog. I’m not defending Jim’s actions…because I did’nt see them…and neither did anyone else.


Dr. Ralph Maughan is professor emeritus of political science at Idaho State University. He was a Western Watersheds Project Board Member off and on for many years, and was also its President for several years. For a long time he produced Ralph Maughan’s Wolf Report. He was a founder of the Greater Yellowstone Coalition. He and Jackie Johnson Maughan wrote three editions of “Hiking Idaho.” He also wrote “Beyond the Tetons” and “Backpacking Wyoming’s Teton and Washakie Wilderness.” He created and is the administrator of The Wildlife News.

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