This is the southernmost record for grizzly bears in many years. The bear was in poor shape.

Story by Cat Urbigkit in the Casper Star Tribune. Hunter Mistakenly Kills Grizzly.

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About The Author

Ralph Maughan

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.

47 Responses to Hunter mistakenly kills grizzly far south in Wind River Range, WY

  1. MikeH says:

    I often wonder if these guys ever bother to read the bear identification guide.

    I often hear about how “hunters care more about the land and animals” than anyone, but rarely do I seem a firm knowledge of the ecosystem from the ones I have talked to. Perhaps it’s just a lack of curiousity or simple knowledge of an activity one is engaging in.

  2. John says:

    Seems that stiffer fines/penalties should exist so hunters will think twice before they shoot. Giving slaps on the wrists for accidental griz killing is not much of a deterrent.

  3. BobCaesar says:

    The one cardinal rule of hunting is: It is100% the obligation and duty of any hunter to be absolutely, positively sure of his/her target before pulling the trigger. If there is any question then you just don’t shoot.

    In this case the shooter probably meant no real harm, but definitely screwed up, and now might have to fork over all of $400 for killing a poor, old still ENDANGERED Griz! $400 – probably his car payment for a whole month!

  4. heavenabove says:

    Since there are many cases of mistaken identities while hunting I suggest a required program on animal identification for hunters. I don’t mean just look at a picture book and be done. It could even be animal specific depending on what tag was put in for. This seems especially important when it comes to bears.

  5. elkhunter says:

    MikeH, First off of course you hear of the mistakes hunters make. Does the local news announce every legal deer/elk killed every day during the season? NO. Why do you think? Cause its normal. SO let me get this right, the one hunter who failed to identify what he was shooting at, which I dont condone in anyway and feel exactly like Bob, you want to lump all hunters together. And then you say that you cant imagine how hunters help the ecosystem? WOW. In UT just so you know, hunters donate THOUSANDS, AND THOUSANDS OF MAN HOURS every year in a dedicated hunter program, that guess what, goes to improving habitat all across the state. Tens of thousands of man hours are donated every year. So your statement makes you appear ignorant of the hunting community, I could be wrong, but thats what your comment makes you out to be. Trying to compare one hunter, to MILLIONS.

  6. Bruce says:

    “Trying to compare one hunter, to MILLIONS.” elkhunter -if there a millions of hunters–you guys are killing way too much wildlife.

  7. Carrie says:

    it’s kinda scary that a deputy did not know the difference
    between a griz and a black bear. isn’t that part of his job?

  8. Robert Hoskins says:

    Actually, what’s important about this story is not the individual hunter’s failure to properly identify a grizzly bear–a not uncommon mistake–but the location of the bear. As Ralph notes, this is the southernmost publicly acknowledged report of a grizzly in the Wind River Mountains for decades, where they were once common until wiped out per demand of the livestock industry during the first half of the 20th century. However, I have been hearing reports of grizzly sightings in the southern Winds for over a decade. In a sense, this is good news, as it means that grizzlies are in fact exploring the southern Winds; where one is, others are sure to follow.

  9. Yes. That’s why I posted the story — the location of the bear, not the mistaken identity of a sick grizzly as a black bear.

  10. Robert Hoskins says:

    Yes, thanks. It’s unfortunate that some commenters missed the point of the post in their rush to condemn hunters. I suppose none of them have ever made a mistake of identification. I am no fan of the Wyoming Game & Fish Department for a lot reasons, but I will say that the Department does a pretty good job with its bear education program for hunters as well as law enforcement. For example, last summer I discovered some illegal bear baits and reported to the local game warden. He worked diligently to find the perpetrators, make arrests, and secure convictions.

    In response to Carrie, it is not part of a Deputy Sheriff’s job to know the difference between a black and grizzly bear. It was rather the individual’s responsibility as a hunter to know the difference. The failure to do so will cost him, as it should.

  11. MikeH says:

    There’s a huge difference between making a mistake in identification with a spotting scope, and shooting something that you are unsure of.

    If you have any doubt, simply don’t shoot. It’s not rocket science.

    And sorry to say, but my personal experience with *most* (read: not all) hunters is that they could care less about conservation and lack a basic understanding of the various ecosystems they hunt in. That’s not “anti-hunting” or “lumping people in”, that’s acknowledging a reality.

  12. SAP says:

    All – take the opportunity to visit WY Game & Fish’s bear identification web page:

    You can take the test yourself; more importantly, they are asking for comments on whether the test should be made mandatory.

    I commented that it should be mandatory, with at least 85 percent correct to pass; and if they are going to allow unlimited re-tests, that the line-up of test photos should change dramatically (maybe completely) with each re-test. Should be pretty easy to do.

    In Montana, the state has been advising hunters for several years now that they could run into a grizzly just about anywhere in the western half of the state.

    Probably, the shooter’s expectation about whether he would see grizzlies in the southern Winds was a big factor — along with the bear’s size and apparent lack of hump. Still no excuse, but maybe priming hunters to recognize that grizzlies could be anywhere in western WY may have prevented this.

    Still, pretty interesting that the bear was that far south. There was a grizzly killed in Granite Creek, on the southern edge of the Gros Ventre wilderness, in maybe 1985, so they have been south of Togwotee Pass for quite a long time — maybe never fully extirpated. From Togwotee, Green River Lakes is an overnight jaunt for a grizzly. From there, Pinedale country wouldn’t be that much further.

  13. kim says:

    people shoot people in hunting accidents all the time,,,and i have yet to see any resemblence between man and a hunted animal,, and yet it happens every year,, i still dont know how someone can say i thought it was a buck,,,, we just dont quite look like bears or deer or moose or what ever,, so why would anyone be remotely surprised by someone shooting a grizzly and thinking it was a black bear,, imo, because he was unable to recognize the differnce, and unable to control his excitement at shooting something,, his firearms privileges should be revoked,, he obviously doesnt know how to distinguish his targets,, and thus, a human could be next,,,,

  14. Carrie says:

    in response to robert hoskins, i do think it is the sheriff’s
    job/responsibility to know the difference between a black
    bear and a griz. if a deputy does not or cannot tell the
    difference how can he/they educate the public on such?
    i’m not here to bash a hunter, just the irresponsibilty
    of shooting an animal that should not have been shot.

  15. SAP says:

    kim – I’ll go out on a limb here and say that most hunters-mistaken-for-game-and-shot cases have been cured by the mandatory use of hunter orange.

    The combination of excitement, anticipation, poor light, and maybe sleep deficit contributed to a phenomenon that was almost hallucinatory: hunters were able to vividly imagine that something that was NOT a deer, elk, or turkey was.

    Repeated tests demonstrated that blaze orange was the only thing that would successfully override these illusions.

    Nowadays, hunters get shot because of poor firearms safety practices — carrying rounds in the chamber, inattention to where their muzzle is pointed, firearms malfunctions, slipping and falling, snagging the trigger on something . . . many preventable accidents. Very few, though, are hunters mistaking other hunters for game.

    Turkey hunting — because many still use full camo — continues to be a problem. The Cheney quail hunting shooting happened because Cheney lacked the discipline to safely limit his firing lane and identify his backstop.

  16. SAP says:

    Carrie – deputy sheriffs are NOT game wardens — wrong department.

    Educating the public is not part of their job — they are strictly law enforcement, just like NYPD or any other civil police force. Knowledge of any wildlife is no more a job requirement for Sublette County deputies than it is for LA narcotics officers. It might be helpful for them to have some knowledge, but it’s not part of their job.

  17. Robert Hoskins says:

    While it may be true that most hunters lack the intimate ecological knowledge that Mike H as well as I would like them to have, I have found it also true in my personal and professional experience that the general public and quite frankly many conservationists and especially “animal lovers” are equally ignorant of that ecological knowledge.

    For example, part of my study of wolf control in the Yukon and wolf reintroduction to Yellowstone a decade ago addressed what the “public” knew about wolves in general, wolf ecology, and wolf conservation, based upon the many thousands of letters commenting on both programs (over 13,000 for wolf reintroduction, 4500 on wolf control. I read every one of them).

    My findings? It didn’t matter whether you were pro-wolf or anti wolf: literally 90-95% of the comment letters, depending upon how stringently I applied the my assessment criteria, didn’t have a clue about wolves. I was able in many cases able to show direct plagiarization in letters from the public of whole passages from pro-wolf and anti-wolf literature sent out by various groups. Essentially, people wrote what they were told to write. No thought or knowledge required.

    I repeat: this was true of both pro-wolf and anti-wolf letters.

    The ignorance displayed in both pro-wolf and anti-wolf letters was appalling. Especially the pro-wolf letters, which had a depressing tendency to treat Never Cry Wolf as an ecological treatise. I had expected the anti-wolf letters to have a “little Red Riding Hood” flavor, but I had hoped the pro-wolf letters would be a little better informed. They weren’t.

    My findings didn’t leave me with much hope for the possibilities of educating the public about complex conservation issues. My survey of various blogs on the Internet simply confirms that lack of hope.

    An interesting aside: Yale sociologist Stephen Kellert and his colleagues found in a very detailed survey done for the Fish & Wildlife Service back in the sixties that the most knowledge group in North America about natural history and wildlife was fur trappers, while the most ignorant groups were sport hunters and animal rights activists. Nothing’s changed.

    Regarding the deputy sheriff in this case, he clearly didn’t think he had made a mistake in identification; the story clearly states he didn’t realize the mistake until he had shown the carcass to the local game warden, which is a legal requirement in Wyoming.

    In short, I think we need to chalk this up as typical human error with no malicious intent, to which the appropriate legal correction will be applied. If some folks want a pound of flesh from the deputy, I guess they’ll have to look elsewhere.

    As for hunter training, I have long supported the creation of “jaegermeister” (master hunter) programs in the United States, similar to those required in Germany, for American hunters. I think eventually we’ll end up with something like that, for the better.

  18. R. Erick Chizmar says:

    As a non-hunter (albeit not pure anti-hunting) what is “was hunting over a legal bait” — particularly the “legal bait” meaning w/ respect to “hunting” bear? Baiting and hunting would seem to be contradictory if it is indeed the placement of bait for the purpose of killing – but what do I know.

  19. Making a smelly bait over which you shoot bears is legal in a number of states.

    It is controversial. Supporters say it helps them identify the bear and not mistakenly shoot a sow with cubs (or, I guess, a grizzly)

  20. Mike Lommler says:

    In northern Minnesota, where I’ve spent a fair amount of time, it is common to run into baiting spots in the woods. It seems to be a fairly normal practice for bear hunting.

  21. JEFF E says:

    As far as bait stations think fishing, same concept different species.

  22. Robert Hoskins says:

    Due to concerns over habituating bears to human foods, I think we will see greater restrictions, and even prohibitions, on bear baiting. Here in NW Wyoming, where we have both grizzlies and black bears, no processed human foods, or even horse grain, may be used at bait stations.

  23. elkhunter says:

    I dont think that is the concern they have, that they would be habituated to human foods, I think a bear would eat anything, my dogs eat anything they can get their mouths on, somtimes other dogs crap! I think it has more to do with fair chase, and that baiting takes away from that. I know that in UT you cannot bait bears, only use hounds or spot and stalk. Either way, I would not hunt bears over bait, kinda take the fun out of it.

  24. jimbob says:

    Again, most of you missed the interesting point; a grizzly bear in the southern Winds is pretty unusual. I thought Wyoming’s bear management plan was to allow no grizzlies in the Winds at all. How will Wyo. G&F react? Will there be mass hysteria in the local communities and by ranchers and hunters? I’ve wondered how they were going to “keep them out”?

  25. Windymesa says:

    Sorry.. I do not feel bad about this grizzlies death.. It thank this man for his “mistake”… no crime was committed in my eyes.. the crime is being committed by the Wyoming Game and Fish. They are encouraging the widening distribution of an animal that has no fear for man… is characterized by aggressive and violent behavior in chance encounters. Evidently the WG&F and other agencies choose the grizzly over human safety. They are placing families who are horse travelers, fisherman, hikers, and backpackers in harms way by introducing this species back into the Winds. Time for those of us who have enjoyed this country relatively grizzly.. and fear-free, to buy, carry and use bear guns for “self defense” of our families and our children… sorry, I’m not giving up my turf to an animal that was removed for a good reason…. I say keep their mauling and killing grounds limited to Yellowstone and the Tetons!

  26. Windymesa says:

    Bingo Jimbob… a grizzly in the southern winds?.. shouldn;t have been there… if this is the case.. as Jimbob said… that the WG&F policy is to ” allow no grizzlies in the Winds at all”… they should give the guy a reward.. I will donate. I want to continue enjoying the Winds with my grand children.. and I don’t want to have to stand guard over my kids at night with a 12 gauge shotgun with rifled slugs… if thats the case… I may have to shoot a few grizzlies in self defense.

  27. Windymesa,

    Gutless idiots like you are just simply disgusting, in my humble opinion.

  28. Linda Hunter says:

    Windymesa: I used to be afraid of grizzly bears like you are and I understand where you are coming from. . I just want to let you know that I started studying bears just because I was so afraid of them and found out what you should . . bears, especially grizzly bears, are very cool, wonderful animals that we need in our ecosystems and when you learn more about them you won’t have to buy a gun or stay out of the woods. Like me, you might go from a keep em out of my woods thoughts to seeking places where they thrive. Give yourself a chance to get to know the animal . . . read some Charlie Russell books like Grizzly Seasons, or take a good tracking class from Jim Halfpenny . . you sound like someone who loves the outdoors so you owe it to yourself to confront your fear by looking into it. . thanks for speaking up for everyone else who has “the fear”. Just like the fear of flying it goes away when you understand the plane and then you even like to fly. After all you don’t want to pass down a fear born of lack of understanding to your grandchildren.

  29. Robert Hoskins says:

    In response to Elkhunter above, yes indeed, the concern is over human/processed foods; the regulations prohibit them. I turned in an illegal bear bait that was using horse grain last summer and the game warden, after finding the perpetrators, cited them for exactly that, in addition to having the baits too close to a trail.

    In response to Jimbob, the official term in the WGFD Grizzly Bear plan is to maintain grizzlies at “low densities” in the central and southern Winds. Locals (ranchers, many hunters) consider “low density” to be “no density.” The biologists and game wardens realize that there is no way to actually keep grizzlies out of these areas, but they have no control over the content or direction of the plan, which has been established by the Wyoming Stockgrowers Association (excuse me, the Wyoming Game & Fish Commission).

    Since grizzlies exist at pretty low densities anyway in the Greater Yellowstone, it’s hard to predict what will happen outside the Primary Conservation Area. A wild card is the policy that the Tribes on the Wind River Indian Reservation take toward bears. If the policy is protective, and it’s looking that way, the Reservation may become a “source” for bears going into the “sink” of the central and southern Winds.

    As for Windymesa, there is no possible response other than “may grizzly bears thrive and prosper.”

  30. Vicki says:

    Oh my gosh!
    Wimpymesa-get a clue. You should be standing guard so that your grandkids can have a wildnerness worth visiting!!! Bears have no fear of humans? That is news to me. Just because they sometimes stand their grond, they aren’t man eating monsters. I hope your grand children become more educated than you. The example you set by making unfounded generalizations is frightening. I can only hope you don’t it pass down. You need to realize that bears are less likely to kill you than your own family members are….your grandkids are more likely to be killed by a drunk. Please, I urge you, become more educated and less paranoid.

  31. john99 says:

    Well in the “sake of safety” windy, should we also outlaw dogs, airplanes, guns, electricity, etc, which have killed far, far more people than the grizzlies ever have. Oh, the automobile too. More people die from auto related accidents a week than have been killed by grizzlies in the last 100 years! We’ve already taken away over 98% of their habitat in the last 150 years or so. I think thats more than enough 😉

  32. Jay says:

    Move to California Windy…no Grizzlies for thousands of miles!

  33. windymesa says:

    Jay.. no thanks.. I am safer in Hayden Valley
    john99: we can’t return this country to it’s virginity until we lower our population and infarstructure to what it was in 1500….. the Griz lost out.. sorry. Keep it in Yellowstone, or Alaska away from the human interface.
    Vicki: Generalizations are what we operate on to survive… sure.. there might be one Griz that will come up and lick you on the nose, smile and walk away…. you go look for him.
    Hoskins: I agree.. may Grizzly bears thive and prosper.. within Yellowstone National Park.
    Linda: Everyone is afraid of a grizzly.. I respect them, and realize they can have a place… we can not expand their range with our level of civilization/human interface. Your cool griz teddybears mauled a close friend of mine.
    Ralph Maughan: your not humble… sorry that people have opinions that differ from yours… you really shouldn’t call people names… sets a bad example.

  34. SAP says:

    Windymesa: so, what’s your plan for dealing with the black bears in the Winds, then? In light of recent black bear attacks in Georgia and Utah, shouldn’t you be pushing to get rid of them, too?

    Or do you feel ok about standing night watch with the 12 gauge, so long as it’s just black bears?

  35. Moose says:


    Nice set up…ya got the response you wanted…humaninterface…LOL

  36. john99 says:

    WM, it seems your knowledge of grizzlies is extremely limited. It is very shameful on our part if we can’t coexist with creatures proven to be much less violent than ourselves.

  37. Jay says:

    What a joke…you make my point exactly Windy, when you say you’re safer in Hayden Valley than in California. You talk about standing guard over your grandkids with a shotgun to protect them from grizzlies–over the past several months I’ve heard of many kids abducted by people, grizzlies, not so many (in fact, ZERO!!!!). Your unfounded, silly fear of wildlife baffles me. I’ll pack a gun in the woods from the nutjob people out there before I’ll ever carry one for bears.

  38. windymesa says:

    Jay.. you must have missed the recent Utah bear killing of an 11 year old dragged out of the tent last week… if you missed that you missed more…. your like a mother who can’t admit her som is a bad boy…. and sorry…. and… you can’t pack a gun in the National Parks to protect yourself form either bears or bad people…. but there is a bill being considered to change that so you can. 3 Grizzly maulings in the Tetons in the last year and 1/2.. the latest last week near Jackson Lake Lodge… more mismanagement by the NPS? Google it. Grizzlies 3 points.

  39. To paraphrase Julie Scardina; As long as there is habitat, there is room for every animal and person. Years ago I used to hunt with my dad.{he passed 8 years ago}. Other than while hunting, the only other reason either of us carried a gun was for those “nut-job” people that Jay mentioned. The greatest trait animals possess is honesty. Some people just have a knack to be able to read animals behavior. I have had some of the most amazing experiences with some really huge animals out in the wilderness and small ones too.

  40. kim says:

    “he combination of excitement, anticipation, poor light, and maybe sleep deficit contributed to a phenomenon that was almost hallucinatory: hunters were able to vividly imagine that something that was NOT a deer, elk, or turkey was.”

    IMO, the reasons you state above are even more reason not to have a weapon,, seems a poor excuse,,,if you are too tired, hungover, what ever that your judgemetn is clouded, you simply ought to not be out with a weapon,,,

    depravation of sleep has been shown to be just as dangerous as a drunk driver,

  41. …the griz lost out – sorry! What a fine example of human arrogance! We move into the last remaining habitat and all we say is…the griz lost out – sorry, and the tigers lost out – sorry, and the leopards lost out sorry – and the wolves lost out, sorry! Fence in YNP like Krueger in SA and keep the bears in a zoo!
    Even better, some of us do not even feel comfortable out there and should better move to a nice suburban with neighbourhood watch installed and manicured lawn. Do they? No, the bears must go, and the wolves and the coyotes and and and. Did you ever see somebody moving back to the city, admitting “Bear country was not for me!” ?This is 2007, great! Hopefully our children and grandchildren are wiser than we are!

  42. Jay says:

    Windy, yes I heard about it…going back and re-reading your post, my impression was that you were talking about “standing guard” over your kids in your backyard, not out in the woods. Regardless, that doesn’t change the fact that you’re being completely irrational about your unfounded fears of the big bad critters in the woods. I suspect you’ll have no problem with those same kids getting their drivers license, but you’re worried about a bear getting them. Tell me which is more likely to happen: a bear pulling a kid out of tent, or that kid killing him/herself, someone else, or both, behind the wheel? The number of people attacked by any kind of wild animal is so low that it’s asinine to state that we can only have bears in national parks because you’ve got this ridiculous fear of wild animals. If you’re that scared, stay home. Wanna protect your kids? Don’t let them drive, play contact sports, etc. I doubt that’ll happen though.

  43. Jay says:

    Windy: 43,000 traffic deaths last year–google it.

    Cars 43,000 points.

  44. windymesa says:

    Peter: you said “the griz lost out – sorry! What a fine example of human arrogance!”… sorry… it’s sad.. but it is a fact.. (Grizzlies were very wide spread in the west in the early 1800’s)… and stated in that manner. I’m as said about that as you, and wish we could go back to 1500’s). You read your own emotions into the statement.
    Well I don’t have anymore time.. this was fun, and the answer is a tough one… a lot of people with a lot of ideas on how they want to manage the wild animals we let coexist with our civilization…. a lot of smart, good, well meaning people trying to make this the best world while we are all still here. The bears need a voice… and we need our bear lovers… even if only book learned arm chair bear lovers. Watch out when your in the Bear/Human Interface. Don’t end up like that photographer in Yellowstone’s Hayden Valley last month… (his second mauling?… he’s not very pretty anymore… now thats a bear lover.. geez). Let’s hope all the people that venture there are as field savy as you and me…. if not, hopefully they’ll bring thier books on vacation. God Bless you and yours and the Griz.

  45. My thoughts are sometimes surely quite emotional. Nevertheless, I think it´s no longer acceptable that humans move into, occupy and – as a consequence – destroy more and more habitat. It´s not restricted to grizzly habitat in North America. That´s why I mention the Tiger and (Snow) Leopard and many more. There is a Tiger habitat in India where it was fairly easy to see one or two only a few years ago. They are all gone today!

    It´s a severe problem all over this globe with even the last and most remote areas in the far east now severely in danger. In my opinion it has something (but not only) to do with human arrogance and ignorance: “Hey, this is a nice place, I will settle down here and exploit it. But – of course – these animals have to go. If not voluntary I´ll help them volunteer with my gun! They loose – too bad – I´m really sorry for that!” Human thinking is often stuck in patterns from centuries ago. I´m sure there has to be some fresh thinking in this millenium. I´m not a fatalist but – it is too late all too soon. In the interest of my (not yet born) grandchildren I´d like to see the survival of these animals in their natural environment.

    On the posivite side, there are a few remarkable exceptions where humans live in kind of harmony together with bears and wolves and nobody thinks in terms of “management” or “danger to our children” . Romania is a remarkable example!

    People there accept their furry and sometimes dangerous neighbours. They share their territory and know how to live with them. Let´s me believe: It could work! Sorry to all of you for “blocking this blog” with my thoughts…and normally I carry more books back from my vacations than I bring along :-))

    Peter. Thank you for your insights from Germany. I certainly appreciate the perspective you bring to these issues. Ralph Maughan

  46. Eric says:

    You’re wrong. Humans can’t have every last piece of property on the planet. We’re doomed to think so. There’s a reason for wildlife. Nature doesn’t do anything purposely- Aristotle.

  47. Eric says:

    purposelesly.. I’m paraphrasing


June 2007


‎"At some point we must draw a line across the ground of our home and our being, drive a spear into the land and say to the bulldozers, earthmovers, government and corporations, “thus far and no further.” If we do not, we shall later feel, instead of pride, the regret of Thoreau, that good but overly-bookish man, who wrote, near the end of his life, “If I repent of anything it is likely to be my good behaviour."

~ Edward Abbey