Two more hunters mauled by grizzlies, with one griz dead, north of Yellowstone Park

This makes the third and the fourth incident of the year between grizzlies and hunters just north of Yellowstone Park.

All four have been separate incidents. The toll is 4 mauled hunters and two dead female grizzlies with cubs.

One attack was west of Beattie Gulch, and was probably the same bear that mauled Dustin Flack of Belgrade near Beattie Gulch on Sept. 15. A hunter in the party fired on the bear, which had three cubs, but seem to have missed.

The second case was in Sunlight Creek. This is near Tom Miner Basin. Here the grizzly charged and was briefly repelled by a big blast of pepper spray, but she quickly returned and was shot twice with a .44 magnum pistol. She is probably dead.

All of the incidents have been grizzlies with cubs who were probably surprised.

Webmaster note: The Bozeman Chronicle has fallen into the “pay to view archives” category. So links to their articles soon disappear. I wonder if newspapers that do this really make enough money to outweigh the publicity they get from long-term links to their articles?

Bow hunters attacked by bears in separate incidents. By Scott McMillion. Bozeman Chronicle Staff Writer

Update 10/8: Grizzly Bear in Tom Miner [Sunlight Creek] mauling found dead. By Scott McMillion. Bozeman Chronicle Staff Writer.

The grizzly that got pepper sprayed and then shot was found dead. The female near Beattie Gulch was apparently not hit. She did inflict some puncture wounds on the one of the hunters. The Beattle Gulch area is now closed to all human entry.

– – – –

Update 10/10: Elk hunters warned: Beware of hungry bears. By Mike Stark. Billings Gazette (link still active)





  1. Poor bears Avatar
    Poor bears

    What has come of the cubs? They should ban bow-hunting in Griz habitat

  2. michelle Avatar

    Why are they bow hunting with firearms on them. In Utah if you are bow hunting it is illegal to possess a firearm. it sounds to me like they need to end hunting in this area. Not only are these mother bears being killed but the cubs probably won’t survive either, how sad.

  3. SmokyMtMan Avatar

    More tragic events regarding female Grizzlies with cubs. I agree with you, Michelle, this area seems to have too high of a density of Grizzlies for hunting of any kind.

    This is particularly true when hunters don’t even bother to carry bear spray, show little regard for the bears, and don’t hesitate to shoot to kill during any encounter.

    I think hunters historically have helped to preserve large areas of productive animal habitat from commercial development, and I appreciate that fact very much. However, incidents like these make me happy that hunting is a dying sport.

  4. Mack P. Bray Avatar
    Mack P. Bray

    For a first hand account of dealing with outfitters and guides killing elk over salt and the grizzlies that come in for the gut piles, this is a must read from Bob Jackson, ex-backcountry Yellowstone ranger. His patrol area was the Thorofare.

  5. skyrim Avatar

    Thanks Mack for putting this piece up. Does anyone know anything about Jackson’s replacement?

  6. Anna Avatar

    this saddens me so much, it seems that these hunters do not have a clue as to what they are doing.. they are cowards with guns, and the bears suffer. that area needs to
    be closed off to hunting for good. and i don’t feel sorry for
    any of those hunters getting mauled, thats what happens
    when you sneek around in the backcounty in grizzly territory.

  7. Ralph Maughan Avatar

    Well the problem is this — the way you stay safe when grizzlies are around and the way you stalk elk are contradictory. If you are hunting to sneak up for a shot at an elk, you are also moving in a way that a grizzly won’t see you until you are too close.

    If you bugle for elk, it can attract a hungry grizzly. Moreover, grizzlies in the area know perfectly well that the elk hunt means there will be gut piles on the ground.

    Are there any solutions?

  8. elkhunter Avatar

    You are always gonna have conflicts, and I think crying for a ban on all hunting in those areas is not the way to go. If you want sportsman/hunters to support grizz and wolf introduction I would probably not recommend banning hunting. If you think opposition is bad now, just imagine what it would be like if you tried to ban hunting.

    Smoky, The one hunter had bear spray.

    Michelle, you can carry a firearm in UT if you have a concealed weapons permit. I know MT and WY are trying to pass laws that would allow bowhunters to carry protective firearms in bear country.

    From your statements I know you have probably never been hunting. Ralph is right, your sneaking through the woods, things happen very fast. If I was charged by a bear I can promise you the last thing I am worried about is the safety of the bear. My safety would be of a little bit more importance. So if you have a charging bear, I would shoot first and ask questions later.

  9. Carl Avatar

    Mack, Thank you for the excellent article by Bob Jackson. While I have never seen a grizzly or a wolf using a gut pile or road killed animal while visiting the Yellowstone area, I have observed coyotes, a black bear, a fisher, a couple of pine martins, a fox and numerous birds. It seams that a variety of wildlife species have become dependent on this food source before winter moves in. Have any studies been done on the effects to the other wildlife? If some kind of restrictive hunt Boundary were placed around the Park would the bears and wolves just move farther in search of food? Doesn’t seam to be an easy answer to a tough situation.
    Ralph in reading the article it appears that one party used pepper spray but that the other did not. Is that right?

  10. Mack P. Bray Avatar
    Mack P. Bray

    elkhunter, your ignorance has reared its ugly head yet again.

    “So if you have a charging bear, I would shoot first and ask questions later.”

    Check with your state game/fish agency/department. Check with your local/regional forest service office. Check with your local/regional BLM office. Check with your local/regional national park office. Ask them if they recommend that everyone, hunters included, carry bear spray in bear country. Ask them which they think is more effective on a charging bear, in any situation: bear spray or a firearm.

    Report back with your results.

  11. d. Bailey Hill Avatar

    It is interesting that hiking trails get temperarily closed because of bear activity and that an area with sow and cubs does not get temp. closed even after a person gets attacked. Being that a bear w/cubs is staying in the same area, is most likely due to the absence of the male grizzlys. Temporary closures are for safety, not a ban on hunting.

  12. elkhunter Avatar

    Mack, you with your nice compliments!! I read the story, the bear was on them very quickly, I am sure that things happen very fast, if I am carrying a high-powered rifle and I look up and see a charging bear, I dont I would drop my gun and pick up my bear spray, now if I had time to see the bear and sort of prepare myself then yes I would use the spray, then the gun if needed. Please act your age and stop insulting anyone who does not agree with you. Thanks

  13. elkhunter Avatar

    Mack, as for the ignorance, it seems you think very highly of your opinion, because in every post that someone does not 110 percent agree with you, you unleash with the insults. So is it you that could have an ignorance problem? Maybe?

  14. Mack P. Bray Avatar
    Mack P. Bray

    elkhunter, my comment on your ignorance was not an insult – it was simply a comment on your ignorance.

    In the situation you described above, it WOULD be more effective and SAFE to drop your gun and use bear spray.

    I encourage you to contact the agencies/departments/offices I recommended in my post above.

    Ask them if they recommend that everyone, hunters included, carry bear spray in bear country. Ask them which they think is more effective on a charging bear, in any situation: bear spray or a firearm. Ask them how many bear charges are bluff charges.

    Report back with your results.

    elkhunter said “…stop insulting anyone who does not agree with you.” This is not about my opinion or your opinion. Get the facts about bear spray. If you do not agree with the facts, you are free to argue with the facts and fact-finders.

  15. Dave Avatar

    I agree with Ekhunter – his point being do anything and everything you can to survive with whatever means you may have (That is my take on his entry).

    It appears you are more interested in trying to contradict Elkhunter than you are in the story. Am I wrong to think you do not like guns in general? or maybe just Elkhunter?
    Yes, everybody loves bear spray and how it works most every time to deter attacks. I do not pretend to think I know what I would do given the scenario – reach for gun or the spray?

    I will say defending yourself by shooting the bear does not quantify all your beliefs –

  16. Linda Hunter Avatar
    Linda Hunter

    Nobody seems to mention the fact that most bear charges are bluff charges. . I have looked into a couple of “hunter” maulings by black bears and found out that the reporting party did no have their wits about them when a bear charged. . and really couldn’t remember exactly what happened. Looking at the tracks and sign usually tell a different story. In one incident the huner was injured by running and the bear was actually running the other way just as fast. . but he was alone so only the tracks told the story. I can’t tell from the newspaper story at all what happened in these incidents. If I were a hunter and made a mistake around a bear I sure wouldn’t tell the newspaper. Elk hunter it is an age old problem to try and read a bears intentions when they are charging, but when I have been charged or challenged just doing absoultely nothing was vey intimidating to the bear . . of course I did nothing with the pepper spray handy, but my most serious challenges have happend in camp when for one reason or another I had no spray. I took the hint from other bears and acting completely unconcerned by the bear always makes them sweat and go the other way. I realize it takes practice to do this but hunters need more education in how to act around bears. . actually most people in the lower 48 states have had the living daylights scared out of them by varioius media accounts which makes it doubly hard to act correctly around bears. . there must be a way to change this tide of misunderstanding and perhaps hunters will be the ones to do it.

  17. elkhunter Avatar

    Linda Hunter,
    You have good points, my only point is, not everyone has the experience around bears that you do. So take me for example, I have never encountered a grizz before, so if I saw one charging me the last thing I would probably be doing is wondering if its a bluff charge or a real charge. I think instinct would take over. But if I did hunt in bear country I would carry spray.

    As for ignorance, in my comment did I once say that bear spray is ineffective? Did I ever say that guns are more effective? NO!! PLEASE READ. Stop looking to argue. Of course its effective, thats why they make it. But in the heat of the moment, when things happen VERY fast, I can understand how someone would shoot the bear over reaching for their spray. Ignorance is bad, especially when it is on display Mack. Please read comments before posting. Thanks

  18. Dave Avatar

    Linda, I agree and it is somewhat my point. I have spent lots of time in the backcountry but I still am not sure what I would do. I know every piece of education tells you that spray is more effective, but as I sit here I am not sure what I would do.
    I dont know how to educate anyone on this – unfortunately it may take experience in the situation

  19. Anna Avatar

    elkhunter, you are right i have not been hunting, nor do i want to, however i do a lot of hiking and backpacking in yellowstone, i do not go into the backcountry unprepared.
    hunters have to know what the risks are esp with grizzly bears, so pick another area to hunt elk where there isn’t any possible threat of being attacked by a grizz.

  20. Mack P. Bray Avatar
    Mack P. Bray

    Dave, I agree: do anything and everything you can to survive with whatever means you may have. But be prepared for your situation – carry bear spray. And use the most effective device/technique FIRST, before going to a backup. Ask any federal/state manager of any forest/park/state in grizzly country and they will tell you that, in grizzly country, bear spray is safer and more effective than a firearm. In other words, bear spray is your first line of defense.

    Yes, you are wrong to think I do not like guns in general. I am a hunter – wish me luck this season – I hope to kill a big fat cow (elk- HA…!) and yes, it will be in grizzly country. Should a grizzly charge me, I’ll empty my can of bear spray. Should that not work – the grizz keeps charging, I don’t know what I’d do. At some point (HURRY…!), I’d have to defend myself by shooting, and, hopefully, killing it very quickly.

    Linda, I have mentioned, numerous times, that most grizzly charges are bluff charges – some 95% +/-.

    I’ve seen many grizzlies; I’ve been around them and observed them and I’ve been in several tough situations with grizzlies – one night was my “night of terror” – but in 11 years of recreating in grizzly country, I’ve had to spray only one bear and it was a black bear. I’ll frequently be very aggressive with black bears – shooing or hazing them away.

    elkhunter, what you said was “So if you have a charging bear, I would shoot first and ask questions later.” This, in my opinion, would be an act of ignorance.

    I have nothing against elkhunter. It’s ignorance I dislike.

    Anna’s right. elkhunter, stay in Utah and hunt elk where there aren’t any grizzlies. Something tells me we’d all be safer – including the grizzlies.

  21. elkhunter Avatar

    Mack, I have nothing against a grizz, but like Dave said, in that situation I dont know exactly what I would do. But since I bowhunt only I would have to hope the spray stops him. My survival and safety ranks alot higher than the bear.

  22. Mack P. Bray Avatar
    Mack P. Bray

    elkhunter, you are contradicting yourself.

    Earlier, you said “So if you have a charging bear, I would shoot first and ask questions later.”

    Now you’re saying “…I dont know exactly what I would do.”

    Which is it, shoot first or be indecisive? You can’t have it both ways.

    “But since I bowhunt only…” If you don’t carry a rifle, how would you shoot a grizzly?

    There seems to be some confusion here…

    Anna’s right. elkhunter, stay in Utah and hunt elk where there aren’t any grizzlies. Something tells me we’d all be safer – including the grizzlies.

  23. Linda Hunter Avatar
    Linda Hunter

    I just finished reading the Robert Jackson report. . wow. No wonder there are bear problems with hunters. . unfortunately every bear that gets away with intimidating a human learns we aren’t so tough as they think we are and they do it again. Elk hunting also happens at the same time the bears will forget their manners to put on winter fat. I never knew what I would do, either, confronted with a charging bear. . but I guess I had done enough homework to just stand there. That first time is rough, but unless you are a super marksman who practices stressfire shooting at the local range once a week, I don’t think you could drop a griz in a charge. . however that 40 times at least more sensitive nose than ours sure gets a sting out of pepper spray. If bears learn that humans are not pushovers and spray like skunks if you try to discipline them they would limit their charges to defense charges, which are easier to avoid by not cornering or challenging bears. It is possible that bears, who learn faster than us it seems, have now discovered that they can have their way with hunters and all their stuff and are hoping to train more hunters to shoot elk for them and then run away. Robert Jackson’s report would make me think twice about hunting in grizzly country around Yellowstone. I did once run up against a brown bear who had been taught that he could chase humans off food. He was persistant, but prudent in the end and almost seemed apologetic when he realized we weren’t gonna be pushed, . . kinda like “aw gee guys, I was just kiddin”. Dave and Elkhunter, I think you both would be fine if a grizzly charged you. . you know that you don’t have many choices when a bear is coming at you like a train but if you look closely you will see the bear watching you to see what you are going to do. . you have nothing to lose at the point in doing nothing. . the charge stops, the bear huffs and tries to save face by literally turning his face aside, you do the same and the bear walks away sideways still pissed, but defused. I have not used pepper spray in a charge or challenge, but I did use it when a black bear was in our shed eating the laundry . . we couldn’t get him out so I walked in past him, brushed past actually, and then held my nose and sprayed. . he launched out of the narrow shed like a rocket and never came back and we had to wash the laundry twice. . . oh well.

  24. Carl Avatar

    Elkhunter, I agree with what you have said. I have been bluff charged twice by black bears in Minnesota while hiking. It is very hard to keep your composer and not want to run. The first time involved a large boar who stopped about 10 feet away. The second involved a sow with 3 cubs. She didn’t stop but went on past me coming within 3 feet. On her second charge she did stop at about 8-10 feet. In both cases it was extremely hard not to want to run. on a couple of other occasions I have just slowly backed up without being charged,

  25. JEFF E Avatar
    JEFF E

    let’s see… I have just treed a bear, shot it, it fell out of the tree on what is obviously a threat (the dog) and starts to whup ass, and I’m going to try to “stop the fight”……hmmmmm.

  26. JEFF E Avatar
    JEFF E

    Referring to the link by moose. :*)

  27. Elkhunter Avatar

    Mack. You got me!! I would shoot the bear just to shoot it!

  28. Elkhunter Avatar

    To answer your question, IF i had a rifle, I would shoot the bear, or spray it with pepper, or hope it runs by, or hope that its a bluff charge, or hope it does not charge at all, or hope it does not have cubs, or hope that its not defending a kill. If I had a bow, i would shoot it with my bow, hoping to hit it in the spine and dropping it, or spray it with pepper spray. Mack does that cover about all the scenario’s possible? I will remember to script out my hunt next time I go, imagine how easy hunting would be if we knew what would happe n every time! So to answer your question, I dont really know what i would do if a grizz charged, whatever i did do, i would do with the intent to save my life or limbs! 🙂

    Mack, if you can think of any other scenarios that I need to cover to answer your question let me know. Thanks

  29. R. Erick Chizmar Avatar
    R. Erick Chizmar

    Thanks for the Bob Jackson article. It was both powerful and straightforward – pretty difficult to question/contradict/dismiss the opinions/logic/credibility of Jackson (assuming his credentials/experience are as indicated) — someone who actually walks the walk in the areas of these discussions. What, if anything, has been done since 12/01 to address the issues Jackson raised? Any follow-up citations or information would be appreciated. I’d like to know the responses provided by the Outfitters in the area.

  30. Mack P. Bray Avatar
    Mack P. Bray

    elkhunter, sounds like a plan to me. Yeah, right.

    There seems to be some confusion here…

    Anna’s right. elkhunter, stay in Utah and hunt elk where there aren’t any grizzlies. Something tells me we’d all be safer – including the grizzlies.

    Here’s a link to what the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has to say about grizzlies, bear spray and bullet:

    R. Erick Chizmar, I hope to more fully respond to your question about what’s been done, but off the top of my head, I’m not aware of anything. It’s my understanding that generally speaking, most outfitters hated Jackson. I surmise that they all respected him, though.

  31. robp Avatar

    if i read the story right, in the one instance the bear was sprayed with pepper spray and still mounted a second charge. obviously there are times when the spray works more effectively than others, but in all circumstances the hunter should have the right to defend themselves. unfortunately sometimes this will mean killing the bear.
    hunters in these circumstances should be prepared when going into bear country and bring spray with them, not to would be inexcusable. if time allows during an attack (like you have enough time to see a bear coming) than the spray should be your first option. if not, shoot the bear, you have a family to go back to. if i sprayed the bear once and it came back at me again i don’t think i would have the same confidence in the spray as mack seems to. if it came down to me shooting a bear to defend myself or a companion when the first deterrent method didn’t work then i wouldn’t hesitate. i’m not sure if mack would try to talk the bear off the ledge or what?

    also, for all of you that claim to “not know what you would do if a grizzly charged” i can tell you that your indecision would probably end up in a trip the the hospital and a nice article in the paper. i suggest all of you indecisive types should make up your minds before venturing out into the wilderness again, or else you will likely become statistics. just so you know, your choices during a bear charge/attack will be to:
    1) RUN (not recommended)
    2) pepper spray the bear
    3) shoot the bear (again, not recommended unless absolutely necessary)
    4) stand there until the bear attacks you and then pepper spray him like mack would

    frankly, a lot of you seem to be all for banning hunting in bear country which is ludicrous. next thing you will be complaining about is how bad your economy is, not realizing how much hunters are contributing to the economy.

  32. mikarooni Avatar

    I’ve done my share of hunting, had my share of both brown and black bear encounters, know that only a small portion of bear encounters actually lead to physical contact, and, with all of that said, something has been bothering me about all of these recent deadly encounters. Some of the anti-ESA, a;most all of the rabidly pro-gun, and many of so-called hunting groups have been whipping up quite a bit of irrational, extreme, and venomous hatred for all carnivores recently. Some of this propaganda has tried to indoctrinate the idiot fringe to the effect that bear spray is useless and that “real men” rely on bullets. Some of this disinformation is even evident here. Given this situation, is it possible that some of these encounters involve situations in which the hunters might, as a result of the right-wing propaganda being fostered, be less amenable to carrying/using bear spray and more apt to open fire?

  33. Cordell Avatar


    you said:
    “Some of the anti-ESA, a;most all of the rabidly pro-gun, and many of so-called hunting groups have been whipping up quite a bit of irrational, extreme, and venomous hatred for all carnivores recently. Some of this propaganda has tried to indoctrinate the idiot fringe to the effect that bear spray is useless and that “real men” rely on bullets.”

    Could you list some examples or links to clarify the above statement?

  34. Dan Stebbins Avatar

    I think the most important thing here is education. If you happen to be bow hunting in Grizz habitat, you obviously should be aware of the dangers involved in doing so. However this isn’t just about hunters, it’s about humans as a whole. There are encounters every summer inside the park with hikers too. While we continue to inhabit the same areas, there is really no way to put an end to bear-human encounters, we can only hope to educate people and limit them.
    Bow hunters seem to be affected here because the whole point of bow hunting is to truly challenge yourself as a hunter, using stealth and your tracking skills (I don’t bow hunt, but I have a ton of respect for those that do). This unfortunately does mean you are probably running a higher risk of surprising a bear which will generally lead to a bluff charge or defensive action by the bear. Another reason there have been a few incidents this year is that the bears may be looking for food in lower elevations than normal. They are normally higher up his time of year but because of the drought and pine bark beetle they may have been pushed down.

    I can’t be critical of the hunters here because they get charged by a bear and they are just reacting in the interest of self-preservation. However if you do happen to surprise a bear at that range, statistics show it’s almost certainly either a bluff charge or attacking in a defensive manner. Sounds like a oxymoron, I know, but Bears attacking in this manner are not out to kill you, but just let you know that they are willing to defend themselves if you are a threat and then they want to get away from you.
    However, if you are being clawed or bitten by a bear, you aren’t interested in the Bear’s intentions, you just want him to stop kicking your butt.
    Personally as someone who hunts and has run into bears (Griz & Black) on 3 or 4 occasions, I would much prefer bear spray to a firearm. I have plenty of friends that definitely have that “macho” idea that the spray is somehow less manly than a gun. My argument is always this, you don’t need to be very accurate with bear spray. I’d like to see any John Wayne types put a fatal shot into a charging bear in a surprise encounter. Read the Lewis & Clark journals about their hunters putting heavy caliber musket balls into Grizzlies time after time and see how that worked out for them.
    Bear spray does also has the added benefit of not permanently damaging the bear, but most of the times I’ve heard of it being used the user has “gotten it” as good as they’ve given.

  35. elkhunter Avatar

    Mikarooni, the bowhunters did use spray first, then they shot it after it charged. So they did use the spray.

  36. sal Avatar


    As I read from the top, all the posts, I became certain of what I had to say on this issue and the arguments above…

    but Dan Stebbins covered my thoughts, precisely. Thank you, Dan, for eloquently bringing forth this very key element of “hunting” as it is carried out in modern human functioning.

    The idea of subsistance hunting is still a factor for those who live within range of game animals to hunt yet it represents a very small population in this country. Sport hunting, on the other hand, is just that… supposedly a sport.

    What is the meaning of sport?

    If it means to enter into competition with some “other” (be it a team or individual human or animal) with the death of one in mind… shouldn’t it be, naturally, undecided at the onset? Rather than entering the field with the hubris of certain victory due to the fact that there is no real competition, only exhibition of some self-acclaimed superiority that is, at best, questionable. If that is the case, then I object to the hunting with guns–or any other weapon–all together. That isn’t a sport, it may be entertainment for some, but it isn’t a sport.

    If it means going into the field with a questionable outcome–other than whether you “bag one” or not–uncertain as to whether you will encounter your prey undetected, and if not, how you will go about your next decision process and acting on it is part of the “sport”, I would think. Even a pack of wolves can get their asses kicked while taking their prey.

    I don’t hunt, but I do shoot guns. I track, forage and other things in the wild. I do live in heavily populated bear territory and I never carry a gun while hiking. I know where several of the “local” bears frequent, and during this time of year, I give them their space. (I’m more concerned about injury from a hunter–with a gun.)

    I have encountered bears, including grizzlies, and other things–even a deer can kick yer butt. But I am aware of the territory I enter and am respectful of where I step, and how I step. I have never had a negative experience with any of the wildlife I have encountered, ever. I understand that I am in their habitat and if they don’t like it they usually let me know without injury to either of us.

    I feel that such concepts as Mr. Stebbins and I have posted have pretty-much evaporated from the hunting mindset in the US. That would be where the problem lies, not in whether you are a gun-hater, conservationist-hater or whatever.

  37. Mack P. Bray Avatar
    Mack P. Bray

    robp, I never said I would “stand there until the bear attacks me and then pepper spray him.” I said “Should a grizzly charge me, I’ll empty my can of bear spray.” Should a grizzly attack me, I’m in a world of doo-doo…! Charges are not attacks. Most charges, some 95% +/-, are bluff charges. Perhaps this is pivotal and where many hunters are mistaken – a grizz charges them and they think they’re being attacked. An attack when a bear touches you. The idea is to PREVENT an attack, and bear spray is the best device we have – better than firearms. Wildlife managers consider any contact whatsoever, even if a grizz brushes you while charging past you, to be extremely serious. So do I…!

    Great comments, Dan and sal.

    “A cowboy hat is the only headgear I know that changes the neurons inside your head.”

    ~ Patricia Nelson Limerick, head of the University of Colorado’s Center of the American West.

  38. Ralph Maughan Avatar
    Ralph Maughan

    Here’s what I think. About 9 out of 10 grizzly charges are bluff charges.

    If you shoot the bear, and don’t quickly kill it, it will turn into an attack. From what I have read, most close shots do not save the person with the gun from some injury.

    If you pepper spray the bear, the bear will be angry too, but it is more likely to retreat than if shot, and you are more likely not to be hurt, although you might be gasping and itching.

    Nothing guaranteed, of course, but pepper spray is more likely to result in neither person nor bear coming to serious injury or death.

  39. Hunterandgrizzlylover Avatar

    Anna and Mack, I want to first start out by saying i have loved grizzlies my whole life. I have also loved hunting. however, I think it is ridiculous to avoid grizzly country when hunting. It is the grizzlies land, but it is my land to. I would do all i could to avoid shooting a grizzly, but desperate times call for desperate measures. If a human charged me with intent to harm (even if they were bluffing you do not know there intent so it is better to be safe than sorry) i would fully intend to harm them back. People seem to think that a grizzly has the right to harm a human and not be held accountable. I know they may not know better but we just can’t let them rule the whole mountains and never step foot in them because they live there. As for all you that seem to hate the idea of hunting, you are not true outdoorsman. Hunters probably know more about wildlife than you, and from real field experience not from reading or from the safety of your car driving through a national park. Hunters have been around since animals have been around, and i have almost never meant a hunter that does not have the utmost respect for the game they are hunting. If they do not have respect for their game than they are not true hunters. As for you smokymtnman (how dare you call yourself a mountainman) i hate to burst your bubble, but hunting will never die out. We are a proud breed.

  40. Dave Smith Avatar
    Dave Smith

    Bears don’t make “bluff charges” or “false charges.” Folks in the Lower-48 states are way behind the learning curve on this one. Back in 2000, about 35 of Alaska’s top bear experts, including Terry DeBruyn, Larry Aumiller, Tom S. Smith, and John Hechtel, got together for an Alaska Interagency Bear Safety and Education Committee. The objective was to have all agencies–Park Service, Forest Service, etc.–give people the same accurate, up-to-date information about bears. They decided bear literature in Alaska should not include the term “bluff charge.”

    The “proof” that bears make bluff charges is based on circular logic. You know the charging bear was bluffing because it stopped short of making contact, and it stopped short of making contact because it was bluffing.

    The real reason bears generally stop short of making contact is that the person they’re charging holds still. By standing still, your body language tells the bear, “I’m ready and willing to defend myself.”

    If you honestly believe a bear makes up its mind, before charging, that it’s goling to bluff/stop short of making contact, there’s an easy way to test your theory–run from a charging bear.

  41. Mack P. Bray Avatar
    Mack P. Bray

    Dave, I don’t understand why this new mind-set hasn’t made it to the lower 48. Any ideas?

    And have all the Alaska agencies decided to drop the term “bluff charge” in all bear literature?

    And how are contact and no/contact charges described?

    Are they just lumped together as “charges?” or what?

  42. Alan Sachanowski Avatar

    The point is, whatever term you choose to use, most charges do not result in a mauling. What Dave says makes sense, though. The same is true with any animal. If you run you are more likely to be attacked. Scott McMillion’s book “Mark of the Grizzly” has been around for awhile, but really illustrates the advantages of bear spray to a gun. I think that in most cases, especially a female with young, the bear is only interested in removing the perceived threat. Whatever works. The fact that very few maulings result in death demonstrates this.
    I’m not sure that I agree that hunters, by nature, are better “outdoorspeople”. That may have been true at one time. The fact is that hunters violate every safety rule known to man (and even the most naive backpacker) in bear country.
    They dress in camo, they often spray themselves down with “no sent” or elk urine, they sneak around without making noise (except maybe an elk call) , they get blood and guts all over themselves field dressing animals etc. I’m not suggesting they not do these things…..that’s what hunters do; but they really, really need to be aware of their surroundings, carry bear spray and know how to use it.
    Hunterandgrizzlover…..I think, just like in human human conflicts, whoever is responsible should be held accountable. If its the bear, fine. If its someone’s stupidity I don’t believe the bear should have to pay.
    Meantime another hunter was mauled in Paradise Valley on Wed. I live about a mile from the Yellowstone river. My cat
    was going crazy last night, running from window to window. This morning we had bear scat in our front yard. If people live, hunt, hike or backpack in bear country they just need to be aware of their surroundings. Hunters especially so.

  43. Squlpt Avatar

    Well it seems that hunters in bear country, esp grizzly bear country should be REQUIRED to have knowledge about bears/bear charges and be required to carry bear pepper spray. To enter bear country unawares for hunting is ignorant and senseless. Bear spray has been proven to be a better defense against a charging griz than a firearm. One ill aimed shot can mean certain death to the hunter or at least serious injury, not to mention injury to the bear. These situations can be avoided by the carrying and proper use of bear spray.

  44. Dave Smith Avatar
    Dave Smith

    In The Grizzly Maze: Timothy Treadwell’s Fatal Obsession with Alaskan Bears, author Nick Jans wrote, “It just seems that cutting edge science takes a decade or two to filter out and become common knowledge; meanwhile, old notions die slowly–especially, it seems, when it comes to bears.”

    Ironically, The Grizzly Maze was riddled with errors.

    Bears are “unpredictable” is being phased out, along with “Never get between a sow and her cubs” and other old notions. At any rate, a charge is a charge. If you’re charged by a bear, ready your bear spray or firearm. With bear spray, you’re told to spray when the bear is . . . what? about 40 feet away. With firearms, hunting guide James Gary Shelton (who wrote a couple of bear attack books) tells people to shoot when the bear is 25 yards away. I think 5-10 yards is more reasonable.

    Bear spray is useful, potent stuff, but I suspect the choir singing that hunters should use bear spray has never hunted, or faced a charging bear. When elk hunting, you often carry your 8-9# rifle in both hands. Your bear spray would be in a velcro holster on your belt. You hear branches snapping, look, and see a grizzly in full charge just 35 yards away. Time is of the essense. Your next move has to be be instinctive. You should have practiced 100s of times. What’s your next move?


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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