Greater Yellowstone grizzly deaths pass lethal limit under delisting

Hunter shoots a Montana grizzly sow, charging to protect cub. Her death one too many for the year-

The other day I predicted that the mortality limit for the year would be passed. It was unfortunately an easy prediction. About 10% of the grizzly population has died or been killed this year. If this happens next year, a petition to relist the Yellowstone grizzly will be in order.

Grizzly deaths reach legal ‘trigger point’. By Brett French. The Billings Gazette Staff


  1. SAP Avatar

    WOW. Not sustainable if this keeps happening.

    I don’t want Ralph to have to shut down this thread because it turned into a re-run of the recent thread on bear spray and hunters. BUT, to me, this looks like a textbook case in which bear pepper spray could have and should have been deployed. This was no instantaneous encounter:

    “The man was hunting in the Cinnabar Basin, northwest of Gardiner, with an outfitter who had left him at the edge of a clearing. When the bear wandered close, the hunter stood and yelled.”

    He had time to see her, wait til she ‘wandered close,’ then stand up and yell at her. That tells me he could have, on first detection of the bear, drawn and readied his bear spray, omitted the yelling part, and waited to see what she would do.

    I’ve done that (not while hunting — while hiking, and then on one memorable moonlit night from my sleeping bag in the upper Greybull).

    And, to briefly re-visit the how-we-carry-our-rifles theme, I wanted to share this link:

    The link is an account of how backpack designer Glen Eberle hunts elk — which is very similar to how I hunt elk: a pre-dawn slog with tremendous elevation gain, kill an elk, pack the elk out.

    Note that Eberle’s packs have a compartment for stowing ones’ rifle — very handy for that pre-dawn march — less risk of dropping the rifle or falling with it in rocks, snow, whatever.

    Also very handy for dragging or packing out the meat — the rifle is safely out of the way, leaving your hands free. I beat my rifle and scope up a little last season, trying to drag a cow elk down an avalanche in a storm. It’s easier on my gear and easier on me to have the rifle in the pack.

    Because that’s the way I hunt, bear spray really is the only viable bear-defense option for me for a lot of the time I’m afield: the rifle is not available to me for quick shooting, because it’s on my back.

  2. John S. Avatar
    John S.

    If this keeps up, it would be nice if they pushed the hunting season back a little until the bears have gone into their dens for the year. They cannot afford to be decimated by hunters year after year.

  3. Ralph Maughan Avatar

    SAP, I agree. It was the first thing I thought after I noted her mortality pushed things over the limit.

  4. Mike Avatar

    I’m really sick of hearing about these sad and preventable events. Obviously, the Gardiner area is a fall grizz hotspot. Hunting should be pushed back until the bears have denned.

    The article says both bears maybe dead? This guy should be carrying BEAR SPRAY. He had plenty of time to use it.

    Enough is enough. This is now irresponsible behaviour.

  5. Linda Hunter Avatar

    I thought it was very interesting that he saw the bear and when she wandered close he stood up and yelled. This is one of the pieces of advice that is given by various park agencies to people when they have a bear encounter that I would not do because if a bear is pretending not to see you (yes, I have seen them do this over and over) it will wander away as well. Sap I totally agree with your take on it. . see the bear, get the spray ready and wait until you see what she does. Sometimes yelling at a bear will make it have to deal with you when it wasn’t going to. My thoughts and observations about bears are based on my field experience. . in my experience not everything I read is true, as a matter of fact many books on bears and research on bears is based on theories which were never proven, not that I can claim mine are, but they are as valid since other theories become fact only by repetition. I try to think outside the box when it comes to animals as we just don’t know that much about them yet, but when something works. . .like pepper spray, then we should go from there as if old behavior repeatedly doesn’t work . . duh, lets do something else.

  6. steve c Avatar
    steve c

    And then they act surprised when a judge tells them they aren’t allowed/able to manage their own animals…

  7. vickif Avatar

    So now what? I am wondering, if they know we are beyond the limit, how will it change anything? They will still be shot if hunters come across them.
    I am no advocate of shooting bears, but obviously humans have to come first. This particular human is an idiot though. If he had time to do all that yelling, he surely had time to think of a better way to handle things.
    My only question would be, if under extreme duress, did he think he was making his presence known….like making noise while hiking? In this instance I would say no. This seems a bit more culpable and I think he should be fined, or something.
    Keeping the issue of spray aside here, the man had time to do something else.

  8. vickif Avatar

    Thanks for the link. That suits my style too. The pack seems to offer more protection for the stock while hiking, I like that. I am taking my boy hunting this week. We will be hiking a ways, too bad I don’t have a couple of these packs for Thursday. It does free up things fo rthose who are also challenged physically, giving them their hands free to balance with. Even when using a sling, it still tends to bounce the rifle a lot. So I spend a lot of time re-positioning it on my shoulder.
    The pack you linked is also a good choice since it frees you up to be more aware of your surroundings. What a great idea.
    I have been reading up a bit about encounters….seems like most are guenuinely preventable. It would seem that there should be some sort of program to help aquaint people with the scenarios, and how to deal with them. Perhaps, a portion of conservation tags should go to provide education.

    In the mean time, the simple and sad fact is, bears will continue to be shot during hunting season. Their numbers are going to be jeopardized as a result. So what do we do? Listed, not listed, when they come into contact with humans that have no idea how to react…we will have mortalities, four and two legged.

  9. chuck parker Avatar
    chuck parker

    Can critics of the hunter tell us what the temperature was when the shooting happened?

    SAP says, the hunter “had time to see her, wait til she ‘wandered close,’ then stand up and yell at her. That tells me he could have, on first detection of the bear, drawn and readied his bear spray, omitted the yelling part, and waited to see what she would do.”

    Can SAP tell us how long it took the bear to wander close? Was it 5 seconds, or 1/100th of a nanosecond?

    Is it possible the hunter brought his rifle into action as he stood up and yelled? Is there an unwritten law that says you can’t point your rifle at a bear while you’re yelling? Or standing up?

    If the hunter was holding his rifle with both hands and had to move fast to defend himself from the bear, what was he supposed to do with his rifle while reaching for bear spray?

  10. chuck parker Avatar
    chuck parker

    Another version of same story from the Livingston Enterprise.

    Another hunter attacked by bear
    By Mark A. York, Enterprise Staff Writer

    A hunter came upon a sow grizzly bear with a cub in the Cinnabar Basin near Corwin Springs Thursday, and shot and killed the cub while wounding the fast-approaching sow, which escaped.

    “There was one shot fired,” said [Kevin] Fry, a FWP grizzly bear management specialist, Friday. “The hunter came upon the female grizzly and cub 15 to 20 feet away, and she stood up, then dropped down on all fours and ran at the man. He fired his rifle from the hip.

    Mark–what did the hunter do that was irresponsible?
    Vicki–do you still think the hunter should be fined? And for what?

  11. Mike Avatar

    More proof that guns just cause more problems in grizzly bear encounters. The guy blindly fires from the hip, wounds the mother and kills the cub in one shot. Sad.

    If that doesn’t scream “mandatory bear spray” in grizzly areas, I don’t know what does.

    Secondly, while it sucks that humans get attacked, I’m not too horrified when a creature that goes out looking to kill other creatures is then killed by another creature. Isn’t that how the game is played?

  12. vickif Avatar

    Okay Chuck,
    I will not go rounds with you about this. You believe what you believe, so be it.
    But I doubt the hunter could tell anyone how fast the sow approached with any degree of certainty. Here is one area I have some background in, medicine Adrenaline can play great big tricks on you, and accelerate the body’s functions, and even it’s perceptive capabilities. It is a “natural high”.

    Do I think he should be fined, yes. He shot an animal that he could have avoided shooting. But that is my opinion, and I honestly have not an iota of care if you agree or not.

    I was expressing gratitude to someone here who provided constructive info, so I will say it again….thanks SAP.

    The more important thing to consider here, what impact is the killings of the grizzlies having on their stability? What can be done to promote their stability? What SOLUTIONS?
    Not wether or not this hunter, or any other, is responsible for the shootings, but how do we enable the hunters, and require the hunters, to be more educated and able to avoid, and non-lethally defend against bear attacks.

  13. vickif Avatar

    Mike,I agree. “Shooting from the hip”…this guy was darn lucky, and thankfully wasn’t killed. What struck me most was that he said the sow stood up on her hind legs. Then dropped and charged. Had he been able to use bear spray, the bear may have survived and even been taught to avoid the scent of humans. Since bear spray fires at @70 mph, and bears sprint in the 30 mph range, we can easily theorize the bear would have been deterred. But more importantly, this man survived, and we are not hearing about the horid behavior of man killers.It just shows a bigger picture, bears are still not out of the woods-so to speak. I don’t think we can say that one cause is greater than another, except that to say delisting was a huge contributory factor and regulating and punishing those who illegally shoot grizzlies needs to be more firm. It also shows that we have a need to set aside more habitat where bears are not in direct competition with hunters. 

  14. Ralph Maughan Avatar

    Putting this spray/guns argument aside, perhaps something should be done to try to keep the bears from migrating northward from the Park.

    This is only going to get worse because the bears learn more and more about the hunt and the “easy pickens”. Let’s face it, the whitebark pine nuts are not coming back because most of the trees are dead now. The bears anticipate the hunt more and more.

    Here’s a possibility . . . just an idea. Feed the bears inside the Park to keep them inside for November.

    It can’t be meat, that will just cause fights among bears and wolves. Maybe some tasty high nutrition non-meat food (to be developed). It would be deployed at first on an experimental basis with adjustments made each year as more is learned.

    Closing the area just north of the Park to hunting may just cause the grizzlies to wander even farther north. That would be no solution.

  15. Linda Hunter Avatar

    “Here is one area I have some background in, medicine Adrenaline can play great big tricks on you, and accelerate the body’s functions, and even it’s perceptive capabilities.”

    Vicki I am glad you pointed this out. The two stories of the same encounter were completely different. A bear standing up is just scenting, trying to determine what it is that they see, not aggressive. . maybe this hunter had someone questioning him with leading questions trying to get a more presentable version of the truth out of him, or else it is two different incidents.

  16. Salle Avatar

    How about this…

    Hikers inside the Park are required to travel in groups of four or more, perhaps hunters should be required to hunt in groups of four or more. More eyes, more body mass to deter attack. Works in the Park…

  17. Linda Hunter Avatar

    Ralph that idea should be explored. . there are studies in Washington State on the supplemental feeding of black bears to keep them from eating conifers in times of low foods . .the experiment I read concluded that it significantly reduced the damage to trees. Hungry bears are not fun to be around. If the natural foods are lacking it only makes since to develop a way to supplement their diet to keep them for seeking food that gets them into trouble. Charlie Russel developed a diet for grizzly bear cubs in Russia of sunflower sees, oatmeal and sesame I think it was.

  18. jburnham Avatar

    I’m not fond of the idea of feeding bears or trying to contain them inside the park. Feeding may lead to unforeseen problems, and to me preventing them from leaving the park seems to diminish their “wildness”.
    And in all seriousness, how will we make the argument that Wyoming needs to stop feeding elk and MT needs to stop hazing bison back to the park while doing the same with bears?
    Moving the hunting season back might help. It’s simpler and if it means more snow and less competition with grizzlies, many hunters might not mind.

  19. bob jackson Avatar
    bob jackson

    Guess I’ll throw my two cents in tainted by 30 years of patrolling the Parks boundary during the hunting season.

    First, there needs to be bear spray canister adapted to the bottom of a rifle. It needs to have a trigger positioned just in front of the trigger guard. These need to be rented out by appropriate govt. agencies no different than they rent out bear proof panniers to users in bear country. The canister needs to be developed by a non profit organization and co designed with one of the gun manufacturers… with inputs from the agencies to be distributing them.

    I say all the above because in the 80’s or early 90’s I talked at length with the owners of Counter Assault stating this very need. They thought it was a good idea but because of legal concerns (sued) didn’t want to pursue it. I pretty well laid out the concept, balance requirements etc.

    It actually is a fairly easy design to do. The one I gave them would work. Psychologically, the “piece” will have to look and feel “gun”. No plastic triggers or off color look to it. Put in some leather, wood and fine blued tubing. Make sure the sleek canister “snaps” into place on the bottom of the barrel. Design a spare canister that can be magazined in quickly to replace the spent one.

    Why all this attention? Only when hunters feel they are being recognized as important will they use bear spray with enthusiasm.

    Along with this make a bear spray that looks and feels like a real revolver (no auto’s here my friend except maybe a WW11 Colt 45). One that straps on the hip (fairly low down I might add) in a leather holster. Give this hunter an ammo belt that contains some bear spray accessories (if you can’t think of any needed then give the hunter a placebo)….maybe also some mini versions of the cracker rounds containing spray that agencies give with the shotguns they would check out to hunters for camp use.

    The idea is to give hunters some real arsenal…but it is fire power that is not lethal. I guarantee within two years after it is introduced all hunters in bear country will be carrying and using it instead of their magnum soft points. They will be even seeing bears in country that never had them before…just so they can check out some “grenades” or smooth steeled canisters for the bottom of their rifle barrels.

    Second, any elk shot in bear country needs to be full quartered and packed back to camp or out immediately. If this means four hunters hunt together or they have to take horses with them while hunting, so be it. If it means the other hunters in the party have to stop hunting to help their buddy so be it. No food reward and within two years no bears come to the shots. GUARANTEED!!!

    Third, put a $50-100,000 reward out for information leading to the arrest of any bear poacher. All those guides get to feuding with each other because they know each of them is a fake…guys that grind down the outside of their Packer boot heels so they can walk bow legged. Even the guide who starts out from naive ranch boy beginnings ends up a fake because to do otherwise means he won’t get the tips from his John Wayne movie watching clients. All guides want a new pickup and the $50,000 or so will get a King Ranch Super Duty dually. Hell, they can justify being a Judas by saying to themselves they can ride bulls just as well in Texas.

    Fourth, the agencies need to be making the initial contacts and mailing regs and wolf and bear info to out of state clients, not leave it up to the outfitters. A dude’s ass is owned by the outfitter because he is SCARED!! Put ownership with the state and feds and a lot of those bears killed in or near outfitter camps, as well as in the mts. not now reported will soon happen.

    I will have to say I limit my attitude to the activities I saw around the perimeter of the Park. There wasn’t a single outfitter I patrolled that I did not catch him or his guides poaching in the Park. And there wasn’t a time when griz were killed that everyone in camp soon knew about it. I’d hear the info in the wind and then see the cubs coming around without their mothers.

    It all is a crock and the hunters are to blame for it. Don’t you think they would come up with the same ideas as I suggested above if they really wanted to see bears alive? And even if they didn’t think beyond understanding ballistics so they could talk the talk in outfitter camps, wouldn’t one think it would be better for the hunter in Cinnabar to have slowly slunk away from that bear? I did that a lot of times and even when the bear was 10 yards away it worked.

    And why would an outfitter drop a hunter off at a location where there wasn’t some kind of protection from bears. this hunter probably had a lot more options than I did in waiting for a poacher to come down a game trail Even then I bet 90% of the time I holed up on stake out in a spot where I had the terrain advantage on a bear. God, it is the first thing one looks for in bear country if one is to stay in one spot like most of these dropped off hunters do.

    They suck on the teat of the outfitter and are just like the elk or bison calf that doesn’t move when mamma (outfitter) is away. The outfitter and guide knows it. That is why they fill those front shirt pockets with anything they can find (Red Man is a good choice). Why doesn’t the teat boss do something about it? Since any user becomes a loser when it comes to respect for ones fellow man ….the man he “takes”…. I guess it’s easy to blame the dude.

    I realize there are variables to any of these scenarios and I may have embellished a bit…the heel grinding really does happen back there…. but the story repeats itself too many times to think we need to “analyze each case on its own merits”. Its time the Feds and State boys forget about losing their jobs and actually do something about it.

  20. Peter Kiermeir Avatar
    Peter Kiermeir

    There are bear management areas established every year closing off large areas of YNP to hikers for the protection of bears. Why not closing off kown trouble spots to hunting. Ooops, now I touched the sensible spot of a nation whose hormone level goes berserk every fall. And I forgot of course the hunting industries enormous contribution to the nations overall, especially to conservation, that justifies priority rights over everything else. Anyway my proposal is not feasible at all, people would ignore the rules anyway and law enforcing would be difficult if not impossible. I very well remember that troubles with the hunters and the bears in the Pyrenaean Alps. Hunters had been requested not to enter a certain area because of bear presence. Of course they went right in and killed a rear bear – in self defense!

  21. Peter Kiermeir Avatar
    Peter Kiermeir

    I consulted my favourite bear authority, the Bear Hunting Magazine, for what they say about precautionary measures (Bearspray?). I found an advert for “The Bear Bomb”. Not being familiar with the art of bear hunting I innocently thought this would be an advert for bear spray! Oh, totally wrong, it is (quote)
    The ultimate in scent dispersion, “check wind, attract game, cover scent” One can does it all! Scents included are anise oil, hickory smoked bacon and sow in heat (Hmmm, delicious – my remark) . Helps to entice larger, nocturnal bears to visit the site before shooting light expires.
    Best of all is the reminder “DO NOT spray on your feet and walk to your stand or blind” (My remark: While smelling like a sow in heat!). Ok, this is their weak point, they are better with recipes “Bearly Edible” …….

  22. Mike Avatar

    ++There are bear management areas established every year closing off large areas of YNP to hikers for the protection of bears. Why not closing off kown trouble spots to hunting.++

    This makes the most sense.

  23. chuck parker Avatar
    chuck parker

    I suspect commercial hunting outfitters would object to closing public lands where they earn their living–what do you think, Mr. Jackson?

    Bear feeding stations in Yellowstone Park? Bear researchers Frank and John Craighead suggested that shortly after grizzlies were listed as a threatened species in 1975. The NPS said, “No.”

    Save bears by having hunters use bear spray for self-defense rather than a firearm? There are a handful of situations where that’s practical, but for the most common cause of bear deaths–a sudden encounter with a grizzly–bear spray is not a realistic alternative to a firearm. (Please spare me the flat-earthist bear spray doctrine.)

    For those of you unfamiliar with the “rationale” for closing big chunks of Yellowstone Park’s backcountry to protect grizzly bears, here’s the real story. After Yellowstone area grizzlies were listed as a threatened species in 1975, there was a lot of bickering how many bears existed: 400, 300, 100, nobody really knew. The NPS gave high estimates, Frank and John Craighead gave low estimates. In 1980-81, the recently established Interagency Grizzly Bear Study team announced that the population might be 200 bears–or lower. Yikes!!!!

    Bureaucrats had to make it look like they were doing something to help bears, so they did seasonal closures of prime habitat in Yellowstone Park. Never mind that that’s not where bears were dying. Hikers were not beating bears to death with their backpacks. Bears were dying outside the park, same as today. Grizzlies got shot in self-defense by elk hunters, just like today. Ranchers and sheep herders shooting grizzlies was even more of a problem then that it is now.

    In the early 1980s, the NPS and the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service added insult to injury by cooking up a secret scheme that let the NPS build the 700 room Grant Village Hotel in great grizzly habitat as a (ha ha ha ha ha) “trade-off” for closing the Fishing Bridge campground and RV Park.
    Why would campers and RVers trade a campground and RV Park for a hotel? They wanted to camp and stay in their RVs, not stay in a dumpy Howard Johnson type hotel.

    First the NPS got funding for Grant and started construction. Only after it was too late to stop Grant Village did NPS announce that it planned on closing the Fishing Bridge Campground and RV Park. Predictably, campers and RVers went bonkers and opposed the closures. That’s exactly what the NPS wanted. The NPS had no intention of closing the Fishing Bridge Campground and RV Park.

    Yours truly went through the whole EIS process on the Fishing Bridge fiasco, and when the NPS refused to close the Fishing Bridge Campground and RV Park, I filed a 60 day notice of intent to bring suit. As some of you may know, the Fishing Bridge campground is closed, but the f!#&ing RV Park is not.

    To “mitigate” for the harm done to grizzlies by building Grant and breaking an Endangered Species Act agreement to close the Fishing Bridge RV Park, the NPS did seasonal closures at Heart Lake and Pelican Valley. My comment was, that’s like building a new sewer system in LA, and sending the bill to San Francisco. I’m still pissed.

  24. Ralph Maughan Avatar

    Chuck Parkter wrote:
    Bear feeding stations in Yellowstone Park? Bear researchers Frank and John Craighead suggested that shortly after grizzlies were listed as a threatened species in 1975. The NPS said, “No.”

    I say:

    The Craigheads proposed permanent feeding stations using Park elk.

    That should have been rejected, and I don’t want to revisit their idea.

    The bears must not be fed meat for this to work because meat brings in all kinds of other predators and scavengers. That would greatly disrupt the ecology.

    There is no surplus of elk anymore.

    The feeding has to be temporary (about a month or so) and well targeted.

    It would not work along the southern and eastern boundaries of Yellowstone because of their remoteness and the large grizzly bear population that permanently lives south and east of the Park.

    This idea would need to be employed with others such as closures in hot spots near Gardiner.

    Folks should also pay attention to Bob Jackson’s proposal. Few people have dealt with this problem in the field to the degree Jackson has.

  25. Peter Kiermeir Avatar
    Peter Kiermeir

    Such bear closure areas – notwithstanding their maybe dubious history in YNP – serve however as an example what could be done, maybe as one of a package of measures. I´m sure the bears still benefit from the seasonal closure of Pelican Valley that is still posted every year and I, as a hiker, can also live with that closure til end of June – a small compromise only. So why not have dedicated off-limits areas for the protection of bears and/or to avoid potential bear/human conflict spots. I do not know of course if this proposal would be really feasible. Ok, I accept, such closure areas would curtail somebodies rights which could make the scheme socially (with the mighty hunting community) unacceptable.

  26. Mike Avatar

    ++I suspect commercial hunting outfitters would object to closing public lands where they earn their living–what do you think, Mr. Jackson? ++

    The survival of a species trumps this in the long run. Do you think our future great great grandchildren would be happy that we killed off a species so a few people could run a hunting business?

    Come on.

  27. Mike Avatar

    Happened at Marias Pass next to Glacier. The hunter encountered a sow and two cubs. He started yelling, and the sow approached. He fire two shots, wounding the sow. Officials had to locate the wounded bear and kill it.

    We are very, very lucky that this wounded, gun-shot agitated bear did not hurt anyone.

  28. chuck parker Avatar
    chuck parker

    About bears spray attached to a rifle with an easy to use trigger mechanism–the bear spray would be exposed to the weather, and the last time I checked, Counter Assault bear spray said that when temps dip below freezing, you should carry bear spray inside your jacket–just like rangers do!!!

    So on Tuesday it’s below freezing and a hunter facing a charging grizzly just needs to think quick and pull the trigger on his 30/06, but Saturday it’s 52 degrees, so the hunter facing a charging grizzly should think quick and pull the trigger on bear spray. Friday morning the temp is below freezing, use your 30/06. By Friday afternoon, it’s warmed up so pull the trigger on bear spray.

    Boy, the firearms instructors and law enforcement personnel who teach combat shooting are going to love all these “what if” scenarios.

    Pull the wrong trigger and you get a large fine and a bit of jail time, plus lose hunting privileges for 3 years.

  29. Peter Kiermeir Avatar
    Peter Kiermeir

    ….the loss of how many sows just intending to protect their cubs is ethically acceptable for the hunting community before they start to develop some fresh ideas?

  30. bob jackson Avatar
    bob jackson

    Chucky, I got too much work to do today but hopefully this evening I will have time for responses I am chomping at the bit to do.

  31. Mike Avatar

    Really sad turn of events the past few days. What I find strange is that in both cases, the hunter started shouting at a momma bear with cubs, and then the mom charged………

  32. Larry Thorngren Avatar

    Just Returned home from Yellowstone and have a few comments. First of all, the grizzlies are not wandering from Yellowstone, they are always in the Gardiner and Corwin Springs areas. They get into orchards and eat apples each year at Corwin Springs and this year were wandering around Gardiner at night and getting into garbage cans and bird feeders.
    My question is: why didn’t the hunter fire his first shot into
    the air when he first saw the bear? I have seen bears run away when they hear a gunshot at close range.
    I carry bear spray at all times in Grizzly country, but depending on the wind direction, bear spray is not always going to protect you. Spraying into the wind will give you more spray in your face than on the bear.
    I was charged by a very large Grizzly on the McNeil River in Alaska some years ago and I can understand how a hunter might react the way this one did. Having a large bear charging straight at you with its’ mouth open and popping its’ jaws is enough to make your brain short circuit and make you just think about survival.
    Fortunately for me and my two fishing companions, the bear stopped its’ charge about 20 feet away and went back to foraging along the beach. None of us had bear spray(you can’t take bear spray on airplanes) or guns(Bear Reserve) and we stopped the bear by yelling at it and waving our arms. If one us had been carrying a rifle, I am not sure what would have happened.

  33. Allen Schallenberger Avatar
    Allen Schallenberger

    Ralph and others,
    This letter went to Brett French at the Billings Gazette. He has not responded.

    Dear Brett,

    I believe that you had some erroneous information in your article. I am a biologist and did the first intensive grizzly research outside parks in Montana.

    You stated “last fall in Montana, hunters had five run-ins with grizzly bears, resulting in four injured hunters and two bear deaths.” That is simply not true.

    1.The YNP safety officer, while hunting black bears with a firearm near Gardiner was badly mauled by a sow grizzly. He managed to shoot the bear in the jaw and it died. 2. A party of three bow hunters near Reese Creek was calling elk. A Caroll College football player was badly mauled. One of his partners drove off the bear with the sound of gunshots from a .45 pistol. 3. A single bow hunter was attacked by a sow grizzly with cubs in the same vicinity. He tried to climb a tree and was pulled out and mauled. He walked two miles to a road. 4. A party of two PA bow hunters encountered sow and cub in dense timber with two feet of snow in Tom Miner Basin. One hunter sprayed the sow at five feet, she ran off but then came back and the other hunter killed her with two shots from a .44 mag handgun. 5. A bird hunter was badly mauled east of Dupuyer and I believe he was a member of a party of four. During the mauling he managed to fire a shot from his shotgun but missed the bear. FWP mistakenly trapped the wrong grizzly and moved it to the Ear Mountain Game Range. It was killed this spring by a farmer on the Milk River and the bear was very near the Canadian Border. The Dupuyer culprit was determined from DNA to be an adult male from GNP. 6. An elk hunter killed a sow grizzly with cubs which charged him north of Ovando. 7. An elk hunter from East Glacier killed a sow grizzly with cubs which charged him on the South Fork Two Medicine River. He shot it in the head from eight feet with a semi-auto 30:06 while on the ground. He slipped and fell when the bear charged him. 8. Finally on November 25th Vic Workman of the MT FWP Commission shot from the hip at 10 feet when a grizzly defending a deer kill charged him from 30 feet. The bear ran by him at a five foot distance. Score eight reported bear attacks; four hunters mauled; four bears killed and one known to have died later; pepper spray used ineffectively one time; firearms killed bears or helped stop attacks seven times out of eight attacks in 2007.

    You and Schartz have put out into which is dangerous for hunters.(By saying grizzlies will be in or near dens by Nov. 10th.) Bears are occasionally known to be away from dens every month of the year. In years which have poor pine nut or berry crops expect bears to be out later. Also expect bears to be out as long as there are gut piles or carcasses available. I observed a sow grizzly and two large cubs at my camp on the North Fork of Sun River in December and the temperature was 10 below zero. An Indian by the name of Harvey Cardinal was abushed and killed in B.C. by a large grizzly in January. He was an experienced hunter and trapper. I know the warden and biologist who shot that bear from a helicopter. The tall warden was excited, blind in one eye, and ran into the rapidly rotating tail rotor of the chopper as he ran to the bear. Luckily he survived the skull fracture.

    Bear spray does not work in a lot of cases ie.–when the wind is blowing toward you and away from the bear, when it is very cold, when it is snowing or raining heavily, if you are in a tent or around horses and mules,if you are in dense vegetation and not on some animals as in Tom Miner Basin. No MT bear specialist will ever tell you the caliber of weapon to use, the type of ammo or where to hit a charging bear. However they are all armed with weapons as well as bear spray. By the way I made the first recomendation for bear specialists in this state.

    The advice on the FWP website (Bear and Lion Encounters) to fight grizzly bears with sticks and stones in your tent simply does not work for anyone with common sense. The FWP Director should show us personally the proper size stick to use on a 500 pound grizzly and invite the media. This poor advice for fighting bears in tents was copied from Parks Canada.

    Allen Schallenberger
    5th Generation MT native, ranch raised and ranched myself 10 years, worked as a management and research biologist in MT 1963-80, 20 year general outfitter and presently a wildlife consultant and avid hunter and angler

  34. chuck parker Avatar
    chuck parker

    Left hand doesn’t know what right hand is doing

    In “Bear Deaths High,” (Cory Hatch, Jackson Holes News & Guide, Oct 24, 2008) we have Chuck Schwartz, leader of the Interagency Grizzly Bear Study Team saying, “recent research shows that bear spray is more effective than bullets when fending off an angry grizzly.”

    Well I’ll be darned. In “Lessons from hunter/griz encounters,” (Casper Star Tribune, Feb. 8, 2006) we’re told that Schwartz reviewed 24 cases in Wyoming (1992-2004) “when hunters and bears surprised each other in the field and the bears charged.” According to Schwartz, hunters have guns in their hands, not pepper spray. A quiet hunter can surprise a bear, and the resultant charge gives hunters scant seconds to switch from gun to pepper spray canister. ‘Time and again, hunters said it happened so fast that when they shot, the bear fell right at their feet.”

    That recent research doesn’t tell me that bear spray is more effective than a firearm for hunters. What does it tell people who subscribe to the flat-earthist bear spray doctrine?

  35. Ralph Maughan Avatar

    Well, I’m tired of this debate guns vs. spray. We need to think about how to reduce these surprise incidents to begin with.

  36. Mike Avatar

    It seems Allan and Chuck havve some “dollar” interest in these continued hunter/grizzly conflicts in Wyoming/Montana.

    Ralph, I think you reduce these incidents by having “late season” zones. The area north of Gardiner has been a problem for quite some time. Simply push the hunting season back in that area until the bears den. I also would like to see mandatory bear spray for those hunting in known grizzly country in Montana and Wyoming. The state DNR’s should be offered bulk sales of bear spray and they should be handed out with the tags at a special discount for big game hunters.

  37. Salle Avatar


    Interesting dilemma…

    I still think that humans are far and away easier to manage than wildlife…


    The outfiitters are making a pretty healthy living off of the “commons” in that they are almost entirely dependent upon natural resources on public lands. Do they pay anything for this privilege? I know the government has done much to see that there is little to no oversight of their practices that seem geared toward the dick cheneys of the world.

    And Bob Jackson makes numerous valid arguments, I take his knowledge and advice with great respect. He was out there trying to protect our wildlife on remote public land, and still it’s obvious that he was confronted with the business end of a raw deal more often than not.


    I don’t like the idea of doing anything to alter the natural behavior of the bears and would advocate for better management of the human element instead.

  38. Ralph Maughan Avatar

    I would rather try to deter the bears from entering the area around Gardiner so to get the leavings of the hunt.

    The possibilities seem to me to be no hunting or divert the bears to a more desirable food supply for the duration of the hunt.

    There is a downside to both, but lets leave off the bear spray argument.

  39. SAP Avatar

    bob jackson wrote:

    “Do you think Barry Gilbert, the biologist mauled in YNP, is going to say he was at fault for the bear mauling him?”

    Uh, yeah, I do think he’ll say that. I’ve heard him say that. Read Scott McMillion’s “Mark of the Grizzly,” see Barrie’s quotes on pages 237-238:

    “I think I just scared the hell out of it,” Gilbert says. “I interpret it to be a defensive attack. I had come too close, and it treated me the way it would treat a bear.”

    “I told the Park Service not to go after the bear and kill it. I said that on the mountaintop.”

    Barrie Gilbert blundered into that bear that day in the Gallatin Range, it didn’t sneak up on him. I bet he would have used 000 to stop that attack had he been armed, but it’s not accurate to say he blames the bear and shirks responsibility for what happened.

  40. vickif Avatar

    I don’t know how much I like the idea of feeding bears because,
    1. it would increase dependancy
    2. it would provide ammo for elk feed lots to argue their need doesn’t deal with the actual need to educate and inform people about the priviledge and responsibility that belongs to them when they are on public lands

    I see why it would be a good idea, but I would have to wonder if it isn’t like placing a butterfly bandage on a severed artery. Some how, some way, we have got to get human’s to take responsibility and pride in our public lands and their use/misuse of it.

    I liked DBH’s idea of alternating area closures, maybe it merrits more thought?

  41. Ralph Maughan Avatar


    I’m going to delete a bunch of comments about bear spray. We’re done with that for a while.

    If you don’t think yours should have gone, sorry, but it’s not clear where to start.

    Let’s talk about non-spray, non-shooting solutions to this problem for now. If you don’t want to discuss that, fine.


  42. Ralph Maughan Avatar


    These are good ideas. I like the alternating closures.

    In defense of proactive feeding to change bear habits in November, we have to appreciate that Yellowstone Park has been greatly damaged by outside influences. These have been stressed time and time again.

    Most have happened.

    1. Decimation of trout and cutthroat trout spawning runs in Yellowstone Lake by lake trout and whirling disease has reduced early summer bear nutrition.

    2. Forest fire, global warming and whitebark pine blister rust has ruined the whitebark pine nut crop.

    3. The wolf population is on the decline. It is following the decline of elk. The extra nutrition for bears in the fall provided by wolf kills is always going to be less than it was. The introduction of wolves, I think, temporarily offset the decline in other grizzly bear foods.

  43. chuck parker Avatar
    chuck parker

    vicki & dbh: alternating closures on u.S. forest service land outside the park.

    Politically, no. Not just no, but hell no!!! That’s not fair and I don’t like it, but I do think it’s a political reality. Not in our lifetime.

    In addition, conservationists have long noted that grizzly bears are not aware of the boundaries humans draw on maps; this is Yellowstone Park, this is the Shoshone National Forest, if you step outside the park some dunderhead may invent an excuse to shoot you. Bears don’t know where people have drawn arbitray and artificial boundaries.

    Close area A in 2007, and bears in surrounding areas B,C, D, and E are not going to think, whoops, even though that elk gut pile in area A smells tempting, I won’t go there. Even if you could close certain areas of national forest land adjacent to Yellowstone to big game hunting forever, I don’t think grizzlies would learn to congregate in these save havens and ignore the food temptations on nearby forest service lands. It would be interesting to try, but given the political realities, it ain’t gonna happen.

    Hunters have such a circle the wagons, us against them attitude, I don’t know if there’s any way to reach them. The bear spray not guns kookiness here doesn’t help.

  44. Ralph Maughan Avatar


    I think bears have a detailed mental map, far, far more detailed than humans and probably most other species, where to look for food.

    They don’t just smell it out. Smell helps them find it, but memory is vital. Furthermore, they learn from each other.

    Since the grizzly bear population has rebounded from its low in the mid-70s when most bears stayed in the Park, not because they knew the boundaries, but becasue they knew the general territory, more and more anticipate and move in place for the hunt.

    That this is an inefficient strategy, needs to be learned by the bears.

  45. chuck parker Avatar
    chuck parker

    I’m going to delete a bunch of comments about bear spray. We’re done with that for a while–ralph

    Wow!!! Bear spray cult won’t tolerate facts on bear spray, let alone dissenting opinons. Censorship is fine, provided you’re in the majority. Today.

    Remember to delete all pro bear spray comments the next time a hunter is forced to kill a bear in self defense. Because I 100% guarantee the bear spray cult will go bonkers and forget the rules. Hell, there are no rules. The bear spray cult has god on their side. The rules don’t applay. And who needs facts when god’s on your side?

  46. vickif Avatar

    CHuck Parker, Dave…which ever ,
    This isn’t second grade, and bears being in danger is not a matter of fair. We aren’t talking about who gets to use the blue crayon here, we are talking about the conservation of an entire species.
    The comments were posted in guenuine effort toward productive dialogue. Let’s drop the last line of your most recent post, we owe Ralph that respect, and talk about other points your raise.

    You act as though hunting areas are tiny, not so. They are substaintial in size. And after a fe years, new cubs would not have been habituated to the free guts. Therefore, you have a semi clean late with the newer generation. So you would have to actually require hunters to be responsible and clean up their messes, so as not to encourage the interactions we would hope to avoid.

    You are right though, bears cannot differentiate between land divisions. So you would agree humans should be held accountable then, as they are quite capable of the previous? Having gotten to that point, we should be able to agree that humans who hunt should also be aware of possible encounters with predators. So should they not be required to have appropriate training and education on these possibilities?

    Come on, we require people to wear seat belts. We make them have shots to go to school. We are held accountable for paying taxes, and few people even come close to comprehending that. So bear safety and avoidance should be considered far easier to learn, and just as worthy of requirement.

    I don’t know how old you are, but my life time may see far different things than yours. I used to hear that we wouldn’t see a shift to hybrid cars in my lifetime, but now they can’t keep up with demand for them.

    There is a changing tide now, it is safe to not only dream of better conservation, but to expect it. So rather than continue to throw out opposition to everything said, how about a better idea? Some constructive input would be a welcome event.

  47. vickif Avatar

    True, food sources have been a huge effect. I only make it to YNP a few times a year, but it is abudantly obvious that it is a problem.
    So given dispersal of wolves and elk, (I read once that bears often follow suit once they have been educated in the wolf left overs meal train), wouldn’t the bears try to leave the park sooner than traditional hunting seasons?
    Wouldn’t elk calves being a primary prey source, and being far more spread out than historically, draw them farther out? Since that tends to occur early June, should we expect more bears to be in areas outside the park before the pellets would be distributed?

    Where would we draw the line? I mean, we could shift some water ways to allow bears more fishing access, or even introduce more fish….can you tell me why pellets? Do you have a model in mind?
    I see how it would help in the short term, but I wonder if it would lead back to the bear-circus type metality of the earlier 1900’s. How could we assure that bears would not become even more ‘spectical’ than they are? Or that they wouldn’t lose some of their natural instincts to survive and hunt, thus lowering survival possibilities if they did leave the park, say due to fire or natural disaster?

    None of the ideas I have read could be a substitute for more protected habitat. That is a critical factor.

  48. Ralph Maughan Avatar


    Sadly, I think Yellowstone Park won’t support as many bears as it used to.

    Feeding to draw them away from certain areas of mortality for one month is artificial, but under conditions of 150 years ago the bears had a different distribution. It was changed by humans. Moreover, they didn’t have an autumn windfall of elk guts. That is artificial too.

    My proposal was to address a small part of the problem. Ultimately, if human caused mortality does not decline, and lack of nutrition causes the bear population in the Greater Yellowstone (not the just the Park) to shrink, more country will have to be legally added to grizzly bear’s habitat by means or relisting the grizzly bear in the Greater Yellowstone or by proactive state action.

    I mean we could have grizzlies in Montana reinhabit the Tobacco Root Mountains, the Snowcrest and Gravelly Ranges and the Centennial Mountains, although all of these will have more human/bear conflicts than at the present.

    In Wyoming grizzlies could be given a priority way down into the Salt Rivers and Wyoming Range and the Wind Rivers.

    That would be a political battle!
    – – – –

    Oh, and after tomorrow (actually Feb. 2009), Idaho will have less political clout. That is the real opportunity for grizzlies.

  49. Salle Avatar

    I still think the human element needs to accountable for this and needs some “regroovin’” when it comes to rights and responsibilities concerning public wildlife and public lands.

    I have “walked up” on a few bears in the past couple years and have always managed to quietly exit the scene without issue. Once I was as close as a hundred feet, the wind was in my favor and I chose to retreat. I was aware of the bear first, rather than yell or anything loud I quietly left. No muss, no fuss.

    Perhaps better training for folks who enter bear country, no matter where you already live, would be helpful, maybe should be mandatory with the tags. Just because you choose to hunt in one of the few places where encountering bears is possible doesn’t give you the right to be ignorant of the need to be aware of appropriate ways to diffuse a situation in a non-lethal fashion.

    If you don’t know how to take a walk in the woods, you should probably stay where it’s completely safe and developed, or at least where there aren’t any dangerous wild animals.

  50. vickif Avatar

    I see what you are saying. At times I question if there is any place left where “wild life” isn’t truly touched by artificial means.
    It is sad to see that bears have been so limited in their ability to diversify or spread out. The irony is that humans have isolated them to areas where they are surrounded by people, yet being more spread out would afford them (in some areas) a thinner veil of interaction. Fewer bears per mile =fewer interactions possible in that mile. It is sad that the have no where to roam.
    Given the new possibilities to push for betterment of conservation, I am a little more hopeful.
    Perhaps your solution is a good one, but would you use the pellets to then lure bears into other areas? Maybe fan them out a bit? Would that also neccesitate their ability to find other food sources? Knowing they were once plains animals as well, do you think they could re-dapt their eating habits?

  51. vickif Avatar

    In addition Ralph,
    Yes I could see the political battle. Suddenly wolves aren’t so bad, as they wouldn’t break into your cars or houses in search of food.
    There are some small ranges in Colorado that may support very minor populations. I have heard tell of a few grizzlies in certain parts, but I won’t risk saying where here.
    Not taking that risk sums up how well they’d be received in certain areas. think concentrating animals into too minute a territory is like having all your eggs in a basket that is settinf atop a bucking horse…it’s a waiting game to tell when they will all end up cracked.
    Maybe we need to just open up ranches, give them turbines in place of cattle, let them manage the return of native foiliage, and pay them for the energy and service. Oh what a dream….
    Do you see the arguement for feed lots being an issue with the idea of a temporary feeding season? Right now, grizzlies in hunting areas are like sitting ducks. How could we keep that from being a bigger problem?

    Thanks for thinking and sharing. I am always interested in new info.

  52. Peter Kiermeir Avatar
    Peter Kiermeir

    To end the in the meantime fruitless spray vs. gun discussions has nothing to do with censorship. The subject is simply chewed through, no fresh findings to be expected anymore. But, to circumnavigate the subject does not save a single bear, nor a single hunter. Maybe the issue will slowly fade away for this year with the bears moving towards their dens, until next years hunting season will cook it up again. Opinions have been strengthened, positions fortified, rights defended! Somebody attempting to relist that bears until the population has sufficiently recovered to delist again? A cure for the symptoms only, not for the underlying basic problem.

  53. Ralph Maughan Avatar

    Thank you, Peter!

  54. Salle Avatar

    Yes, and to complete the thought that I perceive that Peter is making; it won’t be resolved until the human element “gets it” and deals with it. The selfish nature of the human element has obviously gone beyond the pale and needs to be addressed. Until we are ready and willing to look in the mirror and see that the seven hundred pound gorilla in the room is us, we can’t possibly do the right thing. The myopic mindset is what’s wrong, and stubbornness in our inability to accept our imperfectly self-absorbed attitudes toward the needs of the wildlife…

    Just my two pennies’ worth.

  55. Mike Avatar

    Very well said, Salle. True changes will come as we evolve and grow our self awareness.

  56. Peter Kiermeir Avatar
    Peter Kiermeir

    Found this on, while researching something else. It is from an article “Grizzly bear numbers on the rise”
    Jan 1 2008: By Matthew Brown | Of The Associated Press
    ………. ”We’ve got grizzly bears eating people who come here to hunt,” said Vic Workman, Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks commissioner, who fended off a grizzly during a Nov. 25 hunting trip near Whitefish. ”It’s getting out of whack. We’ve got too many bears.”……

  57. bob jackson Avatar
    bob jackson

    Evidently this commisioner can’t see the actions he and his hunting commardes, via leaving all that meat on the ground for too long, is causing this animal to act in the manner it does.

  58. Save bears Avatar
    Save bears


    Vic workman did not shoot the deer the bear was trying to protect, they happened upon it and there was a bear present and from what I heard, it was a predation that caused the death of the deer.

    Although I do not agree with Workmans stance about bears eating people in this area, he did not kill the deer that the bear was feeding on.

  59. Save bears Avatar
    Save bears

    Just to add, I was in this area 5 days after the incident and there were indications of quite a few predations going on in the area, our hunting group found several carcasses over the span of 5 days of hunting.

  60. SAP Avatar

    bob jackson – thanks for your perspective. However, I have to respectfully disagree with you about your recollections (keeping in mind that I was 9 years old and 1300 miles from Yellowstone when Barrie Gilbert got mauled).

    Barrie’s graduate student, Bruce Hastings, was the one who was relieving himself at the time of the mauling. Mr. Hastings stayed behind to — ahem — attend to business, while Barrie charged off to get in position to continue observing the family of grizzlies they had been watching. Barrie got attacked, Hastings caught up to him and hollered, which evidently caused the bear to break off the attack.

    You are correct that there was a study that involved repeatedly disturbing bears. I think you are incorrect that Barrie Gilbert had anything to do with. I know that the Grizzly Study Team was doing such a study, but it is unlikely that it was in 1977.

    You can check with former study team members about it, but I believe the project involved following radioed bears and repeatedly jumping them to see what would happen. Doug Dunbar found out: a big male grizzly roughed him up, and Dunbar became the first person to deploy bear spray in a field situation. If bear spray was available, it was likely around 1985 (Dunbar talks about the attack on a video that Steve Herrero narrated for the University of Minnesota in about 1994).

    I’m not sure there were many radioed bears in the Park at all in 1977, and I’ve never heard that Barrie Gilbert was part of a telemetry study back then. And without telemetry, how would you know you were jumping the same bear repeatedly?

    If your account is correct, then an untrue version has been repeated many times — in his book, Stephen Herrero relates the same version I did, as does Scott McMillion.

    And I don’t disagree with you that Barrie may have been angry and bitter toward the bear at some point. Losing an eye and undergoing multiple surgeries would do that to you. I’m sure he’d rather it hadn’t happened, and that he would have killed the bear to prevent the injuries if that had been an option.

    But I don’t think he blames the bear for doing what it did, which was my main point earlier.

  61. Mark A. York Avatar

    “Mark–what did the hunter do that was irresponsible?”
    I wrote that story. Well, Kevin Frey said the hunter’s story didn’t check out with what he found on the ground. He stumbled onto the bear and fired, or just shot and missed killing the cub. Bear spray always works better. No expert I interviewed believed the hunter. He says he was sitting in a clearing and the bear came for him. Not very likely.

  62. Doug Dunbar Avatar
    Doug Dunbar

    Hey Folks,
    Just wanted to say a couple of things. Bob, I know you from working at Lake in 1986 and also through Bill Hoskins and Betsy Peterson, and you have me mixed up with someone else. That’s alright, because that story sounded pretty good about being in the tree. Also, my encounter with Bear #84 was in July of 1984, when I worked on the Recreation Study, where we simulated camper and hiker interactions with grizzly bears to see how they would react.

    We were pretty far back in Hayden Valley, out past the old Trout Creek dump site, maybe about 4 miles or so. We had been tracking this huge bear (trapped in the spring, he weighed about 550 to 600 lbs.) for about two or three days. During the day he would rest in his daybed in thick and heavy cover in these timber fingers located in the back of Hayden Valley near Mary Mountain, then he would come out at night and trek to this Bison carcass down by the water in the open. There he would sit on it and chow down and then head back to the thick timber early in the morning. It seemed like he was bedded down within an hour or two after first light. Finally, the day came to let him know we were there. My colleague and I had the best position so we headed toward the point that we had triangulated with the other team. We were hiking with full packs, climbing over logs and working our way toward him, when we noticed that his signal changed from a slow beat (resting) to a fast beat (alert). The wind was swirling in the area, so I’m not sure if he picked up our scent or heard us moving through the woods. There was a down tree about 10 yards in front of us so we decided to go over to the tree and take our packs off, where we could rest. We didn’t have to be on top of the bear to let him know we were there. I think he already knew. As we approached the tree, there was a thick knoll of doghair lodgepole pines off to the right and ahead of us. We heard some noise and then a couple of loud crashes and this bear came running out of the thick lodgepole patch. As it got closer, you could definitely see it was coming our way. When it got within 15 to 20 feet away, I sprayed it with the bear spray and you could see the steam go across it’s path and hit the bear. At that time the bear spray didn’t shoot a cloud or mist like a fire extinguisher would, instead it shot a stream of liquid. Eventually it was developed to shoot a mist, which covered more area and you didn’t have to be so precise. The analogy, which may not be the best, is like a shotgun compared to a rifle. The rifle has to have better aim to hit the target. Anyhow, you could see that it bothered the bear and he tried to slow down by putting on the skids, but it’s forward momentum brought it to within 5 to 6 feet of us. At that point my partner went around to the right from our location, and I went around to the left on the other side of the downfall log we were approaching. The bear stopped on the opposite side of the downfall log from me and moved over to the log where he stood on his hind feet with his paws on the log. He was about 6 feet away from me and I sprayed him across the face with the pepper spray. I remember seeing him shake his head to either side because the spray bothered him. I then started backing up and trying to get my arm through the strap of my pack so I could drop it and give the bear something to focus on while I moved off. I wasn’t able to get my arm through the strap and at the same time the bear jumped over the log and ran into me with his shoulders and knocked me down. With this full pack on, I was like a turtle on it’s shell, being on my back and facing up. The bear came over to me and straddled me. I remember holding his head on either side to try and squirm out, but I couldn’t do anything. He bit me on the stomach and one of his canines got my park radio, while the other chomped my belly. I still had the pepper spray in my hand and gave him one last shot. When I did this, he whirled and took off, never to be seen again that day. I guess he finally decided he didn’t want to harass me any more. Later, I cleaned up the bite location really well with peroxide and alcohol I got from the bear study horse crew. This would make sure there was no infection. The only thing that happened to me physically, was the bite on my stomach and my T-shirt got ripped a bit. Now there’s a story for you.

    I do remember an incident when I was over by the Old Faithful area. We were tracking Bear #50 who had two cubs of the year and it was very early in the morning (still dark). I was in the Bear Study truck by myself, and I think I was down along the Gibbon River, pulled off to the side of the road. I was looking for a place to get a good signal from her collar. It was probably an hour before first light and I set up the antenna and then connected it to the receiver. I stepped out the door of the truck to check the signal and it was booming. I also turned the antenna 180 degrees and it was still strong, so I knew she was right in the area. The next thing I did, was to disconnect the antenna from the receiver, and the signal was still strong. I new she was right around me, but I couldn’t see her. We took hourly readings on the bears and their activity patterns. She had a tilt collar so you could determine if she was active and alert (head up), or sedentary(sp) and resting (head down). I sat in the truck right there for about an hour with a strong signal. It seemed like she was all around me. As it started to get light I continued to listen to her signal and it remained strong. I started watching the river in front of me and noticed some movement coming through the trees. There she was only 20 or 30 yards away. She came out first, then the cubs followed. They were just on the other side of the river. She didn’t seem like she was paying too much attention to the cubs and they played while she ate what looked like grass, but it could have been grouse wartleberry (sp), which is a smaller relative to huckleberry and blueberry. I watched the two cubs chase up a tree near the water’s edge, while batting at each other. They were having a good time. This all happened in a period of about 10 to 15 minutes. Then as easily as she came into the clearing so I could watch her, she started to move off. As she did, the cubs slowly shimmied down the tree and followed their mom as they played. She and the cubs eventually went out of sight and left me with a great story to tell.

    There you go. Now you have the story of my encounter with Bear #84, which was not the best, and my encounter with Bear #50, who had cubs, but the encounter turned out really well. I hope this gives you all some insight into what we were doing on the Recreation Study (even though it wasn’t recreation) and how the bear spray worked at that time.

  63. bob jackson Avatar
    bob jackson

    Good to hear you are still around. Yes, we all had lots of good bear stories. It sure did keep the newbies in the backcountry cabins awake looking out the windows well after the Coleman lantern was out didn’t it?

    The bear story I thought “belonged” to you happened in the upper Galatin off trail on upper Grayling Creek. Do you know who it was then? I do remember you and the griz on your stomach but that is a different event than the one I’m thinking of.

    Thought of you a few times when I’d look up at the face of the Trident as seen looking north from Thorofare cabin. The obsidian cores placed centuries ago on the ledge in the cave, the stupid ascent we did on some pretty precarious rock and the 2 year old Griz skull in the cave behind the waterfall on the Trident. Did you ever go to Africa again?

  64. Doug Dunbar Avatar
    Doug Dunbar

    Do Bart Schleyer, Jamie Jonkel, or Mark Haroldson ring a bell as far as that story on the upper Gallatin? I know we had a trailer in West Y. and we did some work around Richard’s Pond with Bear #38 and there was also Bear #15 that used that area north of West Y. alot. As far as Africa, I think you got me mixed up with someone else again. I know a way you might remember me, in 1986 at the end of the season I did a hike down the Thorofare trail to the Thorofare R.S. and you were there with Crandall. I shaved some logs for the horse barn and did a few other chores around there, while you folks were out checking the boundaries. By the way, how is the buffalo ranch? We’ll continue later.

  65. dave smith Avatar
    dave smith

    Mark York—Your story here is different the the story that was published. As for your remark that, “Bear spray always works better,” if you go to the minutes of the April 15, 2009 meeting of the Yellowstone Grizzly Bear Coordinating Committee ( it says “Bear spray carried by hunters may not be accessible given short timeframe to respond.”

    That tells me bear spray is not always an option for hunters. What does it say to the bear spray cult?

  66. bob jackson Avatar
    bob jackson


  67. bob jackson Avatar
    bob jackson

    Yes, it was Bart. I had you two mixed up. It was his dad, a surgeon in Casper, I think, who use to take Bart as a kid to Africa big game hunting. And yes, I remember you now also. how do you remember all those bear numbers by the way?

  68. bob jackson Avatar
    bob jackson

    Yes, it was Bart. I had you two mixed up. It was his dad, a surgeon in Casper, I think, who use to take Bart as a kid to Africa big game hunting. And yes, I remember you now. Also, how do you remember all those bear numbers by the way?

    Yes the buffalo farm is doing AOK as the guy said on the movie, The Right Stuff. Shot and field slaughtered 5 more today ranging from a 300 pounder female to a hanging 950 big bull. That makes for 147 in the last 5 weeks. 5 more to go and that is it for the season. Time to let the other 350 graze on some mighty fine looking belly deep grass (they never knew the others were being shot).

    And as for bear get back on subject…Dave, don’t you think if the bear spray was mounted below the barrel and with a seperate trigger..aka over and under rifle- shotgun combos…and designed gun style so there was balance to the gun then readiness would not be a problem? Why don’t you design it and make yourself some money. Or if anyone else out there wants to go in on it with me WE can make it and make a bunch of dough, save a lot of bears and make hunters in bear country feel more at ease. I spent a number of years thinking this one out while riding the back country ….and coming from a hunter and preservationist background myself I think it is a real go.

    Of course Dave, if you do it alone and on the cheap, I will just have to put in another patent for a bear spray that is worthy of its use.

  69. dave smith Avatar
    dave smith

    Bob—one topic discussed on April 15 during the yellowstone grizzly bear mortality reduction “plan” was “Develop a better carrying system for hunters. Chest or firearm mount is better than on the hip.”

    It’s on p.21 of the document

    That’s a tacit admission that hip holsters aren’t really practical for hunters. There are problems with the chest holster, too. So your idea for a firearm mount is a very good idea indeed.

    We can expect Dave Parker from Counter Assault bear spray to jump in on the discussion and give us the latest on firearm mounts. People have been talking about it for years. I don’t know that there’s anything in the works at the moment.

    Do you honestly think there’d be much of a market for such a contraption? Yellowstone grizzlies are delisted, and the Northern Continental Divide Ecosystem will be delisted soon. So the only reason to use bear spray is if you’re convinced it offers better protection than your firearm.

    I can already hear the bloody screams about bear spray vs. bullets, 98% success for bear spray vs. 67% for bullets, etc. But stay tuned. I’ll post a complete list of all the reasons the agencies have given for the low success rate for firearms, and for discouraging hunters from using a firearm. You’ll get a laugh out of it. For example, there are grave concerns about “hard to find safety’s.” There are some legit issues, too, but the agencies use a lot of “straw man” arguments to discourage firearms use.

  70. Doug Dunbar Avatar
    Doug Dunbar

    Dave and Bob,

    When I backpack, even here in Florida, I carry bear spray in the Ocala National Forest. There are black bears here and I’ve seen their berry and oak (acorn) scat and tracks on the trail. I use a hip holster for my can of spray that I have on the waist strap of my pack. Is that what you are talking about, as far as hunters carrying bear spray and not having access to it? If that is so, I’m not sure where you are coming from, because it seems really accessible to me if I need to grab my spray, and I’ve practiced several times too.


    As far as the bear numbers, I’m a numbers guy and they stick with me. Also, a post mortem for Bart: He was killed during a hunting trip in Canada, going after Dall or Stone sheep. They found wolves and grizzlies were using the site, to feed on his remains. A camera was there, but from what I heard, I don’t think they found much of him left at the site. It was a sad passing for a great proponent of wildlife. He did alot of work with Grizzlies in Yellowstone and on the Rocky Mountain Front. He also worked quite a few years with Siberian Tigers in Russia, while spending his late summers and falls hunting in Alaska.

  71. Ryan Avatar

    Is that what you are talking about, as far as hunters carrying bear spray and not having access to it? If that is so, I’m not sure where you are coming from, because it seems really accessible to me if I need to grab my spray, and I’ve practiced several times too.


    The issue is, why would one drop their rifle to grab bear spray?

  72. Alan Avatar

    “The issue is, why would one drop their rifle to grab bear spray?”
    Don’t most hunters have two hands?
    I don’t have much experience with hunting rifles, but it seems that if I’m holding a six foot two by four with both hands and I need to grab a hammer out of my tool belt, I can do it without dropping the two by four.

  73. Doug Dunbar Avatar
    Doug Dunbar

    Lets go for an ethical answer. I like the idea of using my spray instead of the rifle because I’d like to have a few more bears around. Keep the species going. I know you folks think I’m nuts, but I have alot of admiration and respect for the bears. I also like to see them in the wild, or maybe not see them, but see their tracks and sign, which is as good as seeing them, because I know they are there.

  74. Doug Dunbar Avatar
    Doug Dunbar

    I know there have been several answers suggesting methods for using bear spray to deal with bear/hunter encounters. I think I have also seen the suggestion of managing the bears by providing more space, which is a good idea, but could become political if that space spreads to private land. One other suggestion along this line to provide more space for the bears, would be to utilize remote land in the US and transplant the bears to those areas in order to provide this space. In the 1980’s there was an idea to utilize land in eastern Montana to create the “Big Open” and it would be used to provide land for large herds of deer, elk, and antelope. By having these large herds it would draw hunters as well as wildlife enthusiasts and could develop the area as a tourist location to bring money into the area. This could provide land where the grizzly bears could be released and the security of large tracts of land, which they need as well. There is the Charlie Russell National Wildlife Refuge in eastern Montana, which could be the center piece of this “Big Open”. Hopefully this will get us away from the bear spray discussion, but I have an item along that line as well to support Bob Jackson’s comments above. I will discuss these later.

  75. dave smith Avatar
    dave smith

    A 2006 article in the Casper Star-Tribune reported that biologist Chuck Schwartz, leader of the Interagency Grizzly Bear Study Team, reviewed 24 cases in Wyoming (1992-2004) “when hunters and bears surprised each other in the field and the bears charged.”

    The Casper Star-Tribune noted that “hunters have guns in their hands, not pepper spray. A quiet hunter can surprise a bear, and the resultant charge gives hunters scant seconds to switch from gun to pepper spray canister.”

    Schwartz said, “Time and again, hunters said it happened so fast that when they shot, the bear fell right at their feet.” (February 8, 2006, “Lessons from hunter/griz encounters”)

    According the the minutes of the April 15, 2009 Yellowstone Grizzly Bear Coordinating Committee, “bear spray carried by hunters may not be accessible given short timeframe to respond.” (p.2)

    It appears that it holding a rifle or shotgun often precludes the use of bear spray carried in a hip holster of chest harness.

    The IGBC’s 2009 “Yellowstone [Grizzly Bear] Mortaility and Conflict Reduction Report” said there was a need to “develop a better carrying system for hunters. Chest or firearm mount is better than on the hip.” p.21

    Firearm mounts for bear spray are not currently available. The IGBC did not discuss specific issues concerning hip holsters. Parkas and other clothing may cover bear spray carried in a hip holster on a belt and interfere with its use.

    Some field carries for rifles require two hands, some just one hand. For some one hand rifle carries, a right handed hunter would hold his rifle in his right hand. Others, the left hand. So there would be times a hunter who tried to operate bear spray one-handed would have to use his off hand. While facing a charging grizzly. That’s not realistic.

    No firearms instructor teaching hunter ed. for the Wyoming, Montana, or Idaho fish & game department is ever going to train people holding a rifle with both hands to let go of their rifle with one hand and reach for bear spray with their free hand.

    For a hunter who’s been handling rifles for 10 years or more, reaching for bear spray instead of just pointing his rifle at a charging bear is about as unnatural as driving on the wrong side of the road in London for the 1st time.

  76. Ryan Avatar

    Interesting Answers Doug and Alan, but unfortunately neither of those ideas hold much weight when faced with a charging bear.

    I like grizzly bears as well, its not about dislike or lack of respect. Its usually a percieved life or death situation.

  77. JB Avatar

    “For a hunter who’s been handling rifles for 10 years or more, reaching for bear spray instead of just pointing his rifle at a charging bear is about as unnatural as driving on the wrong side of the road in London for the 1st time.”

    This is all you really needed to type; the rest was just window dressing. We’ve been through this before…at least a couple of times. I even went so far as to test the notion that hunters have “scant” in which to drop their gun and prepare their spray. Here’s what I suggest: (1) Get your gun (or a reasonable substitute); (2) equip yourself with bear spray (or a substitute) and for sh|ts and giggles, put the spray in a hard to reach location; (3) have a friend, colleague, spouse, confident, confederate, child or other party ready with a stopwatch; (4) hit “start” on the watch; (5) drop your “gun” grab your “spray” and (5) hit “stop” on the watch.

    If I recall, my mean response time was around 3.5 seconds. But hey, try it for yourself and plan your course of action instead of just listening to the endless rhetoric. about a scenario that is ridiculously unlikely. Seriously, has anyone actually calculated the odds of being startled, charged, and killed by a bear while hunting? Seems an effective use of time to me [sarcasm]. While your preparing for the inevitable bear attack, you might want to detail your plan for escaping the Siberian tiger invasion. Sheesh!

  78. Doug Dunbar Avatar
    Doug Dunbar

    There was a discussion about other methods to deal with bears, such as closure of alternating areas. How about having the various state game managers keep track of the female bears, especially with cubs, since that is what is going to keep the population on track, and close the areas where the females with cubs are active. I know this can be political, so it will take some thought on how best to handle this because hunters and recreationists will want access to there favorite spots and if they can’t get into them, there will be hell to pay.

    Back to the bear spray discussion. This is a followup to Bob Jackson’s suggestion of some kind of delivery system on the rifle. I put on my engineer’s hat and thought about it a little bit and would like to suggest some method of delivery similar to paint balls, where the pepper solution would be delivered in a breakable ball that would hit the bear and explode, releasing the pepper solution to have it’s effect on the bear’s nose and eyes. It could be rigged on the rifle similar to an over-under gun that I remember as a kid that had a barrel for 410 birdshot and a barrel for a 22 caliber rifle. One barrel would be for the regular round and another would shoot the ball. Another delivery method would combine the stream method that I had mentioned earlier from my original use of the pepper spray in the field, by using one of those cannon waterguns that you can buy nowadays, loaded with pepper spray. They shoot a long distance and are fairly accurate. You could buy refills of the pepper spray in an outdoor store or where weapons and ammo could be purchased. If one of these waterguns could be fabricated to attach to a rifle, and possibly use CO2 for the pressure to shoot the pepper solution, or use mechanical pressure like the waterguns use, and it could be developed to work integrated with the rifle, that might be a good option.

  79. Alan Avatar

    I am often in the back country carrying a camera. Sometimes it is on a tri-pod. I am sure that the combination is at least equal to a hunting rifle, probably far more cumbersome. I have never once thought that hey, if a bear charges I will have to drop my camera or, if a bear charges I am just going to shoot it (take its picture). The bear spray is right there on my hip, can be operated with one hand, doesn’t require aiming (unlike my camera), and can be accessed in a split second. You see, if that’s the only defense you have you make it work.
    I’m not saying that there would never be a case where a hunter might have to shoot the bear….windy conditions etc. But it would be nice if hunters wouldn’t simply dismiss spray out of hand. It is proven effective and its use in these circumstances might help keep grizzlies from being returned to the endangered species list. Something most hunters would probably prefer not happen.
    Delivery system on the rifle? Great idea. Someone invent it and make a mint! Maybe I could put one on my camera too!

  80. dave smith Avatar
    dave smith

    Doug–Seasonal closures and changing the dates on elk hunting were discussed on April 15 at the Yellowstone grizzly bear mortality reduction meeting. Rejected.

    Alan–Giving bear spray to photographers has already proven to be a problem. You get cretins working alone, or in pairs, who get their bear spray ready to use and then approach for pictures.

  81. Barrie Gilbert Avatar
    Barrie Gilbert

    Response to Bob Jackson and SAP from Dr. Barrie Gilbert re 27 June 1977 grizzly mauling.

    I have just read the thread on Yellowstone grizzlies for the first time and how grizzly stories are modified, according to Bob Jackson. I have not responded to any blogs so far but this one really angered me. Maybe it’s time for some FACTS, not opinions, or internal scuttlebutt among park service folks who never asked me a question in the intervening 32 years on the mauling I barely survived and the nature of the research I was doing. Jackson has not only a lot of the story wrong but impunes my character when he says I changed my story for devious purposes, lookey at this:

    “How could the govt. justify funds for future proposals for Barry when a study like this was that flawed? His credibility as researcher was at stake.”

    And another by bob jackson:

    “Do you think he is going to say he contructed (sic) a very flawed study and this is what caused the bear to sneak up on him? No in the end he stated he should have had a gun.”

    The “flawed study” that has Bob’s tail in a knot, was not done by me, as SAP points out, along with some other corrections by SAP. That study was done by an interagency team , I believe. Maybe, bob, you ought to read some stuff or even give me a call if you are going to explain my beliefs and intimidate people with your long-time tenure in the wilderness south of Yellowstone. I’ve read all the stories that the LA Times wrote about “Action Jackson” but apparently you never Googled anything that I wrote or consulted me before you slandered my attempts to understand grizzly behavior. But, hey, I went on to spend some 3000-4000 hours near grizzlies on salmon streams in AK and BC working with the Park Service in Alaska and others and was treated as a respected, objective scientist.

    The study I was starting was to look at grizzly response to outfitter pack trains and hikers in the back country of Yellowstone. I did not design or carry out this study other than to observe grizzly behavior at a long distance. I never even thought of pushing grizzlies to see what they would do. If anybody told you that they were passing on ignorant speculation. Maybe, bob, that’s the scenario that you ought to focus on.
    The reason Bruce and I hiked to the spur ridge opposite Bighorn Pass at the head of the Gallatin drainage, was to be above and away from the grizzly family that we had seen over a kilometer or so from Bighorn Pass. I had distance and safety on my mind all the time. But I failed to consider that a female with cubs might climb through the timber onto a 9,200 ft. alpine ridge.

    And contrary to Jackson’s assertion; “Barry DID NOT surprise the bear that mauled his face” I DID surprise the bear. And, contrary to Jackson, I was not taking a crap (that was Bruce, and why this brave man was well behind me and ended up saving my life). I was coming over the ridge and moved quickly so that I was not silouetted against the sky and might cause elk to alarm bark. Unfortunately I think the griz saw me move toward it quickly and duck down – interpreting this as an attack on it by me. Well I could fill the page on the behavior of this bear that ripped my scalp off, tore my left cheekbone off down to the brain and had my ears hanging by skin. My “good” eye was hanging out too. To finish the mis-information, I never said that I needed a gun not did I at any time demean the planning or behavior of park service staff.

    Bob Jackson ought to get into fiction writing. I have a copy of the Case Incident Report that Bob Jackson says is his internal source. Sorry, Bob, you gotta read it again. You are wrong. How about this by BJ in this thread:

    “The bear came from behind and the bear literally caught him with his pants down.
The reason it all happened was a study and operation that was flawed …unless the alterior (sic) motive was to find out if they could win the Darwin award.” (Bob Jackson)

    Nice theatrics, Bob but your account is unadulterated crap.
 And I am pretty angry that you hang me with a “flawed study” when you got all the facts wrong despite their being widely available. You may have had a valid criticism of somebody else’s study but it was not mine. Nor would I have ever done such a study. I studied the behavior of grizzly bears, over 35 years after my accident and, with a bright bunch of graduate students, had a wonderful time trying to get some science to protect and preserve grizzlies. I am still active, thanks to the Smoke Jumpers and EMTs from the West Yellowstone crew in 1997 who risked their life getting me out and the surgeons that did 14 operations and used almost 1000 sutures to get me a passable face. Shortly after my “accident” I wrote a paper about the interaction, submitted it to the J. of Mammalogy: rejected – because of the content.

    I can still be seen carrying bear spray and hiking in Yellowstone, Katami or BC coast with a spotting scope observing grizzlies.

    So I’ll wrap this up. Seems that Bob made his point better than he could have imagined by showing how people who listen uncritically to others can weave a fable.

  82. SAP Avatar

    Thank you, Barrie, for the information & continuing inspiration. Thanks to Doug Dunbar, too, for a trove of good information.

  83. Alan Avatar

    Dave, you confuse photographers with idiots. Photographers don’t have an exclusive on that. Indeed, if you are talking about the “big lens” guys, which is what most people mean when they say “photographers”, most of these guys (and gals) spent a lot of money on those lenses for the express purpose of being able to maintain a safe distance (for themselves and the animals). Are there idiots among them? Absolutely! Just as there are idiot hunters, hikers, backpackers, fishermen, tourists, anti-abortion activists, pro abortion activists……you name it. Unfortunately a few idiots in any group can give the entire group a black eye to non members of the group; and they tend to be the only ones you ever hear about.

  84. Ralph Maughan Avatar

    Aren’t there more attacks on those who tried to photograph the grizzly with 200 or 300 mm lens than those who went to the expense and effort to set up the 1000mm?

  85. bob jackson Avatar
    bob jackson


    I’m sorry to here Bart died… but in reflection I’d have to say if death was going to happen with me what better place?
    I had to deal with the thoughts of death or maulings by griz all those years in Yellowstone’s back country. It is so much different when one is all alone with no one around to help …personal awareness of everthing around becomes foremost engrained in ones psych.

    When I read from you of something like what happpened to Bart, where there was no one around, it tells mehe was in a place of mind where he was vey comfortable in his perspective of life. thanks for relaying this Doug.

    And now for Barry,

    Barry, I am not suprised one iota Yellowstone did not interview you once in all those years.
    I view the Park as a “throw away” entity. You, me, or anyone else who doesn’t match their immediate objectives … or is a perceived “embarassment” to the principals affected there is tossed onto the garbage pile. Those that understand this can get through their time there without becoming bitter or apathetic.

    You, as an outsider, did not have anyway to know this. All you knew was Yellowstone and you meshed well with their promoted objectives. The intent of course was to figure out how to get bears some isolation …and maintain population …away from humans.
    One could say you started this chain of action ..but you will not get credit for it. Those internal in the “system” have claimed this (the studies from the top of pelican Cone are always highlighted in Yellowstone as for why the bear closure areas of the Mirror and Two Ocean were needed).
    If you would not have been mauled then you might of been credited for early “thought” by those in the system. As it was I see from inside they threw you away and advanced those who took your thoughts and were then advanced through the system. I doubt anyone there now even knows who you are except as a vague rememberance of someone who got caught with your pants down taking a crap. Whether it happened or not this way will never change how it is remembered in the Park. I heard it the same day it happened and I heard it that winter when I went on a ten day ski patrol with one of those who went in that day. It was always said you pushed the bears and the one who got you may not even be the one you were aware of as being part of the pushing. I’d say as a throw away it did not matter if you did it out of ignorance or purpose. the blame was still on you. The sympathy by those in the Park who cared what happened was allowed by administraton only because they did not want you to sue them. Their (Mary Meagher) reports back from you were needed only to get a feel for what you were going to do.

    My take is there is no one who tries anything who does have some error of life. It is just when one tries to camaflouge it over…to minimize or deny there are problems. For a number of years my peers called me refrigerator eradicator because the first shot out of my new 44 was a dry fire into my residences frig. I could go on forever saying why it happened with good logic but so what. Shit happens and we move on.

    You and everyone of us reaching the golden years of our lives tries to justify and validate what we did in that life. I say,Professional is a lot different than personal satisfaction.

    I noted the discrepancy of as you say “fact” because the “spin” is so important in professional networking and occupation. It permeates all biologists careers. The game is with the govt. and always will be.

    What I noted of you is no different than just about all biologists out there. It is the same with just about all bear attacks out there also. It is also the same with all the poachers I caught. They wrote out tearful confessions but two weeks later in town and around the boys they hated my guts and all the set up I did to make them look guilty.

    Only you, Barry, and your “brave” assistant, will know if it was you or they who was taking a crap. This is all it comes down to. If you believe it then go to your grave knowing this. I have to go with what is a pattern out there…one pervasive to human nature.

  86. SAP Avatar

    Mr. Jackson, respectfully, you owe Barrie a straight-up apology.

    What you say about YNP is true & unfortunate, but you were pretty insistent that he had done dumb, unetical things in the field & then tried to spin the story to make himself look better. Source after source contradicts that version. I am sorry that YNP mistreated both of you, but that doesn’t justify maligning Barrie Gilbert.

  87. Ryan Avatar

    “I am often in the back country carrying a camera. Sometimes it is on a tri-pod. I am sure that the combination is at least equal to a hunting rifle, probably far more cumbersome. I have never once thought that hey, if a bear charges I will have to drop my camera or, if a bear charges I am just going to shoot it (take its picture). The bear spray is right there on my hip, can be operated with one hand, doesn’t require aiming (unlike my camera), and can be accessed in a split second. You see, if that’s the only defense you have you make it work.
    I’m not saying that there would never be a case where a hunter might have to shoot the bear….windy conditions etc. But it would be nice if hunters wouldn’t simply dismiss spray out of hand. ”

    The difference your camera is virtually useless during a bear charge where as the rifle is quite effective. There in lies the quandry, do you throw a perfectly good defense system on the ground in the very short time you have to respond to grab your bear spray (which many have less faith in than a rifle) or do you just instinctivly shoot it with your rifle. From reading between the lines, you aren’t espicially comfortable or proficient with a rifle. Most hunters are or fancy themselves as competent. You’ll never win that argument with most.

  88. jdubya Avatar

    You know, bob jackson, I used to think you had some valuable and interesting things to say, but your continuing character assassination of Barrie Gilbert is disgusting to say the least. You had a chance to respond to his comments with facts and instead you continued to spin your yarns. I won’t waste my time reading anything you write again.

  89. Dave Smith Avatar
    Dave Smith

    JB on June 2 “I even went so far as to test the notion that hunters have “scant” in which to drop their gun and prepare their spray. Here’s what I suggest: (1) Get your gun (or a reasonable substitute); (2) equip yourself with bear spray (or a substitute) and for sh|ts and giggles, put the spray in a hard to reach location; (3) have a friend, colleague, spouse, confident, confederate, child or other party ready with a stopwatch; (4) hit “start” on the watch; (5) drop your “gun” grab your “spray” and (5) hit “stop” on the watch.”

    Hunters don’t drop loaded rifles. It’s a safety issue. It’s such an important safety issue that all hunters are taught that when you’re crossing a fence or some other obstacle, you unload your rifle and place it on the ground, then cross the fence and reload.

    I think a lot of people who claim they’re pro-bear spray because they’re pro-bear, and just anti-hunting, anti-gun fanatics in disguise.

  90. Alan Avatar

    Actually, my entire point was that I would not have to throw my camera on the ground. I have two hands. I can easily hold on to the tripod with one hand and grab the bear spray with the other, just as in my earlier post I could easily hold a two by four in one hand and grab a hammer off my tool belt with the other. The “throw the rifle on the ground” thing just doesn’t fly. Why are you throwing the rifle on the ground? Do you only have one hand? Is your rifle in your hands when you are field dressing or when in camp?
    The problem is that so many hunters refuse even to consider carrying spray. As I freely admitted earlier, it’s not going to be the answer in every situation, but if all hunters carrying spray saves just one or two bears a year it might tip the scales. Because the real “difference” here is that if something isn’t done, bears will decline, they will go back on the endangered list, more and more areas will have to be closed (to everyone) as critical grizzly habitat, hunters will never have the opportunity to legally hunt them etc., etc.
    Lacking faith in spray is just a matter of education. My god, man; I’m not arguing that anyone stand there and be mauled! Just give yourself options. Use the spray if possible. But you can’t use it if you refuse to carry it, and you are not trained to use it. Is this the attitude that we are going to start seeing in the parks once weapons are allowed? “Well, I have more faith in my gun so I just shot the bear.” The attitude expressed by someone on one of these threads who said, basically, “bears are off the ESL so we may just as well shoot them”? That is a losing attitude. Losing for the bears, losing for the hunters, losing for everyone.

  91. bob jackson Avatar
    bob jackson


    Where are all those sources? Second hand that repeats itself from the first narrative to the public? SAP, you may need to have certain professional alliance heroes because of reasons I can not know but that doesn’t mean you have to be blind to understanding the basis of that loyalty. Be loyal but understand loyalty comes from blood related extended family evolution that can not be applied to non blood situations.

    I ask you to think of what ANY study trying to figure the affect of displacement of bears by human presence means there has to be follow up of how far these bears are displaced. Thus there has to be following to have knowledge of to what extent displacement occurs.
    in otherwords did the bears just go into the first bunch of trees or did it displace them to the next drainage? Without radio collars Barry would not have been a very good researcher if he didn’t follow.

    Barry, also as a professional bear researcher has a considerable higher standard of awareness of bear localities…to not screw up. He wasn’t a tourist or a backpacker. What happened to him could have happened as a glitch, an accident where no amount of knowledge or preparedness would have helped. But one has to say he needed to know a LOT more than the average person. Thus any incident suchs as his needs to be looked at indepth to come up with ways to minimze happenings in the future.

    I would look forward to scrutinizing of any professional action of mine …without the anger Barry says he has towards me by bringing up what was relayed to me. Status or image seems to be the basis of this anger. Forgive me but I was in on bear victim searchs and had to be part of some grusome recoveries but I never thought of myself as “risking my life” as Barry relates of those who came to help him. Nor did I think of anyone with me as being “brave”. None of us had fire coming in on us. As a bear biologist Barry knows bear maulings are not waiting to repeat themselves with viscious bears waiting in the woods to attack rescuers with bloody fangs bearing down on these rescuers.

    Whether it was the interagency studying direct repeated displacement or Barry doing one step removed displacement it was very dangerous work for either and both were doing something that was worthy of Darwin status by those participants.
    Yes, the Park was the one ultimately responsible for close encounter studies like this. They learned and thus the spotting scope studies of Pelican Cone.

    As for those disciples of those “in need” I think it is admirable….as long as it is not for selfish reasons. What are yours, SAP? And I never felt like the Park wronged me”.
    It was just something I had to deal with. How can they wrong me when I knew what “they” were.

    With Barry we are dealing with a specific incident, not with whether he was as a competent life long biologist. Without knowing more where I could assess for myself I’d say he was a lot better biologist than all those who chose to snuggle up and brown to get ahead.

    As the French said,”speak no bad of the dead” well None of us on this blog are dead yet.

  92. bob jackson Avatar
    bob jackson


    I was being respectful by not hammering all those “facts” home. I don’t think everyone wants to know all the underlying reasons why people do what they do. To me the psychology of an incident can be a lot more productive than hammering of physical happenings. It allows for compassion where stats don’t.

  93. Save bears Avatar
    Save bears


    Respectfully, much of what you post is “Second Hand” information…

  94. Ryan Avatar


    Most grizzly attacks occur when people are actually hunting, not while taking care of game or in camp. That being said I understand your point, but changing the mindset will be near impossible.

  95. Dave Smith Avatar
    Dave Smith


    The Interagency Grizzly Bear Committee’s disingenious bear spray campaign has created disrespect and loathing for hunters. The IGBC needs to admit it lied and mislead the public about bear spray. Then, hunters might listen to reasonable recommendations about using bear spray in camp, when retreiving game, when field dressing animals, and when packing out animals.

    “Several conservation groups, concerned about the needless killing of grizzly bears by hunters who are defending themselves, have petitioned those states surrounding Yellowstone National Park to require hunters to carry bear spray.” When Man Is The Prey, p.117-8, New York, St. Martin’s Griffin, 2007

    “Every time a hunter decides to shoot instead of use bear spray they are making a decision that’s going to set back grizzly bear recovery,’ said Brian Peck, of the Great Bear Foundation.” Salt Lake City Tribune, March 26, 2008. “Wildlife encounters: If you meet a bear, don’t shoot. Spray.”

  96. bob jackson Avatar
    bob jackson

    Save bears ,are you referring to this post or others also?
    iif it is this post then I would say, yes, the actual events of what happened that day and why it happened is ALL second hand info.
    It is also second hand info what was relayed to me about Barry later saying he should been allowed to be armed. the deductions I make come from similar experiences with similar type events.

    I was privy to information very few had. The reactions to what I presented also adds to what I come up to further base my assessments. Emotions tells me as much as “facts”.

    All the above s what I did all my life as a law enforcement officer to solve poaching cases.
    I always had to look a bit deeper and that meant looking for motives. The reasons why hunters shot a bear or why biolgists covered up why animals died in their captures were all the same…self least for the moment. Everyone on this earth has done it, it is just what each of us learns from those “cover ups”. Maybe Barry didn’t do as those on site related to me but I don’t see a motive for those to say what they did especially on that short of repeating. Administration wise, yes, there were many motives for blaming Barry. It took liability off them. but normally these stories take time to develop and then spin.

    Yes, it was second hand information and the deductive scenarios are based on my experiences of life. To me it all adds up because the projections come out as what is defended or related next.

    It is the same as all of us on this site come up with the assessments from “second hand” evidence whether written or spoken that allows for differences. I am not god however so in this sensitive area for all of us maybe the best that can come of it is accountability in knowing that each of us has to live with ourselves. So unless that mauling bears ancestors can tell me different I will have to stick with my above assessments. Myths and heroes are needed at that time of need. GeorgeWashington we find out didn’t cross the Deleware as stated in school books and McCarthers walk through the waters of the Phillipines was staged. It happens at all levels.

  97. JB Avatar

    “Hunters don’t drop loaded rifles. It’s a safety issue. It’s such an important safety issue that all hunters are taught that when you’re crossing a fence or some other obstacle, you unload your rifle and place it on the ground, then cross the fence and reload.”

    Dave/Chuck: Good grief! I’m aware that “dropping” a loaded weapon poses a safety issue; I’m afraid you’ve caught me being loose with language. When I ran my little test I lowered my “weapon” (actually a broom) with one hand while reaching behind to my back pocket (opposite side) to retrieve my pepper spray. I apologize for not using a real firearm, we’ve only recently acquired bears in Ohio and I haven’t had time to stockpile weapons against the inevitable onslaught.

    As I said before, instead of listening to the ENDLESS rhetoric, most of which you have generated, I suggest people practice for themselves and make an informed decision. I am not paid by either the gun lobby nor the bear spray “fanatics” (whom ever they are?).

  98. Doug Dunbar Avatar
    Doug Dunbar

    You can still be a hunter, have respect for the bears, and still want to have the bears around. I was a hunter before I started working with bears, I was a hunter while I worked with bears, and I was a hunter after I was finished working with bears. I still go into the woods in Montana and Florida and I see bear tracks and sign in both places. I like the idea of knowing they are around, and I respect the fact that they are around by keeping a clean camp, using the triangular method of setting up a tent in one location, cooking in another location, and storing your food in a third location to create a triangle and reduce your chances of running into a bear.
    I remember a time when I hiked into Hoodoo Basin to the east of YNP, and south of the Beartooth highway in Wyoming to pick up a bear collar in late September. We hiked in one afternoon and arrived at the place where we were going to camp, while we were tracking down the collar. Along the way we saw whitebark bear scat (looks like granola bars), so we knew there were bears in the area. We found a large steel box, that was pretty heavy, and had been pushed into a small creek. We found there was food in the box, so we moved the box out of the creek and up closer to the fire pit. We had dinner that night and crawed into the tent. It was fairly cold that night and we woke up to about 6 inches of snow the following morning. As we crawled out of the tent we noticed some tracks off to the side of the tent. By looking at the tracks you could tell they were grizzly because the toe pads were fairly straight across, as opposed to arched, which is characteristic of a black bear. Anyhow, the tracks approached from behind our tent, did a semi-circle around the tent, staying about 10 feet away, and then continued down the hill toward the fire pit and food box. Where the tracks reached the food box, it was interesting. The food box had been pushed back into the creek, but the bear was not able to get to the food. There were bear paw prints on the box, which taught us how the box got moved earlier. I guess the point I’m trying to make here is that you don’t always need the bear spray to protect yourself from the bears. There are other things you can do as well, just be smart and use common sense.

  99. Dave Smith Avatar
    Dave Smith

    JB–The IGBC doesn’t want hunters to practice using bear spray in real life scenarios. The WY,MT, ID fish & game departments don’t teach hunters how to use bear spray in real life hunting scenarios during hunter ed classes. They can’t, because they’d be ridiculed by firearms experts. It’s not safe or practical.

    But that doesn’t stop bear spray fanatics, who often admit they know nothing about firearms, from telling hunters how to handle their firearm in a life or death situation, or comparing a firearm to a camera on a tripod, etc. It’s whacko, bonkers, crazy stuff.

  100. izabelam Avatar

    Someone mentioned above the idea of rules of hiking in groups more than 4. Same for hunting in groups more than just one. “The man was hunting in the Cinnabar Basin, northwest of Gardiner, with an outfitter who had left him at the edge of a clearing. When the bear wandered close, the hunter stood and yelled.”
    Why in the hell outfitter left the guy alone?????

    Also, last time I went to Canada and wanted to hike in the area where bears where frequented, there was a BIG sign asking to assemble goups of 4 of more.
    And guess what? Poeple were waiting for more hikers to show up so they all hiked together…
    Ha..concept…hike or hunt in groups of 4 or more…

  101. Save bears Avatar
    Save bears

    There goes the idea of a long drawn out discussion on bear spray..

    Hate to say “I told ya so” Ralph!


  102. ProWolf in WY Avatar
    ProWolf in WY

    Izabelam, why is four the magic number? I am not saying that hiking in groups isn’t a good idea, just curious why the number four was mentioned.

  103. Dave Smith Avatar
    Dave Smith

    Izabelam–There are two reasons for hiking in groups of 4 or more. One, if you startle a grizzly and it charges, the bear is less likely to make contact with a group of 4 than a solo person. Two, groups tend to make more noise, broadcast more scent, etc., so a group is more likely to be detected by a bear before the people get too close. Since hunters want to avoid being detected by critters, telling hunters to hunt in groups of 4 or more is going to be a tough concept to sell.

    Save bears–as a sales rep for counter assault bear spray, I’m sure you don’t want hunters and other people to get accurate information on bear spray.

  104. Save bears Avatar
    Save bears

    Dave Smith,

    Again, you are wrong, I am in no way affiliated with any bear spray company, I don’t know why you insist I am, you have made this accusation before, you don’t know me, I don’t know you and the limited contact we have had is only on this blog

  105. Ralph Maughan Avatar

    The bear spray issue is starting to make me chomp my jaws and shake my head.

  106. SAP Avatar

    In light of Ralph’s (& hundreds of others’) fatigue with the bear pepper spray mosh, let’s just summarize the subtopics into a resolution (a “memorial” for you Gem Staters?) & speak no more of it til the Beast rises from the Sea:


    1. Bear Pepper Spray (herein “BPS”) works pretty good at averting grizzly bears at ranges of less than 15 meters in ambient temperatures above 0 Centigrade in calm conditions with little precipitation. (This is a draft — someone else can modify or add footnotes about conditions in which it works better)

    1a. There are conditions in which BPS would not perform well, & a heavy lead projectile delivered by a proficient shooter might work better.

    1b. Many shooter could be capable of accurately placing a killing or disabling shot on a charging grizzly at close range. FWP commissioner Vic Workman evidently is not one of them.

    2. We are not sure what to tell people about handling a firearm & BPS at the same time. Someone should work on this.

    3. It would be super to have different BPS delivery systems developed, especially those that could be fully integrated with a conventional firearms platform similar to a British “drilling” long gun.

    4. R&D costs, production costs, & public safety concerns (eg, giving criminals retail access to potent less-lethal munitions like 12ga pepperball rounds) have impeded & will continue to impede dramatic innovations in BPS delivery systems.

    5. Until Rocky Mountain grizzlies are as rare as, say, Sumatran tigers, the public will have the right to defend themselves with lethal force from perceived threats to their lives from grizzlies. You can make it mandatory to carry BPS, but it’s unlikely you can make it mandatory to use it.

    6. There are some people advocating BPS who are not credible messengers.

    I think that covers it. ChuckDave, can’t help you out on the question of whether anyone with a $$ stake in CounterAssault or UDAP is salting this blog with biased pro-BPS propaganda. I will continue to carry it & hope I never find out whether my brainstem will pick the rifle or the BPS in a real-life encounter.

  107. Dave Smith Avatar
    Dave Smith

    1b. Skip the cheap shot at Workman, and say:

    Herrero notes that shooting at charging grizzlies is “not hunting; it is self-defense shooting,” and tells hunters they should train by “shooting hundreds of rounds with the chosen firearm under a variety of conditions chosen to simulate field conditions.” State fish and game departments in grizzly country offer hunters no advice or training on how to use their firearm effectively during a worst-case scenario with a grizzly.

  108. SAP Avatar

    Not a cheap shot, just trying to make the Resolution as inclusive as I could so no one would say “but what about Workman!!”. Your other additions are valuable & this august council will revise the Resolution to reflect these thoughts (mention JG Shelton, too).

  109. Ryan Avatar

    “The bear spray issue is starting to make me chomp my jaws and shake my head.”


    I’m guilty of getting involved, but what I hate about these heated debates is that people fight over miniscule things and allow the real issues (habitat loss, Global warming, etc) to get glossed over in the pursuit of a realtive non issue.

  110. ProWolf in WY Avatar
    ProWolf in WY

    Thank-you Ryan!

  111. Dave Smith Avatar
    Dave Smith

    Chris Servheen and the IGBC are so expert at making a travesty of the EIS and NEPA that it’s almost impossible to fight them on habitat issues. The bear spray issue is something environmentalists and anti-hunters can glom on to. Great diversonary tactic by Servheen. Let the enviros and anti-hunters berate hunters instead of focusing on habitat issues.

  112. Dave Smith Avatar
    Dave Smith

    1.) A 2008 study by Tom Smith, S. Herrero et al. showed that for non-hunters in Alaska, BPS worked pretty good at averting grizzly bears at ranges of less than 15 meters in ambient temperatures above 0 Centigrade in calm conditions with little precipitation. An informal study by Chuck Schwartz of the Interagency Grizzly Bear Study Team indicates that hunters holding a firearm don’t have time to use bear spray during a sudden encounters with a grizzly.

    “In 96% (69 of 72) of bear spray incidents the person’s activity at the time was reported (Fig. 2). The largest category involved hikers (35%), followed by persons engaged in bear management activities (30%), people at their home or cabin (15%), campers in their tents (9%), people working on various jobs outdoors (4%), sport fishers (4%), a hunter stalking a wounded bear (1%), and a photographer (1%). Efficacy of Bear Deterrent Spray in Alaska

    Herrero’s 1998 BPS study did not catagorize the activity of people using bear spray.

    Chuck Schwartz reviewed 24 cases in Wyoming (1992-2004) “when hunters and bears surprised each other in the field and the bears charged.” He told the Casper Star-Tribune “hunters have guns in their hands, not pepper spray. A quiet hunter can surprise a bear, and the resultant charge gives hunters scant seconds to switch from gun to pepper spray canister. ‘Time and again, hunters said it happened so fast that when they shot, the bear fell right at their feet.” (February 8, 2006, “Lessons from hunter/griz encounters”)

  113. Linda Hunter Avatar

    Whew now that the pepper spray debate is winding down perhaps someone can tell me why hunters have to make a choice at all. If you put yourself in the wilderness with a good sense of smell, hearing and eyesight and your own footsteps are not making noise, you will be able to hear, smell and detect the human animal for quite a ways. Even a sneaking hunter can be detected by me and my poor senses, even in archery season and I am no where near as talented as a bear. I don’t understand why there are so many “surprise” encounters with hunters who are way more aware than turons and hikers in groups. Hunters have the skill and ability to know what animals are in their area don’t they? And, it has been my experience in getting charged by a bear that the bear gave me warning, although I admit it was subtle I haven’t even seen a bear charge another bear in many many hours of watching them without a warning of some kind. So, the pepper spray vs gun issue has overshadowed these questions for a long time. What I want to know from someone who hunts in grizzly country is how often do bears really just charge without warning coming in from nowhere.

  114. ProWolf in WY Avatar
    ProWolf in WY

    Linda, that has never happened to me or any of my relatives and friends who hunt in the heart of grizzly country. That is not to say that it couldn’t happen, but publications like Outdoor Life don’t help when they have covers of snarling grizzlies and have so many of them depicted in their magazines that make it look like it happens all the time. Hunters are just more likely to get charged since they are going to be quiet, versus hikers who make noise by talking and/or carrying bear bells.

  115. dave smith Avatar
    dave smith

    “Case histories of hiker-bear injurious encounters suggest that there are few aggressive displays preceeding an attack.” Herrero, p.14

  116. Ryan Avatar

    As a hunter that has hunted in Grizzly country, I have been fortunate as to have not been charged by one. Its pretty easy to sneak up on animals both knowingly and unknowingly when being quiet in the woods. Grizzlys aren’t loud creatures and when sneaking through thick county in pursuit of other game its relatively easy to bump into one. Last year when stalking mule deer in the desert I snuck close enough to a bedded doe that she blew snot in my face when she finally saw me. I ended up harvesting my buck in his bed at 4 yards.

  117. ProWolf in WY Avatar
    ProWolf in WY

    Ryan, I think that takes the cake for interesting hunting stories. Having a deer blow snot on you is probably something that most people can’t say happened to them. 🙂 That being said, I know that it is easy to bump into a large animal without hearing it. It has happened to me twice with bull moose.

  118. Doug Dunbar Avatar
    Doug Dunbar

    I agree on the bull moose. I was on a backpacking trip in the Bridger-Tetons and hiking down the trail by myself, when I jumped a bull moose who ran right across the trail in front of me. He was probably within 5 to 8 feet of me. It gets the adrenaline going.

  119. Linda Hunter Avatar

    “Case histories of hiker-bear injurious encounters suggest that there are few aggressive displays preceeding an attack.” Herrero, p.14

    I don’t care what Herrero “suggests”. His suppositions are based on interviews of people who may not have seen anything because they had no idea what to look for. . .the kinds of warnings a bear gives are too subtle to be called aggressive attacks and I believe that Herrero is outdated by now anyway. I want to know what kind of encounters you have had personally that would support the claim by many hunters who have shot bears who say that bears make a habit of charging from an unseen position with intent to make contact.
    Thank you Ryan for that great story, but I also think it is possible that although a hunter can’t detect a bear in advance that the bear surely can detect the hunter. . and may decide they don’t have to move or want to get in on the hunt perhaps.
    The only “data” that exists in the supposed science on bears are the encounters where bear or human is hurt or killed but the answer to this puzzle of hunter and bear encounters is probably in all the unreported, unrecorded instances.

  120. dave smith Avatar
    dave smith

    SAP–How about putting #2 in pro-active terms?

    2.) Should hunters train to use their firearm, or train to use bear spray?

    It is recommended that hunters mentally rehearse a worst-case scenario with grizzly bears. “If the mind has never been there before, the body does not know how to respond.” How To Hunt Safely In Grizzly Country, Montana Department of Fish, Wildlife and Parks

    If the IGBC wants hunters to “carry bear spray and know how to use it,” the IGBC needs to produce a video and/or publish a brochure that shows hunters how to use it. For each of the six commonly used “field carries” for rifles, the IGBC needs to show hunters how to use bear spray carried in a hip holster. The IGBC needs to provide hunters with step-by-step instructions on how to use bear spray carried in a chest harness while using the two-hand ready carry, shoulder carry, and each of the four other field carries. Should a hunter who gets charged while using the cradle carry for his rifle mentally rehearse using his rifle, or bear spray? The IGBC video/brochure should answer this question for each of the six field carries for rifles.

  121. Ryan Avatar


    I spent a fair amount of time in Grizzly country, there is a vast difference in how bears that are not hunted and have no natural fear of humans react and those that have had adverse encounters with humans react. Most of the lower 48 grizzlys do not have the fear of man that grizzlys in other areas do. On the russian river in AK and Brooks camp areas, the bears have no fear of humans and adverse encounters occur regulary (not so much at brooks camp, but at the russian its very scary) Compare that to areas I have hunted in the remote AK where the bears are hunted, they haul ass at first detection of humans. I know black bears have a relatively poor sense of sight (i’d assume grizzlys do as well) and given the right conditions (wet woods proper wind) its easy to stumble upon them with out either party knowing they are there. From there the incident is based on how the bear responds. A bear with a fear of man will run 90% of the time, where as a habituated bear will be more prone to attack the threat causing the mortalities.


    Good luck with your videos, try to get them incorporated into hunter safety classes so the lessons can be learned at a young age. With older hunters, I think you may be sol.

  122. Cobra_bassin Avatar

    Just this past weekend they shot a grizzly not 5 miles from my house. From what I understand from the local paper the man that shot the bear has an elk farm and the bear was getting into the pen. The man that shot the bear did so after dark and thought he was shooting a black bear. It’s kind of funny when we’ve told some of the fish & game that we have seen grizzly sign in different areas around here while hiking or hunting they would just blow us off. I guess now we have proof the grizzlies do come through here from time to time and we’re all sure there are more around than anyone has thought there were.

  123. Cobra_bassin Avatar

    I guess I should say where 5 miles from my house is. The grizzlie was taken about 20 miles east of Coeur’d’ Alene Idaho about 1 mile north of I-90.

  124. Linda Hunter Avatar

    Ryan the latest word from biologists is that bears do not have bad eyesight. Here is an article I think you will enjoy reading:
    You may know some of the researchers or have heard their names.

  125. bob jackson Avatar
    bob jackson


    I have to think you are referring to my comments last fall. If they were interpreted as too personal or inaproppriate I apologize not only to Barry but also to all who read and comment on this site and feel the same way. I do not visit many blogs because those on other sites say lots and lots of things that are very gross…and are in retrospect sueable. The only reason there must not be all kinds of litigation on these sites is “they are all doing it”. I do comment on this one because I feel it has very high standards. Ralph is very good at keeping all of us “in line”. Ralph has e mailed me responses of others that were unpostable because they were very dangerous threats. One was from someone who labeled himself “death keeper’ or something of that nature. This persons response made my backside chill no different than the time I had a weido stake me out and then try kill me in the middle of the night at Thorofare. I appreciate Ralph’s very important role of “moderator” on this site.

    In Barry’s case I have to believe there was a lot of work by administration to “overview” all that went out of that office. Barry may not have known it but he had a very good case against the Park and they knew it. All of us talking in the field talked it. All of us thought the Park was on the wrong slant by carrying on contact studies with bears in this nature. We figured all Barry had to do was piggy back the interagencies study with his and show a pattern of Park focus of study….and any jury would say the Park..after coming off those high profile wars with the Craigheads should know a lot more about bears than any researcher coming in from outside. Jurors would say there was all kinds of potential carryover of operations from one study to the next. The only thing that keeps legitimate law suits from happening, suits that should happen to keep those above accountable, is all of us our proud of what we are doing.

    In yellowstone when there is any incident of sueable or political calamity there are written reports by all involved. Then the principal investigator writes the case incident and it is then sent to the law enforcement office for final approval. If there is too much influence by administration to “smooth things out” the writers and witnesses resent it and try to get the word out inhouse. It is not so much of being repressed but any professional person out there knows facts are important to make things not happen again. Administration knew a few of us in the field would not allow alteration of facts that we would then sign off on. What they did then was do things such as change citations of “sensitive nature” (ie well placed outfitter)…. to warnings without ever telling us, the citation writer. We would be told by immediate supervisors maybe a year later…if we were lucky.

    All of us underlings hated it when political decisions and abuses of the rules and regs happened. It was more pervasive in Yellowstone because so many influentual people were a part of its happenings. I told lots and lots of people about the time the Park illegally power boated the owner of the 21 club (Nixon’s second best friend) into Trail Creek cabin for unlimited fish catching. He even told my fellow Fisheries partner and I, upon seeing all our gill netted fish, he wanted to buy all of them. In 1971, that day, we could have netted $6000 but instead we explained how the fish nutrients were important to the placed back into the Lake. This man was allowed these “privilages” supposedly because he was important for Roosevelt Park Way being approved. Does anyone think for a moment those higher ups taking his picture, unhooking his trout and putting over 25 trout onto multiple stringers would have backed my story. They didn’t need to then but they proved there character when pressure from Washington made them start tapping my phone and opening my mail.

    What I am trying to say with the Nixon story and its cover up is there is always talk inhouse of any events of significance. How much should get out? I don’t know. Some, I feel, should be limited when family is concerned. Barry is family to this environmental blog whether it is in person or in philosophy. And I have to remember so am I. My back ground culture as back country ranger, I have to keep telling myself is different than a lot of others in this country.

    What is sensitive and still needs discussion and what is too much? We had a young woman pulled out of her tent and eaten by a griz at a campsite I put in years earlier at the direction of my supervisor. the parents in a foreign country were told she had a quick death. But it wasn’t. You see if a bear wants you for food they hold you down and eat from the stomach out. She weighed sixty pounds when it was over and she was put in two garbage bags. She had a lot of bruises on the side of her hands. One doesn’t bruise if the heart isn’t pumping. She had been hitting that bear, while he pinned her chest and lower body down and was epulling out her organs. How much of this was left for final draft and inclusion in case incident reports I can not say. I can say her parents difinitely didn’t need to read it and so what was available to them with what was secured in house. I’d say Barry had his event in moderation and accounts that strengthened anti law suit case was kept confidential as “notes” in offices well away from Mammoth. the importance to those of Ralphs blog those with concerns about bear mangement …or wants to hike in Yellowstone …on the other hand needs to know this can happen the same way it happened to this scandinavian girl. My supervisor, the one who wrote the Yellowstone Trail Guide, was so shaken by his discovery of this girl he said he’d never stay another night camping in the back country. He did starting about a year later. Should I not say this about someone I did lots of back country patrol with. As I know him he wouldn’t mind. In fact he would want it said. But if he doesn’t have the confidence now 25 years later would this embarass him?

    i had culpability in this death. The campsite I put in never should have been put in. I knew it was in a real SPOOKY PLACE and bad for bear contact. My knowledge of the back country gave me that feeling. but I was an underling and where the spot was marked was where it had to be. Others above me had scouted the site. I told peers at the time someone would get had there. It happened and administration took the site out. I have that sign, 6B2 (4), in my office. It reminds me I need to be as strong as possible on anything I have knowledge of. This incident is why I would not back down on the salting issue when administration told me to. Bears and people were being killed and mauled because of salting. Only this time I had the seasoning to stick with my convictions.

    I took body parts of another bear eating victim out of the back country. We dug up and put a white skull and the guys billfold, the two items the bear buried together, in a garbage bag. The bear ate him waist up except for a 2 foot long flap of skin the bear peeled from his body. You see, bears don’t like skin. they peel it off while you are pinned down. Everyone on this site needs to know this can happen to them when they support the use of bear spray. You need to know the tragedies so you have depth of conviction. but do you like hearing this on this site?

    I believe in bear spray but I also know what burden it carries when we give false sense of safety to all back country users by them thinking they are now protected. yes, we need to be enthusiastic supporters but also let back packers and hunters know it is dangerous country out there.

    What we say and reveal and how we try to get the point across is not limited to us environmentalists. In todays war events we have some who think flag drapped bodies shouldn’t be fimed. Others think it is important so all of us understand what war and death means. Some on this site think a crashing of a chopper is needed before the interagency bison team makes changes. If it actually did crash the ones advocating this could be sued if their words had repercussions later as inciters of others responsible for this crash.

    But if we always try to moderate our writings because of possible actions ,for example, against this site where do we serve as activists to change? In Yellowstone our supervisors told us George Bush was our boss and we had better do as he wanted…and if we didn’t tow the line we could be terminated. Now that is a scarry threat. Forget about conditions for sueing such as freedom of speech and intent of actions, Here we were talking rule of one.

    If I shock people is it to much? If I question written accounts such as Barry’s is it too much when the Park never did its duty to find out and then relay its story on to those of us in the field. At least we would have had an offical version. All we saw was sweeping under the carpet up to prevent law suits.

    On this site the big discussion is bear spray vs. fire arms. I believe in bear spray because the alternative is lots of people spraying lots of rounds in situations they can little emotionally control. But I carried a 44 or 45-70 out of my cabin at Thorofare anytime after dark. To go to the outhouse meant first I had to bang on the door of the cabin, then shine a light all around once I stepped to the open door. Then it was “talk’ tell I got in the outhouse. The most dangerous part was coming out of that outhouse. There was no protection and the bears moved right by that outhouse on the way to the barn. I’d here the huffs of them going by. Suprise them without hearing the huff before that exit meant there was a 50% chance they would be coming at me. I had no doubt in the situation I was in I would not have hesitated to pull the trigger if it was called for. Threat of loss of job wouldn’t have entered in. all of us in the back country came to whatever we felt right doing. it varied but we talked it all the time. The story of Barry or his assistant going to the john was an example of about the number one story topic in our back country. It was confirmation of what all of us back country rangers feared. One time I was at Pelican Springs cabin splitting wood by lantern light and the other ranger I can hear running, then coming out of the darkness around the cabin, running toward me ..with his pants still down, yelling as loud as he can saying,” Jackson, get the gun!!!” All we had was a 38. Pelican Springs is right smack dab in a bear funnel and the cabin shows it. This place at the head of Pelican Valley is the worst place in the world to go to the john…even worse than Thorofare where all those bears hang out just inside the Park. Both cabins have lots of chew and fang marks. Cabin windows get busted in while you are sleeping. A lot of its users kept a coffee can available for night time needs.

    A Lot of these bear reports are in the log books and there are copies of them at administration. The biologists responsible for setting up and approving bear studies read and are suppose to apply to study procedures what happens “back there”. If they don’t they are to error on the safe side. That is why Barry could, and should have sued. He and his assistant went into a situation where they had no way of knowing what even little “weird” movement of people means to bears. Any bear purposely moved by any other study such as the interagency forced disturbance means bears know these aren’t normal back packers. Barry did not know that I’m sure. For most of 30 years I went right angles or opposite of where a bear went upon being startled. One learns fast when you are all by yourself.

    How much do people need to know? Again I don’t know. There is always a fine line. Leave out too much and one is paternalistic or worse…negligent. Say too much or even hint in words those in the back country have to do to keep everything in perspective (everytime back country peers had hot chocolate we remembered “Swiss Miss”) and folks can be “hurt”. I developed a very thick skin through the years. In the salting issue there was a lot of govt. infrastructure in and out of the Park, fellow law enforcement guardians who took the salting issue very personal. One game warden, a guy who had allowed lots of illegal salting in front of his G&F cabin in Thorofare had a friend as outdoor writer for the Billings Gazette. They put together a very unpleasant account of me … something I could have run with. When I was told of it and then given a copy by a friend I was not hurt. I was amused. But just because I was amused doesn’t mean others had to develop occupationally…and in such a dysfunctional system as I did. With the salting issue Yellowstone did a lot of very nefarious operations against me in order to try and draw me out. They did this because legally they couldn’t show what was in my personel file. The worst thing I could have done was get angry. It wasn’t in me to need suppressing however.

    I do know any event with bears needs to be told as it was in order to help others not be as shocked…and then reject bears as not needed later. It is the same with the story of Pat Tillman. It made for national pride, this man who gave up the NFL for “duty” to his country, but it was so much deflation when a story was made up by the administration to spin a story.

    Bears are important to me and any event of mine or Barry’s needs to be scrutinized to allow better human- bear contacts afterwards. the fact I took a gun and not bear spray to the outhouse ought to be worthy of a lot of discussion on this site. The Park never interviewed Barry to see how this incident could have some good come out of it. To put it behind the dust covers was wrong for everyone who goes into bear country. I feel they thought it was more important for them to save their own hides than to assess what happened and gain knowledge for future studies. What I ‘saw” them do was comfort, pay for surgeries and let the most important things go away.

    The way I respond on this blog is a result of bear, Park administration, and back country culture. The mental preparation I had to do to survive and stay sane with experiences such as recovering partial bodies, horses being poisoned and poachers outnumbering me at confrontation sites for 30 years was not the same process as someone coming out of the office to direct recovery of those bodies. They went back to the office and made up Walter Mitty stories of how they were the ones who shot the bear. I went back into the wilds. Hardness back there meant we had to be hard the same way any team on the football field needs to be when they jack around and yell at each other.
    Just because I relish a good quarter and emotional stimulation, however, doesn’t mean others on this site look forward to it.
    For Barry and any participants of this blog who feel I went too far I apologize.


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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Ralph Maughan