Glacier National Parks rangers accidentally kill black bear with a cracker shell

How could this happen?

You don’t try to hit the bear/wolf, whatever. Did the shell not explode and the bear ate it? !

Bear killed after hazing effort. By the Associated Press





  1. Larry Thorngren Avatar

    The idiot shooting the cracker shell must have fired it directly at the the bear from too close a range. Part of the Park Services’ “Kill It To Save It Policy”, similar to Yellowstone’s killing the wolf near Old Faithful recently. I was at Logan Pass in Glacier a few years ago and they were firing cracker shells at every grizzly they could find nearby. These folks should be working for Wildlife Services where their proficiency at killing could be called on every day.

  2. montucky Avatar

    There’s no excuse for that kind of incompetence, if that’s what it was. Either way, that “ranger” should be removed from any occupation involving anything more dangerous than water balloons.

  3. Gerry Miner Avatar
    Gerry Miner

    Or the ranger simply made a mistake. These things do happen. obviously they had good intentions since they were hazing it and not killing it to begin with.

  4. Larry Thorngren Avatar

    This sort of thing happens all of the time. A young black bear was hazed in the Madera Canyon Campground in Arizona a few years ago. The AGFD employee was just as incompetent. He shot the treed bear 12 times with a bean bag firing shotgun, killing it.

  5. Save bears Avatar
    Save bears

    There was a bear killed a couple of years ago around Slough creek as well by a bean bag in Yellowstone, it does seem to happen far to often..

  6. ProWolf in WY Avatar
    ProWolf in WY

    Does a bear being killed by a bean bag make really make the ranger incompetent? Is there that much skill involved with shooting something with a bean bag? My guess is that these are unfortunate accidents and that is all they are.

  7. Alan Avatar

    These aren’t “bean bags”, they are fire crackers and shouldn’t be fired any where near the bear. They are designed to frighten the bear, not hit it. They are loud enough to do that even if they land several yards away. I agree that they were incompetent . Maybe even malicious….”Hey, I’m really gonna teach this one a lesson! Scorch a little hair!”

  8. Larry Thorngren Avatar

    The bean bag shells and the firecracker or cracker shells are two different shells. The firecracker shell explodes some time after being fired and the bean bag shell is designed to hurt like a rubber bullet. Bean bag shells and rubber bullets can kill if fired at too short a distance.
    The big problem is that they are used far too often and by obviously untrained staff. It is common practice in Yellowstone to cracker shell bears, wolves and coyotes when they are closer to the road than the rangers think is proper. I saw rangers in Glacier, near Many Glacier, shoot bighorn ewes and lambs with rubber bullets when they got too close to the picnic area.

  9. Alan Avatar

    Isn’t that what I just said?
    The article clearly states which was used. I certainly hope it was “untrained staff” and not some bored “buckaroo”.

  10. Alan Avatar

    Incidentally, the bear killed at Slough Creek was also killed by a cracker shell (not a bean bag), and that was my point.

  11. Mike Ice Avatar
    Mike Ice

    Its easy to Monday morning quarterback isnt it. Im sorry to hear about the bears death, but you all are throwing stones at the rangers, but none of you were there. Any of you ever had to “put down” an animal that has been hit by a vehicle or “destroy” an animal that has become habituated to humans? This was probably the last chance for the bear to stay away from human interaction before it had to be destroyed. Or maybe just maybe the “incompetent” ranger made a MISTAKE. I doubt it was an enjoyable experience for the ranger. Open your minds!

  12. Ralph Maughan Avatar

    Cracker shells are pretty safe unless they are fired too close the animal you are trying to haze. They could harm the animal’s hearing. They can also start fires, but penetrate the body!!

    The story said the “cracker shell entered the bear’s body before exploding.”

    It must have been fired directly at the bear at very close range, penetrated and exploded. There should be an investigation. This shouldn’t happen, and is more serious than an injury/mortality from a bean bag because it is easy to avoid doing.

  13. Don Avatar

    Mike Ice
    Alan and Larry are very accurate with their statement of Ranger incompetence. Have you spent much time in Glacier National Park? If you have you would agree with them as well. I have personally witnessed the Many Glacier Rangers cracker bears, both black and Grizzly, and they are no more than out of control cowboys for the most part. Their wildlife policies, in the many Glacier area more than the others when it comes to tourists viewing the wildlife, are way out of line.

  14. Save bears Avatar
    Save bears

    There are very few people in the Many Glacier area at this time of the year, so I doubt the bear was in danger of being destroyed for being around people or causing problems, I would like to see more information released on why this choice was made at this time of the season..

  15. SAP Avatar

    My 2cents: I’ve seen people mix up their 12-ga rounds before.

    One time, a person who was supposed to be lofting a cracker shell fired a 12-ga slug instead. I was expecting the near-silent launch of a cracker & instead was treated to an ear-shattering explosion at close range. That was a monumental mistake — there are so many external differences between a lead slug and a cracker shell that there should have been no mix up. Fortunately, the round was not being directly fired at any living thing and fell harmlessly to the ground.

    Cracker rounds & less-lethal plastic slugs are similar in weight & texture, but are different colors. When using less-lethal rounds, I think it’s good protocol to feed just one round at a time into the chamber, none in the magazine, and from different pockets, so that you know exactly what round you’re about to fire. Cracker rounds launch quite a ways, so they obviously have a bit more powder behind them than the riot-control plastic slugs.

  16. Ralph Maughan Avatar


    Thanks for your comment. It is a plausible explanation.

    I haven’t found any further news on the killing of the bear.

  17. Mike Ice Avatar
    Mike Ice

    Don, that is a broad brush you are painting with when you say “ranger incompetence” and out of control cowboys”, wow, how judgmental. However, I am not defending the NPS or the rangers involved in hazing that bear. I know first hand that there is a lot of incompetence within the NPS and its ranger staff…a lot! But, I was not there and neither were you.

    Ralph, I agree there should be an investigation. Instead of condemning the rangers prematurely, we should push for an investigation into the truth, then talk about it.

  18. Alan Avatar

    M.I.: You are right that we shouldn’t prejudge the ranger involved. It is entirely possible that this man is absolutely sick about what happened. Don is correct, however, in saying that if you spend much time in these parks, you will see shocking things that some, and I emphasize SOME rangers are guilty of. I could spend hours telling you stories. Others are very, very good at their jobs.
    The following is from the West Yellowstone Newspaper about the Slough Creek incident:
    “One of the first things to be addressed was the test firing of the rounds at the park’s shooting range. The results were telling.

    “We were surprised to find that the rounds were penetrating (wood targets) at greater distances than we thought they would,” Reid said. “Obviously at close range we expected the rounds to be capable of penetrating.”
    Investigators have been trying to speak with the manufacturer of the rounds to see whether or not the park had purchased some that were “out of the norm” — perhaps due to manufacturing inconsistency — or to see if they had, for some reason, upped the round propelling charge from previous years. Reid said efforts to establish such a dialogue with the manufacturer have thus far been unsuccessful.(!)
    Reid said that given the fact that cracker shell rounds are subject to outside factors such as wind and vegetation, he’s surprised there have not been animal mortalities before now.(!)”

    Yet they keep using them? I would be very interested to know whether the Glacier shells were from the same manufacturer, whether or not efforts to establish a dialog with the manufacturer were ever successful, whether the investigation ever went beyond this point; and, if so, what the results were? Were those results shared with other National Parks, and most importantly: Does anyone in the Park Service really give a d***? Or are these simply, “Oh, well!” moments.


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