Wyoming Game & Fish investigates grizzly shooting in Ditch Creek

Hunting season for deer and elk is underway (partially) in Wyoming, and already the grizzlies are going down-

Ditch Creek is just east of the middle section of Grand Teton National Park.

Wyoming Game & Fish Department investigates grizzly shooting. Star Valley Independent





  1. mikarooni Avatar

    Take a look at Dave Smith’s contribution to NewWest with even closer attention to the comment from “SEAK Mossback” and think 1) about the law of unintended consequences and 2) about whether there is any quasi-organized agenda on the part of the rightwing NRA crowd.

  2. Jeff Avatar

    I like how Wyoming politicians are quick to call Molloy an activist in his ruling, but of course when pushed to describe which part of his decision was activist in nature the silence is deafening. Any judge who rules contrary to conservatives wishes is labeld “activists” regardless of their rationale.

  3. JW Avatar

    Great points Jeff. Yet when ruled in conservatives favor, it would be like calling the judge “a good old boy” or something worse.

  4. DumOleBob Avatar

    (I live in Ditch Creek, Wy and know something about this young bear)

    I don’t know the detailed circumstances resulting in the killing of the sub-adult, female grizzly here in Ditch Creek on Sept. 19th. All I know for sure is the bear is dead. Hopefully, killing it was all the hunter could do to protect himself? The authorities are working to sort that out. However, too many visitors to the backcountry – hunters, hikers, dog walkers, mountain bikers, equestrians, etc. – do not carry bear spray. Too often if they pack a gun it’ll get use first. Too often we say to ourselves, “Hey, I’m just going to Ditch Creek for a few minutes – no need to worry”.

    Here’s what I’d like for you to know about this particular bear. She has been around Ditch Creek all spring and summer. We’ve seen her tracks regularly in our driveway, in the road and along trails for the last 4 months. One night she left a “message” (probably for our rowdy dogs) 20 feet from our front door – just to say, “hello, I’m here too”.

    All summer long she shared her territory with six horses, lots of dogs, a few cats, a dozen homeowners and the innumerable instructors and kids staying in tents at the Science School’s tent camp. All about a half mile from where she would take her last breath. Heaven only knows how many campers, wildlife viewers, and tourists she’s seen while making her rounds. How many dog walkers she quietly watched from the willows? How many bird feeders and barbecues she sniffed out?

    BUT, no one ever reported laying eyes on her. Not one time did she do anything wrong! She successfully avoided making contact with all humans – until she met her first and last this past Saturday. Even then she was just doing what bears do. We’ve got to give her that.

    She was on her way to being a good bear, a good neighbor. We enjoyed knowing she was around. Well, we appreciated her allowing us to share her territory!

    Maybe she was one of 399’s cubs as they were here several times in the spring of ‘08 when they got an unfortunate food reward from a shamelessly kept bird feeder. As a result of that reward the Mike Boyce, Wyoming Game & Fish Bear Management Officers, warned that one of the four would definitely, (not probably, but definitely) return. Mike did a terrific job helping get our homes “bear proof” and ready for that return. In fact we all did our best to avoid conflict.
    Another sow raised two cubs at the end of the road during the previous two summers so maybe the dead bear was one of them? There was also a sow with cub just south of Ditch Creek so maybe it was her’s?

    The point here is – there are now bears all over the valley, in particular the Mt. Leidy Highlands, Grand Teton National Park, all points north and nowadays south too. Ditch Creek has had more that it’s share sine the mid-90s, but most visitors aren’t aware of this. People visiting bear country, all people, must be “BARE AWARE” and carry BEAR SPRAY!

    There certainly is a lot more to the story of predators/human conflicts as the critters AND humans extend our ranges to over lap. Without getting into all that futile debate we hope more people, especially hunters will start carrying bear spray. It is proven time and time again to be the most effective, safest way to protect us… and keep the bears alive.

  5. dailyjacksonhole Avatar

    They are now saying it was perhaps a 399 cub, I wondered.


    I think 615 (the bear in question) was also the same bear that was on the carcass in august near Triangle x ranch, the one that was the pacific creek pack killed elk that was practically on the road. At the time the park service thought it was her. She was a good bear, in the times I have seen her she kept away from people and while she fed at Triangle X for those 4 days there were gobs of people less than 100 yards away and she paid them no mind.
    Makes me so angry….

  6. IzabelaM Avatar

    I feel so sad. I watched 399 many times taking care of her cubs in the Ttons area. I hope it was not her little ‘baby’.
    I just can’t agree with kiiling.
    Some people feel they have to demonstrate the power by killing ….grrrrrrrrrrrrrrr

  7. DumOleBob Avatar

    The speculation that she was a 399 cub came from a private citizen talking to the news, with no direct knowledge. G&F will say only that she was collared and at this point they can’t identify her mother.

    It was reported Wednesday that G&F was going out to investigate a second grizzly death.

  8. ProWolf in WY Avatar
    ProWolf in WY

    If Game and Fish has to investigate a second death then maybe they need to look at closing these areas to bear hunting. Maybe that will teach people to know their target.

  9. Gerry Miner Avatar
    Gerry Miner

    “while she fed at Triangle X for those 4 days there were gobs of people less than 100 yards away and she paid them no mind.”

    ……and why is it a good thing to have gobs of people less than 100 yards away from a bear habituating it? Grand Teton Ntl Park does their bears a disservice by “babysitting” them instead of letting them know that they should not be near people. I have no idea what the circumstances are in this bear shooting and hope that bear spray was tried first. however, i think people are too casual around grizzly bears—and the bears are highly habituated due to people’s poor behaviors and decisions.

  10. mikarooni Avatar

    Game and Fish is going out to investigate a second grizzly death? We have two dead grizzlies in WY alone and it isn’t even the 1st of October yet. At what point do we begin to wonder whether we have elk hunters who have to shoot an attacking grizzly or grizzly hunters using a dead elk as both bait and an excuse?

  11. dailyjacksonhole Avatar

    Gerry Miner,

    It is not a good thing- obviously…
    In fact I found it rather surprising she was not driven off by the park, particularly since they had driven wolves off another kill just a few miles away on the same day that was just about the same distance from the road.
    But the fact of the matter is the GT rangers cant be everywhere, they don’t have the funding to even try for starters. My point was that she was well behaved not that the park lacks the funding to properly keep bears from habituation. The park at the time was not even sure this was the same bear we are speaking of.
    I think we are going to see more of this since it seems to me that we are seeing more carcasses near roads than usual (at least in my non-scientific opinion) I wonder if its because elk are learning to run toward roads when being chased by wolves, something that has been discussed here before.

    The fact of the matter is that people will always behave poorly around bears when they visit the national parks, I am out in the parks everyday and I see people being stupid about wildlife everyday, its just the way it goes. I used to spend a lot of time getting angry about it but it did neither me or the bears much good. I for one would much rather have a case of rangers “babysitting”, not the bear but the tourists watching the bear that is too close, then to have a bear at a further distance from people and have those people unsupervised by rangers and acting badly because their is no one “babysitting” them.

    While most people who visit this site know how to behave around bears most of the rest of the world will never know, thats not going to stop anytime soon. The park does the best it can to create a balance between allowing bears to feed and having to drive bears off a carcass because of bad human behavior, if you don’t like how they choose to do it I encourage you to call GT dispatch when you notice bad behavior, or ask a ranger on the scene to explain the decision they have made (regarding driving vs not driving a bear off), I have never yet had a ranger not give me a answer regarding the logic behind a decision and dispatch has always appreciated my call. They do not have the staff or budget to be everywhere, they do the best they can.

  12. dailyjacksonhole Avatar

    oh…and if you want to know the reason behind a decision on site make sure you (politely!) ask the ranger in charge, not the “wildlife brigade” volunteers, they do a good job helping keep people away from feeding bears but often may not know about policy decisions.

  13. dave smith Avatar
    dave smith

    Here’s an article about the hunter who shot a grizzly on Ditch Creek near Jackson a few weeks ago; he’s now been charged with illegally killing the bear. What a crock. The Wyoming Game and Fish Department shares the blame.

    Charges in bear death
    By Cory Hatch, Jackson Hole, Wyo.
    October 1, 2009

    A hunter from Teton Village has been charged with illegally killing a grizzly bear after the man told authorities he shot one Sept. 19 near Ditch Creek north of Kelly.

    Stephen Westmoreland, 40, was charged Wednesday with taking a grizzly bear without a license.

    Some believe the bear — a young female — might be one of three offspring from bear No. 399, which gained fame in Grand Teton National Park for raising its cubs by the roadside from 2006 to 2008.

    Teton County Attorney Steve Weichman said Westmoreland shot the bear from 40 yards away.

    According to a Wyoming Game and Fish Department report, the encounter occurred when Westmoreland was packing out a head and hide from a deer shot by a hunting partner in the Ditch Creek drainage. About 11 a.m., Westmoreland reportedly was walking along the trail in a 3-acre meadow when the bear appeared on a moose carcass left behind by another hunter.

    In the report, Jackson Game Warden Bill Long said Westmoreland knew the moose carcass was there but didn’t notice signs of a bear around the carcass that morning.

    “When [Westmoreland] broke out into the upper end of the meadow, he did not see anything in the area of the carcass,” Long said.
    “He had taken several more steps and a bear … stood up from the area of the carcass.”

    “The bear dropped to all fours and moved several steps towards the subject, approaching the hunter at a distance of approximately 40 yards,” Long said. “The hunter advised that the bear’s ears were up at the time.”

    Long said Westmoreland was armed with a .270-caliber rifle and a .44-caliber pistol but was not carrying bear pepper spray.

    “[Westmoreland], knowing he was covered in blood from helping gut and process the deer, feared that the bear would attack him if it closed distance,” Long said. “Westmoreland shot the bear with a .270 rifle at approximately 40 yards as the bear dropped to all fours and faced him. The bear was shot first through the front chest immediate to the front right shoulder and the bullet was exiting out the gut region.”

    “He did not kill the bear,” Long said. “[The] bear was whirling around with the first shot, so he shot a second time, hitting the animal in the mid-body area on the left side of the bear. That shot killed the bear. The bear lay five feet from the carcass.”

    Westmoreland reported the incident to the Teton County Sheriff’s Office.

    It is legal to shoot a grizzly in self-defense, but authorities believe there was no immediate threat in this case.

    Grand Teton officials said they will not be able to determine whether the bear was a cub of No. 399 until later this year pending the results of tests. Researchers with the Interagency Grizzly Bear Study Team captured the bear this July on the 4 Lazy F Ranch near Moose Junction and dubbed it No. 615.

    Park spokeswoman Jackie Skaggs said the researchers inspected the animal’s teeth and took blood samples and hair samples. The hair samples, she said, could be used to make a DNA comparison with 399.

    Weichman declined to comment on the case. Westmoreland could not be reached immediately for comment.

    # # #

    As I wrote a short time ago in “2009 Bear Spray Campaign Endangers Hunters, Grizzlies,” agencies like the game and fish department should teach hunters to “Carry bear spray and know when to use it.”

    In addition, I said agencies should “Provide hunters with instructions and training on how to use their firearm effectively for self-defense during a surprise encounter with a nearby grizzly. Space considerations preclude listing all firearms tips, but here are three examples . . . give hunters a recommendation on when to shoot at a charging grizzly: 25 yards? 15 yards? Closer? People who don’t know when to shoot tend to panic and fire too soon, or panic and fire a wild shot at the last second.”

    If the Wyoming Game & Fish Department gave hunters decent training and advice on bear spray and firearms, perhaps Westmoreland would not have shot the bear.

  14. DumOleBob Avatar

    Here’s what I think happened. This hunter is quietly slippin’ down the trail carrying his .270 rifle at the ready, and his “Big Iron”, ( a .44 Mag Pistol) on his hip – feeling very manly! What a beautiful morning! We know he is hunting because in spite of saying he would be packing out deer meat he’s carrying a heavy rifle and an extra heavy pistol. One doesn’t need guns to pack out meat!

    He’s having a great day. It turns even greater when up pops a fine black bear! The bear takes a step towards him – ears up indicating it’s checking out this interloper. If it were charging its ears would be flat! They are both safe from each other as they are 120 feet apart – that’s like 6 Chevrolet Suburbans parked bumper to bumper.

    One hundred twenty feet means nothing to the hunter since he’s go the gun! He doesn’t blink an eye. Doesn’t think! Draws a bead in the center of its chest and – BANG, BANG, It’s all over in a flash. He never gave an instant thought that it was a Grizzly Bear!


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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