Grizzly bear kills hiker in Yellowstone National Park
By Brian Ertz On July 6, 2011 · 105 Comments · In Bears, Yellowstone, Yellowstone National Park
First fatal encounter in the Park since 1986
Grizzly bear kills hiker in Yellowstone National Park – LA Times – Greenspace
Wednesday’s incident appeared to be an act of defense by the bear, which fled with her cubs.
105 Responses to Grizzly bear kills hiker in Yellowstone National Park
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It was a long, long, long winter. I’ll bet those bears are especially cranky this early summer.
The fact that its the first in 25 years is surprising given the number of people who hike that park.
No doubt about that.
$500 a pair hiking boots, folks. Get this trash out of the backcountry and finally the animals can live in peace. I cannot wait until these $80.00 boot wearing pieces of garbage that these idiots use to hike around in rural America and scare animals are forced off the trails.
Ok, I get it: your comment is satire of a comment from another thread.
That said, a fatal bear mauling is a big deal. Taken out of context, your comment would appear very callous and hateful. Maybe a disclaimer would be a good idea.
Just having a little fun.
When people and habituated grizzly bears are constant contact, these kind of issues are bound to happen.
Hmm . . . you may be right. Some would argue that the more a bear learns to ignore people, the less likely she is to mount a full-on defensive-aggressive attack. Recall Bear 264 – it took some blivet actually TOUCHING one of her cubs to provoke aggression, and she never actually made contact with the guy.
I would say more people, plus snowpack limiting where bears can go, leads to more encounters right now.
timz sez: “The fact that its the first in 25 years is surprising given the number of people who hike that park.”
There have been on average about four or five attacks per year in or around the Park in recent years with several fatalities.
The thing about the Park is that there are very, very few roads and very limited access to most of the land. The hiking trails that are in the park are usually quite good for quiet walking (so hikers can hear) and with good visibility ahead.
In areas just outside the Park, there are roads everywhere and many unmaintained trails. There is more unsupervised camping. There is also things like hunting, wood cutting, mushrooming and other activities that bring people into timbered areas where surprises can happen.
I should have clarified, I meant death by bear attack, not just attacks.
Details are sketchy. . seems like they always are. So far, from reading different news reports it looks like the couple “saw” the bears twice. . why? Then the husband told the wife to run. . what did he do? She was picked up by her pack and dropped. . then maybe played dead and the bear perceived the threat was gone so left her. . what did the man do that the mother bear needed to discipline him to death. MORE EDUCATION for people is needed. . the bears are consistent in their behavior and the wild card here is what people believe. . like the word habituation, which seems to mean a whole lot of different things to different people. I am very sad this happened but I hope someone can find out the details to help other bears and other humans in the future.
I use “habituated” to describe an animal that has learned to ignore particular stimuli – neither fleeing nor approaching.
Roadside bears foraging for natural foods and MOSTLY ignoring people (I think they are constantly monitoring what the hominids are doing) are an example. I once had some horses pastured at the end of a small airstrip – newly arrived horses were disturbed by the planes coming in or taking off, but they would figure out after awhile that the planes were of no consequence and that it was a waste of energy to flee them. They became “habituated” to the aircraft.
Because it is similar to “habit,” some people mistakenly use “habituated” when they really mean “food conditioned,” as though the food conditioned bear has a “food habit” similar to a “heroin habit” or other addiction. Incorrect on many levels and causes a great deal of confusion when we’re discussing management of the bear-human interface.
The bears in this case, I would guess, were neither habituated nor food conditioned.
If you visit the Galapagos Islands, or the Hawaiian Islands for that matter, none of the native species have any fear of man. You can walk up to and pet nearly all birds, animals, and reptiles on the Galapagos. I’ve not been to the Galapagos but Hawaii has birds that will fly down onto your table, perch on your forearm, and eat food off your plate.
Since man was never on either groups of islands until recently, none of the species has evolved a natural fear of man. There was never any evolutionary pressure to select genes to illicit a fear response of humans. This gives you and idea of how much the human species has influenced the evolution of other species the world over. The only places you see this complete lack of fear is in the few remote island where man has not lived for more than a few centuries…and these islands are very few and very remote.
This proves that fear of man is innate in 99% of the earth’s species and it is certainly true in grizzlies. Grizzlies migrated to North America with man 13,000 BP and have a long history with us in Asia stretching back at least a couple of hundred thousand years, if not a half million years.
The fear in grizzles is there and it is innate. I don’t know how you can possibly argue against it. This fear will only be temporarily extinguished by constant “conditioning.” That is by frequent and repeated stimuli with a non-danger response. You might tame a grizzly cub by loving it and giving it food and raise it into adulthood to where it is tame. If no humans visit this grizzly for a year, however, the innate instinctual fear of humans will surface and it will become a wild and dangerous grizzly again. I think most of us have seen movies where animals are raised by humans and become “tame” but as soon as the constant “conditioning” ends, become wild and dangerous again.
So, in a place like Yellowstone, grizzlies have an innate fear of humans. If they are around them frequently, however, they will become “condition” or habituated to them. They lose their natural fear…at least temporarily. This is why I advocate some minimal hunting of grizzlies, even inside of the Park. Grizzlies should not be “conditioned” by humans to not fear them and become habituated to them. If grizzlies smell humans or hear humans, they should act upon their innate response and flee.
I agree. I think we need to either 1) expand the National Parks to provide adequate habitat for grizzlies and wolves or 2) designate large areas as predator preserves where predators have priority. In either case, visitors should be greeted with a large sign that they are entering an area with wolves and grizzlies and that they should take caution and be educated in visiting the area.
Actually, I think we should create more and larger National Parks but soften the rules a little bit. We could have some very large National Parks but then allow limited grazing, limited logging, and limited hunting. Most of the private land could be grandfathered in and be kept until charity organization purchased it and donated it to the Parks.
Are you crazy? :*) You want to take away protections from parks in this time of insanity? We will never see Parks in this time anyway, and to grant the devils more access to another federal land category would just be opening Pandora’s box. The federal agencies don’t enforce the existing protections on forest lands, BLM lands, etc…why would expect the Park Service to do any better given the continued erosion of their budgets by Republicans? Nope..hang onto what we got, and enforce the protections. There may come a time in the future when more Parks and bigger Parks would be acceptable. But, with some folks now wanting to prevent the President from exercising the Antiquities Act powers….a dangerous thing to suggest
I agree. But I am not suggesting anything be given up. Take Yellowstone (since I know it so well), and assume we double or even triple the area. Most of the existing Park could remain as is. Some areas could be designated as “back country wilderness” with no grazing and no logging. Most clearcutting should probably be banned altogether. But in peripheral areas, some “round-log” type logging could continue provided it was at a sustainable rate and that it could be done with minimal impact (no roads and no heavy equipment). The same with grazing…some areas are “back county wilderness” and are off limits. Grazing could be done mostly in peripheral areas where it is sustainable and does not greatly affect wildlife. In many areas, you know, grazing really does not impact wildlife very much. You could put the onus on herders to not damage riparian areas and to guard against predation inside of the Park. Hunting would be minimal in some areas and be managed to keep animal populations very high in other areas. It would be the lucky hunter who won, by lottery, a permit to hunt inside the park. The areas designated as “back country wilderness” might only be opened to the Shoshone-Bannock and be of a very limited number of permits per year…most for grizzlies.
We might could wait for the grizzly population to recover for a few more years or until the move into the River of No Return Wilderness before we allow hunting.
I say if you go into wolf, bear, cat habitat, you do so with the obligation to educate your selves about the risks,and take measures to lessen the possibilities of encounters up close..for both the humans’ and the predators’ welfare. Assumption of risk…still a valid concept.
How to get killed by a grizzly bear mother: First you see the bears and they don’t see you. Really they are pretending they didn’t notice you so they don’t have to deal with you. If you do nothing and quietly slip away, they will probably do the same. However, if you really think you need to wave your arms and yell at them and let them know you are human so they will run away then the mother has to deal with you. . so she warns you by looking directly at you. You don’t respond because you don’t speak bear language, so you keep staring at her, letting her know that indeed you are a threat. She charges and you run. . so she must chase you down and swat you to neutralize the threat. You fight back so she keeps up the punishment until you are still. There are many things a person can do to make your chances of seeing a mother bear less dangerous. One is if she looks at you look away and act casual. Then, without running or quick furtive motions, move slowly out of her sight. Then leave. Or, if she is too ruffled to accept your looking away as a non-aggressive sign and charges you, stand still and pop off the top of your pepper spray. Even if you don’t hit her with pepper spray the spray in the air will stop her if you don’t move. If she is still acting aggressive, let her blow off steam as long as she doesn’t take another step forward. . if she does spray again.
OK that being said, there are many factors involved in keeping this from being a lethal encounter, which is why people are not taught these things. . because if you tried to teach people the complicated decisions you must make under stress and they got it wrong. . wrongful death suit. However, I think a lot of people who read this blog are woods wise and capable of making good decisions and by your actions you can show other people how to behave around wild animals. I can’t keep anyone else but me safe around bears, but if something I say helps just one other person it is worth it.
And one last question: if there is such a thing as wrongful death, what is a rightful death? My husband wants to know.
Good news about the bear and her cubs.
Bears should have a right to defend against any human if they feel their cubs are threatened.
That is very good news. It is sad for the man who was killed and his wife/girlfriend for what she had observed and went through, but it was a defensive attack that is installed to the bear as a instinctive behavior. Some good news around that region finally when there has been so many bad news floating around.
In the Brooks Range I always tried to get downwind of a grizzly bear and once they have winded you 95% of any bear problem is gone with the wind. The bear runs away.
god i miss that debate 😉 …
LOL yeah that was a wild one.
The only time I have ever pulled my spray was on a cow elk who got aggressive when I stumbled on her brand new calf next to the trail. I didn’t use it. She convinced me to leave, and I didn’t argue.
Oh please…not again!
I’d have to go with the spray until someone taught me how to shoot! 😉
Why doesn’t someone come up with a weapon that shoots 9mm bullets AND pepper spray at THE SAME TIME. He’d get rich!
I’d buy one!
you’ll miss, I won’t.
First in reading on this recent killing by this grizzly
Sow, it seems as the party did two things wrong ….
one they did not have Pepper Spray and two they ran which
is a huge No No!!! There seems to be alot of sightings
this spring – summer of Grizzly Sows with Cubs so extra
caution is advised. Personally in all of my hiking, I
have had quite afew close encounters. I totally respect
the Grizzly with considering them an equal intelligent
species. Maybe we are in reality the dumb ones!!! Taking
our time and giving the space that all creatures demand
and deserve with living in Balance and Harmony goes a
long long ways. Plus in what I am seeing when in the
Greater Yellowstone backcountry anymore is that there is
a whole lot of grizzlies out there anymore. And do not
doubt it onebit if it is wayyy more then what is being
reported by the authorities from all the constant tracks
and signs one sees when in the backocuntry.
Seems to me that some of those commenting here are reading way too much into this. This was a surprise encounter in the backcountry, plain and simple. This was the first mauling of any kind in Yellowstone since the Jim Cole incident, what?, three, four years ago? And the first death (coincidentally also near Canyon) in twenty five years. It has nothing to do with “habituated” bears (this doesn’t appear to have been a road bear anyway), educating people (though, God knows, they need it…it’s amazing people aren’t killed every year, and not only by bears!), or needing larger parks (though we do need that too). It’s just a case of a guy hiking, coming around a bend in the trail, and surprising momma; maybe inadvertantly getting between her and her cubs. Maybe one of the cubs cried out, momma paniced and attacked. In 99 point 9999 percent of the cases she runs off. Maybe she didn’t see one of the cubs? Whatever; this time she attacked. Next time the same bear will likely run off.
I spend hundreds of hours a year hiking in Yellowstone, including this area, and will continue to do so without giving this a second thought. I would hike this trail tomorrow if it weren’t closed. Because I know that I am far more likely to slip on a wet rock and crack my skull open, get struck by lightning or fall into a river and drown than I am being attacked by any animal.
I agree it was a surprise encounter and the main cause was probably surprise but if the grizzly had more fear of humans, it might have avoided a trail with an abundance of human scent.
We will always have these surprise attacks but this is only one of many attacks in the past few years. In many of the other attacks, the bears seemed to show no fear of humans whatsoever.
“…..but this is only one of many attacks in the past few years….”
Not in the park, where the bears are most habituated. Indeed, this would almost seem to indicate that bears used to seeing people around are less likely to attack.
Most of the attacks were within a few miles of the Park. Some grizzlies have been tracked using radio collars. You should see how far they travel in a single season…a couple of hundred miles.
Also, as I already pointed out, there are more roads and more activities outside the park in remote areas where humans are not on good trails or where they are not on trails at all. Humans hunt outside the Park. They gather mushrooms, they log, etc. and there is more unsupervised camping.
Anytime you hike in Yellowstone, you take the chance of suprising a Grizzly with cubs.
I hiked in the Wapiti Lake trailhead area as recently as last November and saw one large male Grizzly right in the trailhead parking lot.There are bear tracks on the trail every morning.
I carry two cans of bear spray and assume that sooner or later I will need to use them.
I agree that one needs to accept potential danger when hiking in grizzly country. My wife and I carry both bear spray and a firearm when in the Bob Marshall. We consider the firearm a last resort, if we even have time to use it.
Bears are unlike humans in that their world is largely experienced through their nose. If grizzlies are frequenting areas spewing loads of human sent, such as a well used trail head, it means they are conditioned to not fear humans.
No it means they are using all available habitat. It’s been well established that less dominant bears (younger bears and sows with cubs) make use of areas along Yellowstone’s trails and roads because the adult males are dominating the more secluded habitat. YNP used to haze bears away from such habitat until they realized how vital it was to the survival of alot of bears. Now they mainly manage the people, having personnel on the scene to control people and traffic at bear jams and doing their best to educate hikers and everyone else who enters the park about bear safety.
Grizzlies also evolved to kick the ass (or at least bluff that they will) of anything that threatens them, be it wolf, another bear, or humans. There’s no way to eliminate that instinct. People just need to act informed, take precautions, or stay the hell out of grizzly country.
I feel bad for the victim and his family but there’s no need to overract and call for widespread changes. People need to listen more to what the NPS tells them and act appropriately in grizzly country. Stephen Herrero is an excellent resource as well, having sorted through all manner of attacks to discern how people can avoid conflict or respond better if it happens. If the couple hadn’t run, the man might still be alive. That’s a teachable moment for us all, yet some will undoubtedly ignore it or forget.
cc writes: “YNP used to haze bears away from such habitat until they realized how vital it was to the survival of alot of bears. ”
Well gee wiz, why not allow them in campgrounds and let the enjoy cooked meals provided by campers? Campground could support lots of grizzly bears and become “vital” too.
You are arguing a problem that does not exist. You haven’t had a mauling since 2007, or a death in 25 years. Considering over 3 million visitors to Yellowstone each year; and considering that a great number of them have no bear knowledge or even common sense, often chasing after bears to get a picture and posing their kids in front of bears etc., I’ll take those numbers. I’d say they prove that the Park Service is doing something right.
cc: Excellent points, (especially about the ass kicking). I was not aware of the less dominant ones taking areas outside of the park away from the dominant bears in the secluded areas. It sounds like a pretty intelligent adaption for these grizzly bears.
Alan you are right that people are reading way too much into this. . but you are wrong about it being a surprise encounter. The news did say that the couple saw the bears once before the attack and kept on hiking. They didn’t describe this action so that leaves it up to the imagination. . did they see the bears on the trail and keep moving towards them? Did they see them off in a meadow and stayed hiking on the trail which skirted a meadow? Did they see the bears from a distance? So, since the news account is so sketchy, people read stuff into it. Pointswest there is no research that I am aware of that shows that bears learn fear of humans from hunting. My personal observations of bears show that bears grow up afraid of bears. Their social conditioning teaches them to be afraid of things which act in a certain way, whether it is a bear or a human.
“Pointswest there is no research that I am aware of that shows that bears learn fear of humans from hunting”
It’s common sense really. A grizzly will defend its cubs if threatened. Why would hunting take that natural instinct to protect your cubs away? it wouldn’t in my opinion.
chris servheen said that hunting bears does not teach them to fear man. He said that a dead bear isn’t taught anything.
I believe that goes with any animals. You can’t teach wolves, cougars, bears, coyotes, etc to fear humans by hunting them when the ones that are killed are no longer alive to fear the humans. I have always believed that fear of humans comes as one of many instinctive behaviors, and that “flight instead of fight” mentality serves for the species in understanding what is best for survival.
just like how they say we need to use hounds on cougars to make them fear man. If you tree a cougar by using hounds and kill that solitary cougar, how is that teaching other cougars to fear man? it’s not. You kill a solitary bear, that bear is dead. how is that going to teach other bears to supposedly fear man if there are no bears around when that one bear is killed? even if there were bears around and witnessed that one bear being killed, that does not mean that those bears are going to necessarily fear man. if any bear is threatened by whatever reason, it will either attack or run.
We have had this argument before. I lived near Yellowstone Park and hunted all around its borders. The main difference between inside and outside the Park is hunting. There is a very large difference between the way animals behave inside the Park and the way they behave outside the Park. You are hearing this first hand by someone who hunted that area for 10 years.
“The main difference between inside and outside the Park is hunting.”
I would say the main difference is 3 million visitors to the park provides more chances of encounters, and a greater probability some of them will go South.
Only a fraction of hunts result in a kill. Animals know when they are being pursued and it frightens them. I have seen it with my own two eyes.
I respect your argument PW because you have experience, but being threatened and being killed is different.
Exactly, a bear that gets a face full of pepper spray remembers and teaches it’s cubs. A dead bear is, well, a dead bear.
OH,GOD! Did I just type that! Sorry Brian! Don’t ban me! Please! I promise to be good!
Yeah…but who is going to go roaming around Yellowstone Park finding grizzlies to pepper spray? I think it is a great idea. Can I sign you and jon up for the job? No guns allowed in Yellowtone.
++…but who is going to go roaming around Yellowstone Park finding grizzlies to pepper spray? I think it is a great idea. Can I sign you and jon up for the job? No guns allowed in Yellowtone.++
I think you are on to something here.
[Just to be accurate, guns are now allowed in national parks. We have discussed this issue, and its implications on this very forum before – one grizzly in Denali already subject to lethal dispatch by a hiker last year. Not that jon or Phil (or was it Alan?) would be inclined to use one, however.]
jon…hunting (or hazing) will not stop a mother grizzly from protecting her cubs but it will help her to avoid areas that humans frequent and prevent encounters in general.
There has probably not been any research on hunting so to say that there is no research to show that bears learn from it is meaningless. There is experience with hazing and if hazing does not work, then why do Park rangers use it so much. I know hazing is a first response in Yosemite. If bears are raiding campgrounds, rangers respond with fire crackers and shotguns that fire “bean bags” to haze the bears. If this does not work, why do they do it?
They policies of the Park Service do work. No deaths in nearly 25 years, no mauling since 2007, and only an average of less than one a year since they changed the policies (closed the dumps, stopped the roadside feeding etc.).
Bear management in Yellowstone is a great success story.
++The news did say that the couple saw the bears once before the attack and kept on hiking. They didn’t describe this action so that leaves it up to the imagination. ++
Linda here is the lastest from the Billing Gazette.
++At a press conference Thursday, Yellowstone Superintendent Dan Wenk said the Matayoshis hiked more than a mile down the Wapiti Lake Trail when they entered an area of dense lodgepole pine.
There they saw the sow foraging roughly 100 yards away, Wenk said.
“They started to back away down the trail in the same direction they had come,” Wenk said. “After a time, they turned to walk. When they turned back to look and see what the bear’s behavior was, by that point, the bear was in a full charge toward them.”
Matayoshi told his wife to run, but the couple was quickly overtaken. The bear knocked Matayoshi to the ground while his wife took cover off the trail behind a fallen tree.
Read more: http://billingsgazette.com/news/state-and-regional/wyoming/article_8d3d288d-fe8d-50ff-a4e4-61c3b0d7395b.html#ixzz1RTD9Z6wm
Truly sad to hear these details and form the image that the wife had seen. One problem there is the couple turning their backs to the sow and walking away from her. The evidence shows that they were not to understanding on actions to be taken when running into a griz.
What would have been the proper action on such an encounter?
I have been taught to turn to your side and slide away slowly and quietly while still having visibility of the bear with the edge of your eye. Off course the best protection is bear spray. This is what I was taught when I did my first volunteering with griz research back 3 years ago, and each and every time I work an expedition on the species research they train us as a refresher course. Maybe someone else with more experience can provide any other better tools to avoid this kind of situation.
“…Matayoshi told his wife to run…”
There you go. If he told his wife to run, likely he was running himself. House cat to African lion and every predator in between has its predatory instinct triggered by the same thing…running. I’ve seen elk stand their ground against a pack of wolves and be fine. The moment they run, they’re done.
Funny, in almost every bear attack, if you look deep enough you will find out that the victim did something that triggered the attack. Unfortuneately it is becoming very clear that these folks were ill-prepared to be hiking in grizzly country.
Alan: I agree with you. When I began to get into wanting to work with wildlife I learned a great deal from a gentleman who has expertise with carnivores. I have never been to Africa, but I am good friends with an individual who is from Kenya and works as an educator on wildlife in Africa at the local zoo. He has a Master’s in Zoology and was a field researcher studying lions, hyenas and leopards. He has taken many videos of his field research, and one of the videos he showed me was a situation involving 3 male lions surrounding a gazelle and just staring at her without making any attempt of a kill. The educator told me that predators go through steps in a hunt, and one major step is the chase. Once they see something trying to run from them their first instinct is that it is food. The chase in this scenario never occurred and eventually the lions left the scene.
I know that grizzly bears are not carnivores, but they hunt just as carnivores do, so I would imagine they have that same hunting instinct that carnivores have.
I read the same thing about wolves and cattle. They don’t run so the wolves don’t know how to act.
The “chase” response is no secret. I’ve know it all my life and have seen it on TV too. It is like showing fear to a dog. A dog is less likely to bite you if you are unafraid. If you run, it will bite you harder. However, with true predators who must kill to survive, I think it depends on how hungry they are. If hungry enough, they will attack and kill anything at anytime with only a slight scent resembling food.
They are trained for the chase, but not for what happens if the prey does not run.
If they are very hungry, the will kill prey that does not run.
I took a wildlife behavior class from Barrie Gilbert. During the class he told us of his experience when he was mauled by the grizzly bear. He said that he knew that you weren’t supposed to run from a bear, but when the bear charged him, he looked down and his legs were running when his head knew that they shouldn’t be. I will always remember his next line. He said “I bet that if a tiger came running into the classroom right now, you wouldn’t know whether to pee your pants or wind your watch.” Perhaps this couple didn’t know what they were supposed to do, but perhaps it was a true case of fight or flight and instinct took over.
I know. Many on this site have never seen a grizzly in the wild, except from maybe thier car, and are the first to blame the victims for their bad behavior.
Good point. No one knows how they would react; however, since these folks weren’t even carrying bear spray and the gentleman yelled out, “Run” (indicating that it wasn’t just a reflex), it would seem to indicate that they were not prepared for hiking in grizzly country. There is a pretty good chance this might have turned into a bluff charge if they hadn’t run, but who knows? You really can’t second guess.
BTW, PW, my closest encounter with a grizzy in the back country was close enough to smell its breath. My reaction was to lay very still and it wandered off. Also, no one is trying to blame anyone; simply trying to explain a very unfortunate incident, while understanding how extremely rare it was. What was it Gunther said, one in three million chance? By explaining these things we help prevent it from happening to others. A far more helpful endeavor than suggesting that we start hunting grizzly bears in the National Park.
I think it was a surprise for the bear. You are right, info about these things is always sketchy; I think maybe because the people involved (and I’m not saying it’s the case here) do not want to admit what really happened. Saw the bear, tried to get closer for a picture. Who knows. Like I said, I’m not saying that was the case here. However, a friend just told me that he had spoken to other hikers who were on that trail earlier and had seen the bear and cubs. They made the decision to turn around. Probably a good choice. The story does say that they had seen the bear and decided to continue. It’s unfair to second guess, but I think that if I saw a grizzly sow with cubs on the trail I would turn around and find a different place to hike.
A single bear, that’s different.
OOPs. I meant to put that under Linda’s post above.
So in about 1970, I can remember seeing roadside bears near Madison Junction inside of Yellowstone Park. People were feeding them. They were coming up to the cars. The cubs were climbing on top of the cars. The bears seemed to not fear humans.
A few years later, I was elk hunting on Bishop Mountain outside of Yellowstone Park. I just measured it in Google Earth and the two points are 35 miles apart. It had been snowing on Bishop Mountain. I came across some bear tracks that were very fresh. It was perfectly legal to kill bears without so much as a tag in 1972. I began tracking the bear because I thought I’d like to kill it. I never did see it. I was in heavy timber. I might have heard a branch pop in the distance. I did come onto the spot where the bear realized it was being tracked. I could see in the snow that the bear was startled so badly at the knowlege of being tracked that it fell down in the snow, got up, began to run, and fell down in the snow again. Then it bounded away taking giant leaps as if it were running for its life. I was very curious and it was easy to track in fresh snow so I continued following. The running did not stop for over a mile. The bear leaped logs. It crashed through brush. It skidded down steep slopes. It was like it was terrified or something…like it knew I might kill it! …and it was right! I would have. I followed it for another mile. It never stopped running. Not even once in two miles.
So tell me all you bear experts. What caused this difference in bear behavior between the bears at Madison Junction inside of Yellowstone Park and the bear I came across while elk hunting on Bishop Mountain?
I don’t know, but I used to wonder if there had been a genetic change in this region from aggressive bears all getting shot off. The reason I wondered was because the older accounts of travels seemed full of bear charges and shootings. I figured it was either that or early authors were a lot more trigger-happy and prone to exaggeration. Jay Williams, who started on the U.S.-Canada boundary survey crew up by Haines in about 1904 and had a career with USFS into the 1950s described many occasions in his book – it seemed like wherever he went wandering on foot whether it be the Chilkat Valley, up the Taku or on Chichagof Island, he was shooting charging bears.
Since then, I have come to believe it is in large part because even rare contact with people tends to quickly dampen the fight-or-flight response. Perhaps, in those days if the bear you tracked had ever seen or smelled someone and not run it would likely have been shot, so it wasn’t demonstrating learning from prior attempts on its life but the fact that if it had been habituated enough to hang around it wouldn’t have existed to leave the tracks you saw. That’s not completely ruling out the possibility that somebody had previously shot at it and sprayed it with wood from an intervening log or something else to give it a memorably unpleasant experience. In looking at the pattern of DLP kills by stream-walkers, the locations where they occur tend to be in the really out-of-the-way places. One couple was charged and shot brown bears two seasons in a row on anonymous streams on eastern Chichagof that probably get no sport fishermen, eco-tourists or any other visitors for years — they quit and found another job. One factor may have been they covered ground pretty quickly. I trudged blissfully up streams for 15 years before my number came up late in the day on a very remote brushy little creek. The vast majority of the fight-or-flight encounters with unaccustomed bears still entail flight, so the fight response when it comes is a real shocker to someone who has extrapolated the odds down to nothing based on years of the most common experience. I am guessing that in Yellowstone, grizzlies see people often enough that they usually don’t get enormous adrenalin when one is heard or comes in sight — and as cubs they may have watched their mother react to sight, sound or scent of people.
I think the natural response is fear in bears from tens of thousand of years of humans hunting them. Humans did hunt them. They used bear grease for several things including as an insect repellent.
The learned or conditioned response is indifference. It is important to make this distinction. Its not that they learn fear from hunting or hazing; it is that they learn indifference from constant conditioning by humans.
I have notice that wildlife, almost any wildlife, is very sensitive of something tracking it. They are very aware of where their trail is and if they see or smell you in the vicinity of their trail, it spooks them terribly. I have seen deer actually jump straight up in the air when they realised that I was tracking them. It sends a chill up their spine. The incident I described with the bear on Bishop Mountain leads me to believe bears are the same. It is one thing for them to see humans walking carelessly down a trail. It is quite another for bears to see or smell a human following their trail. It scares them. They panic. They run for miles. Most game does.
So if you are in an area where there are no humans by my theory, bears will fear you. If it is an area where they are hunted and have been followed or tracked, they will be terrified. If it is in an area where they are constantly smelling, seeing, and hearing humans, the will be indifferent to you. However, since they are indifferent, you are more likely to surprise one or are more likely to get close enough so as to be a threat.
The bear that killed the guy at Cook City last year was simply hungry and wanted to eat a human because it had been conditioned to not fear them.
I think many adventure writers, especially in the 19th century, exaggerated to sell books. I watched some documentary about the guy who wrote ‘Lobo’ and there was some story about his publisher wanting him to exaggerate or even create several wolf attacks to sell his book and he refused.
Here is a link to Ernest Thompson Seton who wrote a lot about wildlife in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. In the PBS documentary about him, there was some issue he had with his publishers who wanted sensational stories of near-death attacks by predators…but I do not recall the details. I wouldn’t place much credence in writings about wildlife from this era.
I would agree that animals that think they are being pursued take notice, so that could be part of it.
One thing I’ve noticed is that the big males are pretty reclusive even in areas where they aren’t hunted much. They seldom come by weirs or camps. When jumped, they usually run fast but occasionally just walk away. I have been practically run over by them a couple of times when they were trying to escape. On one occasion during my second fall in Southeast, I got way ahead of my boss walking up a small stream during heavy snow in early November. I had a pistol somewhere under layers of clothing and chestwaders and was wearing Ray Orbison style sunglasses and holding a dipnet in my hands to catch spawning coho. I was just stepping over a log when I heard Phil yell out downstream behind me, and turned around to see a chestnut monster coming up the alley full out right at me. I dove under the log into the icy water about a second before he passed over it right where I’d been standing. We checked the tracks in the snow and found where he’d come over from the other fork and emerged about 10 feet in front of Phil.
A couple of sows that we’ve watched for many years, that had been extremely comfortable around people in youth through 2 or 3 sets of cubs, also suddenly became increasingly aloof in older age, somewhere close to 20 years. One weir crew who spent 21 seasons at the same site got very attached to one sow took it rather personally when she started avoiding them after many seasons spending hours yards to feet away. One could see it as cautious avoidance of aggressive encounters with physical decline, but the weirs actually seem a fairly safe place for sub-dominant bears. Lots of mysteries . . .
I do not consider myself to be a bear behavior expert but I did grow up around them, I’ve hunted them, and I’ve probably watched nearly every wildlife documentary ever produced about them. I also had several wildlife majors as friends and roommates when attending University of Idaho and went hunting or fishing with them many times.
I do believe large dominant males act tough just like dominant human males. The may act like they are unafraid of humans sometimes but I’ll bet if you made a sudden move around one it would either flee or attack. It would probably flee and then realize it had an image to maintain whereupon it would turn and attack. It sounds as if the bear in your story knew you were there but was, with bravado, forcing you to yield the trail.
You may recall my story a few months back where I had a grizzly steel my dead deer. That night, it came into my camp? Why? It was not hungry; it had a 250 lb deer. It came in to show me who was king of the forest! It is the only explanation. I still feel sorry for my horse that was short-tied to the tree. It had rope burns on its neck where it nearly strangled itself trying to pull away.
I think females are very protective of their cubs. Also like humans, their cubs drive them crazy sometimes and they become hostile towards the entire world…bitchy, like some human mothers do. If they are beginning to starve like the sow at Cook City last year, they are probably very dangerous.
One more thing I can remember from my days as a psych major was that behaviorists can, using “classical conditioning”, train animals to do very unnatural things. An example, I remember that there were some behaviorist that had trained pigs, from birth, to eat from a table like humans. This was a demonstration. It worked as long as the “classical conditioning” continued. That is, as long as the pigs received a food reward for the desired behavior and received a electroshock punishment for undesirable behavior. Even though the pigs were conditioned from birth, however, as soon as the “classical conditioning” ceased, they would begin rooting the ground with their snouts looking for food. That is, pigs have a strong rooting instinct and will fall back onto their instinctual behavior as soon as the “classical conditioning” stops. This is called “extinction” by behaviorists. Any “classical conditioned” behavior will become extinct soon after the “classical conditioning” ends.
So bears might become conditioned to doing something like taking human food while ignorig their natural fear; but as soon as the conditioning ends, the natural fear will return. The same goes for similar conditioned behavior.
Seak write: “I used to wonder if there had been a genetic change in this region from aggressive bears all getting shot off.”
Evolution does not happen that quickly. Let’s say Hitler killed all short people less than 5′ tall. Would all people in Germany be taller than 5′ then. No. The “short” genes are still in the genepool. People taller than 5′ would continue giving birth to offspring that are less than 5′. You could eventully rid the genepool of the less-than-5′ genes but it would take several dozen generation to do so.
Further, I doubt humans kills account for more than about 10% of bear deaths. I think we have had our impact on their genes but it has taken thousands of years.
Finally, Indians killed bears too. Indians with bows and arrows that they used most days of thier lives for decades were very accurate with them and they almost alway hunted in groups. Humans have been the most deadly predators on the planet for at least a couple of hundred thousand years.
That was then, this is now. Bear management policies have changed a whole heck of a lot in Yellowstone. Those begging bears were in fact “habituated”. There is, however, a big difference between being truly “habituated”, that is recognizing people as a source of food, and simply being used to seeing and co-existing with people. Check statistics on bear maulings in the park in the old days when feeding was allowed and compare them to recent years. The difference is astounding. Also, animals tend to be more cautious in the backcountry than on the road. Compare how elk respond to a hiker, even Mammoth elk that lounge around town half the time, to how they act in town where they expect to see people.
The same bear that puts on a show along the road will run like hell from hikers; I’ve seen it happen.
Bears who feed near trails reaking of human scent are truly “habituated” too.
The fact remains. Yellowstone has over three millions vistors a year, most of whom visit during the time of the year that bears are active. Most of whom have little, if any, bear knowledge. Many of whom have little, if any, wildlife common sense. Most trails reak with the scent of humans; bears are commonly seen along trails, roads and even near developed areas. Concentrations of bears and people very high. Yet the occurance of bear attacks is remarkably low (first death in 25 years, first attack of any kind since 2007). Far lower than in the National Forests outside of the park where concentrations of people are considerably lower, one would assume they would tend to be more “backcountry savvy”, and bears tend to be more “wild”. All of this would seem to indicate that bears can learn to tolerate and co-exist with humans, especially with common sense policies in place to avoid food conditioning, and occasional hazing activity when they get too close to populated areas.
Habituation may not be an entirely bad thing. It’s all about degrees. Statistics prove that whatever they are doing in Yellowstone works. People are the wild card. When people do the totally wrong thing, animals are going to react according to their instinct. They are hardwired that way. Heck, if you run from a dog you are going to get bit. Most people know that.
I disagree that concentrations of people are lower outside the Park.
All the people who travel in the Park also travel outside of it. There are many, many more roads outside the Park so people are in more areas.
99% of people visiting the Park never get more than several hundred yards from their cars near the road. If grizzlies do show up, Yellowstone sends a ranger out to supervise.
Outside the Park is different. People are in many locations for many reason and are often away from roads, or at least away from busy roads.
This is another reason I’d like to see Yellowstone expanded…more remote roadless areas. Fewer roads and more areas served only by trail.
I grew up near Ashton, Idaho and the area to the east, near the southwest corner of the Park, is prime grizzly habitat. It was avoided by locals. There were only a few maulings but people saw grizzlies on a regular basis and were chased out of the area. I had a grizzly come walking through my camp one night and it nearly scared my horse to death.
Attacks are on the rise in the GYE. For the past several years, I have read about five or six per year. It is true that most were outside the Park but they were just outside.
I agree that it is not much of a problem for Yellowstone. I read the Rexburg Standard Journal yesterday and alongside the grizzly attack story were stories of a girl killed in a boating accident on Rire Reservoir and a man missing and presumed dead after his wrecked canoe was discovered below Coffeepot Rapids on the Henry’s Fork. It is not too much of a problem now. It is much worse than it was but it is still at a tolerable level.
However, I worry that people will grow intolerant of grizzly attacks should they become more frequent. I know many people in Ashton are quite afraid of the grizzly country east of Ashton and are becoming afraid to leave the car in Island Park. It is also good huckleberry picking east of Ashton but people are afraid to go there anymore. I believe wildlife managers should take measures to minimize grizzly attacks and I have always believed that some hunting of grizzlies would help towards that end.
To treat them like sacred cows and allow them to wander everywhere to kill people anytime they are spooked or are starving is not going to work despite assurances from animal righters.
Alan – a bear that “recognizes people as a source of food” is food conditioned, not habituated.
“Habituation: the simplest form of learning in which the reduction or loss of a response to a stimulus occurs as a result of repeated stimulation which is not followed by any kind of reinforcement.”
– from A Dictionary of Ecology, Evolution, and Systematics (Cambridge Press, 1998).
We’ve covered that distinction on this blog before. Actually, just over four years ago regarding the American Fork, UT fatality.
Thank you, Sap. I stand corrected in my terminology, but not in my post.
Alan, yes, your post is correct about food conditioned bears. Important to keep that terminology straight so we know what kind of bear we’re talking about.
I have been (bluff?) charged by a grizzly in Yukon Territory, and had done nothing but get too close to him for comfort, at a distance of about 80 yards. Younger bear, probably a 3 year old, fortunately I was able to retreat to my vehicle, which he then circled several times(this was off public roads and down an old logging road).
I also remember in Yellowstone, years ago when the dumps were still open, and when they used regular garbage cans in the campgrounds that were underground, to keep the bears from knocking them over. They were the regular old galvanized can down in a vaulted sleeve of some sort, and had a foot pedal which popped the lid up. Then you deposited the garbage. There were even griz roaming through the campgrounds then. Rangers not too concerned, but should have been. You heard occasionally about some bear pealing the top off a car or a convertible to get at a cooler inside.
I saw a teenager push a black bear cub into one of the nearly empty cans as it was investigating the contents near the edge. The lid closed and mamma bear was not happy. I was only about 12 at the time, and walking through that end of our campground with my uncle. He was wise, and knew what could happen, so we just left very quickly, and waited to hear what he thought was inevitable. Apparently a ranger, just went over and opened the lid on the can, and mamma was quickly placated.
Weird how a lot of those attacks have happened in Canada and Alaska, 2 places where bears are allowed to be hunted. I thought bears are supposed to fear man if they are hunted, right pw? How would you explain all of these attacks that have happened in Alaska and Canada?
Couldn’t have anything to do with the fact that there are about 250 times the brown bear/Grizzly population there?
The Craigheads wrote a book years ago about their work collaring and monitoring grizzlies when Yellowstone was proposing to close the dumps down. I can’t recall the name of the book but one of the brothers commented that they had discovered over time while tracking grizzlies, that they have a “comfort zone” of a couple hundred yards, even with cubs or while in day beds. 9 times out of 10, if they were alerted to or smelled humans before they reached that comfort zone, the grizzlies would leave the area. As PW’s bear did.
It was a good read, filled with insight on grizzly behavior.
Apparently the grizzlies inside/outside the park haven’t read the book. There is a growing fear, among hunters as expressed by Bob Jackson who used to comment here, that the bears now hear a gunshot and with Pavlovian response think it is a dinnerbell showing up at the sight of a kill to claim it. So, maybe the comfort zone thing is useful in some contexts, but not always – and do recall Timmy Treadwell and his girlfriend in AK.
“Track of the Grizzly” An amazing book. Available from Sierra Club Books, I believe. I have read it probably four or five times over the years and highly recommend it.
Yellowstone Visitor Killed by Grizzly Bear
By Al Nash
July 08, 2011
A 57-year-old Torrence, California, man is dead after an encounter with a grizzly bear Wednesday morning. Brian Matayoshi, and his wife Marylyn, were hiking Wednesday morning on the Wapiti Lake Trail, located off the South Rim Drive, south of Canyon Village and east of the park’s Grand Loop Road. The couple was hiking west back toward their vehicle. At approximately 11 a.m., at a point about a mile and a half from the trailhead, they walked out of a forested area into an open meadow. It appears that the couple spotted a bear approximately 100 yards away and then began walking away from the bear. When they turned around to look, they reportedly saw the female grizzly running down the trail at them. The couple began running, but the bear caught up with them, attacking Matayoshi. The bear then went over to Matayoshi’s wife, who had fallen to the ground nearby. The bear bit her daypack, lifting her from the ground and then dropping her. She remained still and the bear left the area. She then walked back toward the meadow and attempted, without success, to call 911 on her cell phone. She began to shout for help and was heard by a distant group of hikers who were able to contact 911 by cell phone. Two rangers already in the area on backcountry patrol were contacted by the park Communications Center by radio and responded to the scene of the incident. Matayoshi received multiple bite and clawing injuries, and was dead when rangers arrived at the scene at approximately 11:30 a.m. Rangers immediately closed the hiking trails in the area. A subsequent helicopter patrol of the area failed to turn up any other hikers or backpackers. This small section of the park’s backcountry is expected to remain closed for several days. The initial investigation suggests the sow grizzly acted in a purely defensive nature to protect her cubs. This female bear is not tagged or collared, and does not apparently have a history of aggression or human interaction. Typically, the National Park Service does not trap, relocate, or kill a bear under those circumstances. A Board of Review which will include interagency experts will be convened to review the incident. Bear attacks are extremely rare. No one was hurt by a bear in Yellowstone in 2010. This is the first time a human has been killed by a bear in the park since 1986. Park visitors are encouraged to stay on designated trails, hike in groups of three or more people, and be alert for bears and make noise in blind spots. Visitors are also encouraged to consider carrying bear pepper spray, which has been shown to be highly successful in stopping aggressive behavior in bears. The Matayoshis were not carrying pepper spray.
This morning I was looking at a map of where this attack took place. I was kind of shocked when I realized that 2 years ago I was visiting the park in October when I pulled into the parking lot for this trailhead. A couple was cooking some lunch on a little grill in the parking lot. What they didn’t know, was that a grizzly bear was coming down the hill through the sagebrush right behind them and was within about 100 yards. Another man in the parking lot spotted the bear and alerted everyone else in the parking lot. The couple with the grill, grabbed it and actually climbed into their car, taking the grill with them. I assume they turned it off and didn’t keep cooking their hamburgers. During the commotion, the bear turned around and ran back up the hill. However, about 10 minutes later, the bear came back down the hill and walked into the trees right next to the parking lot. At that time, I decided that my plans to go hiking had changed and I left. That bear, possibly the same bear (who knows), did not seem overly afraid of people.
Brown bear numbers in YNP have increased 400% in the last 20 years…that makes historic attack data less meaningful and makes recent stats more significant.
Perhaps “conventional hiking wisdom” needs to be updated.
“…that makes historic attack data less meaningful and makes recent stats more significant…”
I disagree. I think that the fact that we have so many fewer attacks now (in YNP), even with that 400% increase, is very significant.
I’ll give another recomendation for “Track of the Grizzly”. Read it many
Years ago. As an aside, there is was a National Geographic on Grizzlies and a sequence of the program showed the Craigheads working with a griz they had caught in a culvert trap. They had been backing off on the amount of “drugs” administered to the bears, if I remember they accidentally killed one or two…
Back to story, they had all but finished working withe the bear, and the bear started to come around. I think it was putting the ear tag on the bear when things got interesting. The bear went berserk, as the Craigheads and their assistants made a dash for their cars. The bear tore their equipment up, and charged one of the old station wagons and hit the passenger door side of the vehicle, and put a big dent in it. These were late 50’s early 60’s cars, so the metal was a bit thicker than now adays. As the vehicle moved away in reverse the bear charged again, jumping on the hood of the car, rolled off and ran away. All the time this was going on, you could hear the nervous laughter in the vehicle
That was in the wild and wooly early days on radio collaring, and they were just learning the ropes.
As a kid I enjoyed the early Craighead documentaries. It was pretty novel stuff in those days, on par with watching the moon landing. But I’ve got news — the wild and wooly days are not over. Even with advanced technology and many years of experience it’s impossible to have full control over all the variables in catching, handling and releasing bears. The technician who does the hands-on work with virtually all the bear collaring in this region has been at it since the mid-1970s and has handled somewhere around 850 brown bears, and still has uninvited adventures. A rather rustic looking fellow who lives alone on his old 50 foot boat in the harbor, he made centerfold in National Geographic a few years ago (around Sept. 2006?). I had great fun last fall when I found one of his radio collars that he’d been trying to recover on a freshly dead bear and managed convince him (wide-eyed and incredulous) with a well-concocted and soberly delivered story that we had recovered it for him from a live bear using a rope snare without sedation.
He has scars on his leg from a few years ago when he and an assistant and a Nat Geo photographer were walking down a valley on Chichagof and ran into a bear they had collared a considerable distance away, hours earlier. The bear grabbed him as the others scurried off and clamped onto his leg – an alder trunk between them prevented worse damage to the rest of him. With difficulty, he managed to shoot it twice with his .338 and his assistant finally ventured back and finished it off. It’s on a Nat Geo documentary, although of course the camera man missed the main action.
He worked out of our headwaters fisheries camp a couple of seasons in November and my assistant stayed on up there a few days to help him. One morning, they found themselves reconnoitering and creeping up with great trepidation and every sense on full alert toward a foot snare from which emanated the bawling cries of a cub. My assistant was streamlined in the rear but happened to glance back and see the alders waving violently as the sow and other cub came from directly behind. Roaring and snapping she came within 15 feet and, while already feeling remorse for shooting her, he held fire (with the thought that if he got taken down, cool hands would quickly come to the rescue) and she broke off — and stayed away long enough for them to run to the cub and sedate and release it.
I prefer to handle fish — and do less laundry.
Immer – That scene captured on film for TV viewing, that bear and the Craigheads scrambling madly for that old station wagon, was forever branded into my mind as a youngster, watching it unfold. It came racing back when that elderly gentleman was killed last year when he had the awful misfortune of running across a bear that had been drugged and left to cope with the aftermath.
At some point IMHO, will mankind stop and realize we share this planet with many other species and “studying” them to death, isn’t gonna help when it comes to our own selfish shortcomings – as in population control and the destruction of natural habitat.
It seems you’ve one another convert with your misinformation, Larry. Perhaps you will ultimately win your misguided and self-serving campaign against the evil scientists, though I don’t think it will help wildlife one bit.
“Dost not see? A monstrous giant of infamous repute whom I intend to encounter.”
Ride on Man of La Mancha!
Nancy, what you saw there in the National Geographic film of the Craigheads was the early early days of chemical immobilization.
They were using a drug that is no longer used in bear captures. It was called Sucostrin, and it basically paralyzed the animal.
“Sucostrin is not a tranquilizer, but a muscle blocking agent–it
essentially paralyzes the animal. These paralyzed animals are fully awake,
aware, can feel pain, and are subject to stress.”
I think anyone closely involved with grizzly conservation will recognize that we have gained a tremendous amount from being able to radiotrack bears. Figuring out how to do that was not easy for either the bears or the people involved. In the Craighead footage, they may have under-dosed that bear to err on the side of not killing it.
It’s painful to think of what that bear was experiencing. But that is certainly not representative of how bears are handled now.
The bear that killed Professor Evert WAS captured in a leghold snare, and it may be fair to say he probably woke up with a poor disposition toward people after fighting the snare for hours and then have guys walk up and zap him with a dart.
Between the dart and his encounter with Professor Evert, though, we can rest assured he was handled as well as any human getting surgery at the Mayo Clinic.
I share your misgivings about studying them just to be studying them. It’s a balancing act, and without scrutiny and pressure, the scales would tip too far in the direction of expediency for research. That said, I strongly believe we need a solid base of knowledge for figuring out wildlife policy. Again, there has to be balance. We aren’t going to stop habitat destruction or control population by getting rid of wildlife research, though.
The Craigheads were well-publicized and helped considerably advance the technology, but they weren’t the very first pioneers in immobilizing brown/grizzly bears for research. There were guys on Kodiak who used big foot-hold traps with drags that tangled in the alders to catch bears for sampling and to attach ear tags. No dart guns — they went in with a syringe on a pole.
Maybe dealing with grizzlies is similar to the following scene from Star Wars:
On the desert backwater planet of Tatooine, Luke Skywalker with two runaway droids and a wise old Jedi
Warrior named Obi-Wan Kenobi were on the run from Imperial Stormtroopers. The ruthless Stormtroopers had already destroyed Lukes home and killed his parents searching for the runaway droids. Luke, the two droids, and Obi-Wan pulled into the port city of Vritannis hoping to find transportation off the planet. Upon entering the port city, however, Imperial Stormtroopers surround Lukes’s cruiser brandishing weapons.
Stormtrooper: Let me see your identification.
Obi-Wan: [with a small wave of his hand] You don’t need to see his identification.
Stormtrooper: We don’t need to see his identification.
Obi-Wan: [calmly] These aren’t the droids you’re looking for.
Stormtrooper: These aren’t the droids we’re looking for.
Obi-Wan: He can go about his business.
Stormtrooper: You can go about your business.
Obi-Wan: Move along.
Stormtrooper: Move along… move along.
Obi-Wan: [to Luke Skywalker] The Force can have a strong influence on the weak-minded.
As always, great stories! Might there be a book in making? I hope
The craighead video I referred to showed the bear in a culvert trap, and they stuck in a syringe attached to a pole. First try the bear broke the pole in half with one swipe of his front paw.
Got to imagine it would take a not of grit to be able to do the same with the bear in the open!
I think I saw the Craighead film about the time it came out so had forgotten after several decades about that scene and their use of poles starting out — but it came back pretty clearly with your description. I’m thinking now the work on Kodiak may not have preceded them but was probably roughly the same time. I remember a magazine article about it in the 1960s titled very aptly “Where Angels Fear to Tread”.