Bozeman Couple Encounter Bear Days Before Fatal Yellowstone Attack

A couple from Bozeman, who were hiking in Yellowstone National Park, successfully fended off a sow grizzly using pepper spray just days before a man was killed by a sow grizzly under similar circumstances.

Bozeman Couple Encounter Bear Days Before Fatal Yellowstone Attack.
NBC Montana

You can read their first hand account of the incident here:
Hayden Valley 7-2-2011 Lucky To Be Alive
Kevin Boyer, Yellowstone National Park


  1. Linda Jo Hunter Avatar

    Ken thanks for posting that. . the PFD file with the whole story as the man wrote it is the most interesting. I wish the bear had written an account as well . . and I hope this doesn’t start another whole pepper spray debate. 🙂

  2. Immer Treue Avatar
    Immer Treue

    Wow! Cool under what one could say under very tough circumstances. No other way to ask this question, but I wonder if he had to change his shorts.

    Man, but that was some good discipline. His feet had to be saying one thing, while his brain was trying to keep those stampeding horses under control!

  3. Kevin Sanders Avatar
    Kevin Sanders

    The number one rule when hiking anywhere in or around Hayden Valley is to stay away from the timber during the day. Anyone who reportedly has spent so much time hiking in this area should have known this. Grizzly bears, especially sows with cubs move just inside the timber about mid morning. The timber provides an escape area for cubs should a large male walk into the area.

  4. Linda Jo Hunter Avatar

    Although I am so happy that this incident turned out so well, I do wonder if people in that area always yell and scream when they see a bear. The lessons we learned in Alaska being around different bears seems to point to bears liking quiet. Our best method was to quietly stand your ground, use spray if the bear still seemed intent on disciplining you but also not stare at it’s eyes but break eye contact. Do they teach yelling at the bear and waving your arms in Montana?

    1. Ter Avatar

      No, we do not teach yelling at the bear and waving your arms here in Montana for the situation this couple found themselves in. Ideally, talking at a normal level and looking down and off to the side can help to reassure the defensive mother grizzly that you are submissive and not a threat. The same as what you describe for bears in Alaska. That said, if you come across a predatory bear (say, one in your camp), yelling, waving your arms, and making lots of noise would be appropriate. Apart from the yelling, the other actions taken by this couple seem to have been appropriate and ultimately saved their lives in this encounter.

  5. Alan Avatar

    “..She closed to within 3 yards of me, right where I had laid my hiking poles down, when I adjusted for the wind direction, and then unloaded the whole can of spray on her,”
    When he first saw the bear she was 20 yards away (say, 60 feet) running at full speed toward him (what’s that for a griz, 30-35 MPH?); yet he was able to yell, get one shot of spray off, see the cub, adjust for wind direction when the bear was with 3 yards, and get off a second spray?! Wow! I’d say that either he misjudged distances here or he had an extra helping of spinach that morning!

  6. Linda Jo Hunter Avatar

    It is really hard, if not impossible, to remember exactly what happened when you have a bear encounter. Distances, timing and subtle body language clues are lost, unless you are a lucky person who sees bears day in and day out.
    I have watched people in their encounters closely and then questioned them about it later and the less encounters they have had the more they don’t notice or misjudge. When you are scared your powers of observation turn inward and some things slow down for you and others whip by. This man did a great job writing down his experience which is why it is so interesting. Now the rest of us get to tear it apart and he can see clearer in hindsight perhaps. He was brave and collected both during the encounter and having the courage to publish his account. If he reads this, or others who have had similar experiences read this blog I don’t want them to be afraid to publish what they observed and remembered because it might save someone else. It was very important when he reached for the spray and flipped off the safety. If they made any mistakes, like going into timber on a hot day, or using aggressive noise or body language the spray made them safe anyway because he had the ability to use it. Now there are no dead people or bears and there are a mother and cub who have learned that people can make a stink better than a skunk. They might just slip out the back of the timber next time.

    1. Ter Avatar

      Linda –
      I agree on all counts.


Ken Cole is a 5th generation Idahoan, an avid fly fisherman, wildlife enthusiast, and photographer. He is the interim Idaho Director for Western Watersheds Project.

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