Grizzly sow shot in Island Park, Idaho. Her cubs in jeopardy? (updated twice)

Island Park, Idaho. A female grizzly bear with two yearling cubs was hot near Island Park, Idaho on September 12. Island Park is a relatively low elevation and primarily flat area (an ancient caldera bottom) just west and southwest of Yellowstone Park.

This year there had been two grizzly bear-human injuries in the Island Park area, neither especially serious until Aug. 23. Then someone shot a sub-adult female grizzly bear. It is still under investigation. Now a second grizzly bear has been shot. She became the 20th killed grizzly in the Greater Yellowstone this year. Two days later a male grizzly that had killed too much livestock for the authorities’ taste was “removed” from Crow Creek in the Bridger-Teton National Forest (dead bear no. 21).

Island Park is exactly the kind of place one would expect to find grizzlies and black bears this time of year in a year of whitebark pine nut crop failure (the new norm).

Park on private land near Robinson Creek. 9/22/13. Copyright Ralph Maughan
Bear scat, SE of Island Park on private land near Robinson Creek. 9/22/13. Copyright Ralph Maughan

The details of this second grizzly bear shooting have not been released (see the news release below). People are concerned about her two cubs. They have been determined to be yearlings by their paw print size. Cubs of-the-year almost never survive the winter when orphaned. Yearlings, such as these, have a better chance. There is also some indication that these two yearlings are in good condition, a big plus for surviving hibernation.

Idaho Fish and Game explains below that they will not capture the cubs and to try rehabilitate them, and why they think that rehab would not work.

I was in Island Park and adjacent national forest and private land last weekend looking for bear sign. I found a lot near the forest edges down low, but little back further in the national forest (such as the Lionhead area and Madison Plateau).  See the photo of some of the scat above. You can see what the bear was eating.

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September 24, 2013                                                                       

 Contact Gregg Losinski at 208-390-0635 for information

Shooting Of Grizzly Bear Sow In Island Park Is Just The Beginning Of The Story…

ISLAND PARK – On September  12, 2013 an adult female grizzly bear was shot by a resident of Island Park, Idaho. Because the incident is under investigation by the enforcement branch of the United States Fish & Wildlife (USFWS), these are the only details able to be released at this time.  Because the grizzly bear is still listed as a Threatened Species under the Endangered Act decisions made regarding the handling of grizzly bears falls under the jurisdiction of the USWFS. As the result of the shooting two young grizzly bears were orphaned.

There has been some concern from the public because it has been believed that the bears orphaned were cubs-of-the-year, born this last winter.  When measurement taken of the young bears’ front paw pad prints at the scene where the sow was shot were compared to hundreds of previous measurements from other cubs of the year, it is clear these bears are yearlings.   According to Large Carnivore Biologist Bryan Aber, who works for Idaho Department of Fish & Game (IDFG) and is part of the Interagency Grizzly Bear Study Team (IGBST), “7 centimeters (cm) is the standard for cubs of the year in the Yellowstone Ecosystem, measurements I made of the cub’s front pad prints were 8.5 cm and 9 cm.  This measurement clearly makes these bears yearlings.”

The distinction between cubs of the year and yearling is of major importance.   According to Aber, “Orphaned cubs of the year generally stand little chance of survival if left on their own heading into winter.  Yearlings that are in good condition stand a very good chance of surviving.”  The policy of the state and federal agencies managing grizzly bears is to not capture orphaned yearlings as they have good a chance of surviving in the wild.

There has been a call by some members of the public to capture the grizzlies and place them in a rehab facility, as if they could be held in captivity, fed, and released later somewhere.   According to USWFS Grizzly Bear Recovery Coordinator Chris Servheen, “Rehab with grizzlies is really not an option.   Grizzly bears cannot be captured and held in a facility and released later.  If these bears were captured they would have to put in permanent captivity in a zoo or euthanized.”  According to Aber, “The bears appear to be in good shape and by reports they are at least 100 pounds.   They have been observed feeding in the forest on elk gut piles, so as long as they stay away from humans they should be able to go into hibernation later successfully.” Chris Servheen said, “If these bears get into conflicts they may be captured and relocated to another area, but this will only be done as a last resort.  Their best opportunity to survive is to be left within the habitats where they grew up and for residents to make sure all attractants like birdfeeders, pet food, livestock feed, and garbage are secured and unavailable bears.”

Residents and hunters of Island Park know that both black and grizzly bears are present throughout the area.  The killing of a grizzly is rarely the end of the story; often there are management and legal outcomes that require difficult decisions. Working to prevent human caused grizzly bear deaths is the best way to keep things simple.  To learn more about grizzly bear recovery, management, and safety visit:


Added on 9/25/2013 5:15 PM

Here, belatedly, is the news release on the first grizzly bear to be killed in Island Park this year.  It was in my email from Idaho Fish and Game dated. Aug 24. The bear seems to have been shot because it visited an site where earlier this year a bear (the same bear?) had torn down a bird feeder.  We have to wonder if this one is maybe a prosecutable offense. It seems a classic example why the grizzly bear must not be delisted.

– – – – – –


By Idaho Fish and Game 

ISLAND PARK – Early in the evening of August 23, 2013, a young female grizzly bear was shot and then killed by the caretaker of a private residence in the Shotgun Valley area of Island Park, Idaho.  No human injuries were reported.  A grizzly bear had visited the site previously and torn down a bird feeder to eat the seeds.  Because of the earlier bear activity the caretaker was carrying a high-powered rifle while performing his chores.

The incident occurred only a few miles from the site of a grizzly bear attack that took place on August 15, where a bear startled by two habitat technicians charged.  One individual received a bite to his thigh and backside, while the other had minor injuries to his hands.  Biologists from the Idaho Department of Fish & Game took tissue samples from the shot bear to compare with samples taken from clothing worn at the earlier incident.  Unlike television detective shows, DNA results may take a while to return from the laboratory. The bear killed is not known to have had previous contact with humans.

The incident is being investigated by a special agent from the United States Fish & Wildlife Service (USFWS), with assistance from Idaho Fish & Game conservation officers.  The USFWS is the agency in charge of all management actions while the grizzly bear remains listed as a threatened species within the Yellowstone Ecosystem.  Once delisted, the separate states would assume management, with oversight by the USFWS for an initial five year period.







  1. Dannie Avatar

    I have never understood why the answer to everything in America is to kill it. Is that our culture?

    1. Ida Lupine Avatar
      Ida Lupine


  2. tom Avatar

    Another pathetic loser hunter that knows he will get away with this because no hunter is ever severely punished for shooting an animal. Our laws need to be changed.

    1. Ralph Maughan Avatar
      Ralph Maughan

      No information has been released saying that the bear was killed by a hunter.

      Please read this, “On September 12, 2013 an adult female grizzly bear was shot by a resident of Island Park, Idaho. Because the incident is under investigation by the enforcement branch of the United States Fish & Wildlife (USFWS), these are the only details able to be released at this time.”

  3. Kathleen Avatar

    “Their best opportunity to survive is…for residents to make sure all attractants like birdfeeders, pet food, livestock feed, and garbage are secured and unavailable (to) bears.”

    And therein lies the problem. Last year I had the sad opportunity to see what happens to orphaned, Montana griz cubs sent to a zoo when I visited the tiny Midwestern zoo in my hometown. The bears, then 7 years old, are the offspring of a “problem bear” who was “euthanized” for habituation. They are now circling, pacing prisoners of psychosis (more of their story is here, “Grizzly psychosis at the zoo: There’s no place like home – ). Letting cubs take their chances to make it–or not–in the wild would be far kinder than condemning them to lifelong incarceration in a small “exhibit.”

    1. Ida Lupine Avatar
      Ida Lupine

      They are now circling, pacing prisoners of psychosis.

      It’s interesting that you should say that. I remember seeing a wolf at a small zoo who endlessly circling the perimeter of his small enclosure, almost like he was trying to be territorial. It was not a pleasant experience. 🙁

      We need to get rid of zoos, these remnants of the Victorian era.

      Letting cubs take their chances to make it–or not–in the wild would be far kinder than condemning them to lifelong incarceration in a small “exhibit.”

      I agree wholeheartedly.

      1. Barb Rupers Avatar
        Barb Rupers

        I also saw a pacing canine in a small cage at a zoo that, as it circled, put the same paw in the same place on its path. It had learned its routine well. It was sad to watch.

  4. Ralph Maughan Avatar
    Ralph Maughan

    I updated the story just now because I found out another grizzly was shot in Island Park earlier, Aug. 23. Yet another grizzly since the one this story is about became a Wyoming “management removal on September 14.” It was livestock again.

  5. John Salvesen Avatar
    John Salvesen

    I live in Island Park near where the grizzly bear was shot. I hope this individual goes to jail. Shooting a mother of two cubs is pathetic. You have a mother grizzly trying to into a chicken coup, not a reason to kill it.

    1. Ralph Maughan Avatar
      Ralph Maughan

      John Salvesen,

      Thanks for commenting. Let me ask you if this is the information that has not been released? Was it a case of chicken coup raiding?

    2. alf Avatar

      One grizzly : Priceless.
      One chicken : What ? Three or four bucks, maybe ?

  6. SaveBears Avatar


    Almost 100% of the time, shooting a bear raiding a coop is found justified.

    1. jdubya Avatar

      Again a lack of a sense of proportion. Guns do that to people.

    2. Nancy Avatar

      Seems to me there was a situation last year where a grizzly was shot for getting into a chicken coop.

      IMHO, Anyone who decides to raise chickens in this part of the country for eggs or meat, needs to realize chickens are most at risk from predators (large & small) at night…. and if you can’t design the coop to keep out predators of all sizes, you shouldn’t be raising them.

      I learned that the hard way early on, when a weasel got in my coop one morning.

      These bears should not be losing their lives because someone isn’t bright enough to protect their livestock (big or small 🙂

      1. SaveBears Avatar


        It has actually happened several times over the years here in the Flathead.

        1. Nancy Avatar

          And your thoughts on that SB?

          1. SaveBears Avatar

            As with most livestock conflicts, I think the person with the livestock need to take an active part in protecting their livestock, if they do, then it should be decided on a case by case basis.

            1. Nancy Avatar

              Yep. Agree SB.

              And how’s the weather your way? I’ve got close to an inch of snow on the ground here right now…..

              1. SaveBears Avatar

                We had lots of rain the last couple of days, it is suppose to clear up and sunshine the next couple of days. They were saying the storm front was heading south.

            2. Dawn Rehill Avatar
              Dawn Rehill

              Word, SB

              1. SaveBears Avatar

                What, Dawn?

      2. SAP Avatar

        Chickens are very popular lately (both with grizzlies & people!). Electric fence is pretty much the only workable solution for bears around chicken coops. I’d wager that just about any hobby chicken (say, less than 50 hens) can be hot fenced for around $400.

        The challenges: people who are already laying out a few hundred or more to get into chickens may squawk at adding $400 more to keep bears out (I know, I know — short term thinking! Bears can wreck your whole investment in a matter of minutes). They may not realize or believe that bears are around. Or they may not care. I tend to think they’re few and far between, but there are people who hope for conflicts so they can act out against bears, and act out against people who care about bears.

        1. Ralph Maughan Avatar
          Ralph Maughan

          I don’t know that we have yet established that this was a matter of a chicken coop.

    3. Tim Avatar

      So maintaining a chicken coop (or keeping chickens and goats) in known bear habitat is justified? Even from a simpleton’s perspective, that is crazy logic. This homeowner’s property is in close proximity of forest service land and an area legally designated bear (grizzly and black) habitat. A property owner so clueless about where he/she resides in relationship to and with respect toward the surroundings, represents an element of danger to neighbors and environment much greater than bears ever could.

  7. Ralph Maughan Avatar
    Ralph Maughan

    I finally found a news release on the first grizzly bear shooting in Island Park this year; Aug. 24.

    I added it at the bottom of the story.

    This one, if all the relevant facts are known, is likely to make friends of grizzly bears quite angry. The news release begins. . .

    Early in the evening of August 23, 2013, a young female grizzly bear was shot and then killed by the caretaker of a private residence in the Shotgun Valley area of Island Park, Idaho. No human injuries were reported. A grizzly bear had visited the site previously and torn down a bird feeder to eat the seeds. Because of the earlier bear activity the caretaker was carrying a high-powered rifle while performing his chores. . . . Read the rest at the bottom of the story above.

  8. Immer Treue Avatar
    Immer Treue

    For a bird feeder??? OMFG!

    1. sleepy Avatar

      The obvious solution is to not have a bird feeder, but I guess the shooter knows his/her rights to have a bird feeder in grizzly country trumps all.

      I live only 3 blocks from the downtown of a small city of 27,000, yet have had raccoons and other critters raiding my feeder, in addition to deer once knocking the thing down. If I shot one, I would be hauled off to court and fined.

      Even if it were legal to shoot an animal in the city, if the critters were that much of a problem for me I would simply get rid of the feeder.

  9. Robert R Avatar
    Robert R

    If I felt any predator was a threat to me or my pets or hobby livestock I would have no problem dispatching a bear if nesasary.

    1. Ralph Maughan Avatar
      Ralph Maughan

      Robert R.

      This is happy news about the bears moving east.

      I think you have a rotten set of values, however; but that is just my opinion. I wouldn’t want a grizzly killed afterwards even if it attacked me, though I would probably shoot it to defend my life at the time, but then I carry pepper spray most of the time in grizzly country.

  10. wildlife defender john Avatar
    wildlife defender john

    The sow was trying to get into chicken feed that was on the outside deck. Sow shot by transplant from Scottsdale, AZ this year. He brought 20 egg-laying chickens and 2 goats with him. Residents knew this was going to a problem since they are in grizz recovery zone (north of henry’s lake). Sow shot apparently by shotgun. Sow found dead Sept. 11 by hunter. IDFG cant do anything since there are no enforcement ordinances, etc., in state/county. Looks like cubs have low survival rates for this year cubs. Net loss 3 bears for some cheap chicken feed. Shooter states he is keeping domestic animals; no laws prohibit, yet IDFG states they have adequate policies in place to allow grizzly to be delisted from ESA.

    1. jdubya Avatar

      He should go back to Scottsdale and bait in old people with Geritol and cookies.

    2. Ida Lupine Avatar
      Ida Lupine

      So this man doesn’t feel he needs to make any accommodations for wildlife in his new location? This is what I worry about if ranchland is sold for development and suburbanites and urbanites move in. They may be even less friendly and accommodating to wildlife. Terrible. Sometimes you’re better off with the devil you know!

  11. jdubya Avatar

    ” A grizzly bear had visited the site previously and torn down a bird feeder to eat the seeds. ”

    Why isn’t this baiting?

    1. Nancy Avatar

      jdubya – it is baiting and its still legal to bait bears in Idaho. One of those “backward” states that just love their wildlife to death 🙂

      And here’s a blast from the past on the subject:

  12. CodyCoyote Avatar

    Ah yes, the dreaded Bird Feeder Bear. Right up there with Jack the Ripper and Ted Bundy.

    A shame we insist on using the Napoleonic Code of Justice on errant wildlife…state or Crown presumes guilt; defendant must prove innocence beyond reasonable doubt.

    Bird Feeder = Automatic Death Sentence.

  13. Kirk Robinson Avatar
    Kirk Robinson

    I usually spend a couple of weeks in Island Park in the summer, at a cabin on the south bank of the Buffalo River. About four years ago my friend Diane and I were just arriving, driving down the road to the cabin, and there at the gate was a flyer with a picture and a warning about a grizzly in the area. It turned out that it and its two cubs were at that time foraging in Harriman State Park. A day or two after we arrived we took some grandkids hiking there, out past the horse barn on the trail that leads to the bridge across the inlet to silver lake. Along the creek there are big bunches of willows, and we heard a very distinct growl coming from on big clump. We did the smart thing and turned back. A few days later the sow took her two cubs SE through the heart of Island Park, allegedly raiding a bird feeder along the way, then allegedly stopping by Phillips Lodge to raid the garbage cans, then hitting a campground and finally ending up at the Big Springs campground, where one of the cubs allegedly broke into a pup tent and bit a can of soda. That was the last straw! The Forest Service and Idaho Fish & Game decided the sow was a menace and that she had taught her cubs to be menaces, so they had to be removed. They caught all three in culvert traps, as I remember, and at some point one of the cubs got a broken jaw, though that might have been later after the cubs had been separated from their mother and taken to Helena. By now arrangements had been made to give the mother to a grizzly bear researcher, Charles Robbins, at Washington State University so some idiotic research could be done on her (testing the effects of eating mercury laden fish on her, or some such thing), while the cubs had yet to find a home. Diane and I did some sleuthing to find out the truth. We started at the FS office right there in Island Park. We talked to several people with IF&G and with reporters at the Idaho Falls Post Register. We went to Phillips Lodge and talked with people who had seen the bears when the passed through. We went to the first campground that the bears had brazenly walked through, allegedly doing some mischief that I forget. What we found out is that the story we and the newspaper reporter had been given by the FS and IF&G was a total fabrication – a pack of lies. For example, the people at Phillips Lodge said they watched as the bears peacefully walked through the property without causing any mischief at all – same at the campground. This made us very sad and angry. I work for a non-profit wildlife conservation organization so I began searching for a wildlife refuge that would take the whole family and I found two – one in Colorado and one in Texas. Both refuges were hundreds of acres large and the owners were very happy to take all three bears. The owner of the one in Texas even offered to transport the bears there free in his private jet. I told the FS and IF&G about this but they would have none of it. The mother bear was going to Robbins’ research facility and, as it turned out, the cubs were going to the San Diego Zoo. That was that.

    Don’t believe a single word that any one from the FS or IF&G might tell you about these most recent incidences. Those folks are very anxious that there not be a human death by grizzly in Island Park and are even willing to separate innocent families and lie in order to prevent merely possible problems and to put the local yokels at ease.

    1. SAP Avatar

      Kirk, I won’t dispute most of your account here. However, I think there may be some confusion when you claim that Charlie Robbins is feeding bears mercury.

      Charlie Robbins uses studies of isotopes to determine how much of a given food wild, un-handled bears have been eating. I am not qualified to speak to the particulars, other than to say that particular foods have a specific, stable “signature” that shows up in a mammal’s hair.

      The bears that end up in the captive facility in Pullman can be fed a controlled diet of the foods of interest, so that researchers have a calibrated baseline for particular foods.

      This is way better than picking through bear scats, because different foods degrade at different rates in scats, and because it’s almost impossible to get consistent scats from free-ranging bears.

      WSU researchers did indeed study mercury, but it was naturally occurring mercury due to geothermals in Yellowstone. That mercury could be signature that shows up in Yellowstone cutthroats, which ultimately shows up in the hair of grizzlies that eat those trout. See this publication:

      See also:

      So – I agree that what happened to that family of grizzlies sucks. I am not happy about what’s going on in IP today. I don’t think that life in the WSU captive facility is a great life, either.

      But, by all accounts, WSU’s research is ethical, useful, and humane.

      1. Kirk Robinson Avatar
        Kirk Robinson

        Thank you for the additional information, SAP. I am always happy to be corrected when I’m off the mark. I’d like to think that the grizzly sow and the cubs are both enjoying a pretty decent life at this point, but I have some doubt about the sow. Anyway, the way this particular bear incident was handled was a disgrace. Next time I’m in Island Park I might just walk through the summer cabin area south of the Buffalo and look for bird feeders, dog food, dirty barbecue grills, etc. around cabins, and take some pictures and notes. What I’ll do after that, I don’t know, but I’ll probably at least turn the information over to FS and IF&G. People who do stuff to attract bears are the nuisance, not the bears.

        1. SAP Avatar

          You’re welcome, Kirk. And keep up the good work! Peer pressure and fine-grain vigilance are vital to improving this situation.

    2. Jeff Haddon Avatar
      Jeff Haddon

      We were in Island Park when all of this happened. I’m pretty sure we had a run in with this sow on the Buffalo River. It was the first time I had taken my daughter fly fishing. We were walking down to the river and saw the sow and two cubs across the river. The sow false charged us, she stopped 10 yards from us standing in the river. We stood our ground and waived our arms and yelled at her. She eventually left the area. We called IDFG and reported the incident, as it happened in the Buffalo Camp Ground. It was two days later that the picked them up over by Big Springs. I don’t know if it was because of the incident with us, and possibly others that they determined that she needed to be taken out of the population. I know that we were saddened that they had been caught.

  14. John Salvesen Avatar
    John Salvesen

    Yes Ralph, all my neighbors have verified that he has a chicken coup and he even told them he shot at the bear to scare him away. Bull shit he shot at the bear it ran off and died. All for some chickens that will be lucky to produce any eggs thru the winter. Yes send him back to Arizona.

  15. wildlife defender john Avatar
    wildlife defender john

    Now we are waiting to see the outcome of the two orphaned cubs. Neighbors by Staley Springs(just about half mile from us) stated the cubs were seen in a bird feeder at one of the cabins. How long do we have to put up with the stupid people and their bird feeders? When will Idaho F&G start to manage these bears and the human conflicts responsibly? My contention is once they are delisted, IDF&G is going to manage the grizzly like they are managing the grey wolf. Eliminate as many as possible. Fremont county commissioners wont do anything with bird feeders, domestic animals(chickens, goats, pigs, etc.) ordinances. They are too busy looking at their own special interests, ranching/agriculture.

  16. Ida Lupine Avatar
    Ida Lupine

    I really don’t get why someone would kill a majestic (and a mother) bear over a birdfeeder. Birdwatching is a great hobby – but let’s put it in perspective. This man is no longer in suburbia. Instead of enjoying all wildlife that comes to the feeder, people make it a competitive sport, downgrading the more common birds and making a contest about getting rare birds, completely ruining it.

    Even where I live – a small town of about 10,000 people – in the neighboring town there was a black bear sighting, and a chicken coop raided. People are going to have to adjust. The family across the street from me raise chickens, I’d like to too – but I’m not going to blow away the other wildlife. We do have foxes, coyotes and raccoons also, and I must have the best fed squirrels and chipmunks in town. My other neighbor is constantly spraying deer repellent on the arborvitaes. I thought I heard a gunshot the other night.

  17. Leslie Avatar

    Want a chicken coup in bear country? Put up electric fencing.

    Birds can find their own food without a feeder. Wanna see them? Buy a good pair of binoculars.

    This guy is a real jerk and the county needs to begin to create some ordinances.


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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