Dec 5, 2012 at 3:07 pm #1296768
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ARE HUNGRY BEARS IN YELLOWSTONE ATTACKING HUMANS FOR FOOD?
For 24 years, from 1986 until 2010, there were no mortal encounters with grizzlies in Yellowstone National Park. But four deadly incidents over the past two summers have hikers on edge, reigniting the fierce debate over bear management.
WHY THE SUDDEN SPIKE in fatal bear encounters? Part of the problem, believes U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service grizzly bear recovery coordinator Chris Servheen, who has spearheaded the government’s efforts to bolster bear populations for over a quarter-century, is messaging. One of Servheen’s great vexations is an inability to make the millions of Yellowstone visitors pay attention to a few basic rules of travel in grizzly country: don’t hike alone, make lots of noise, carry bear spray, and, if a grizzly still keeps coming, drop into a prone position. Wallace, Evert, and the Matayoshis had all, on more than one occasion, seen grizzly literature or signage. Yet none carried bear spray, and Evert and Wallace were hiking alone—acts that ignore official warnings and recommendations.
“My candid opinion is that we have not been very successful at communicating to the public,” Servheen says. “We produce a lot of information, but we don’t get that information to people.”Dec 5, 2012 at 3:46 pm #1933391
@owareLocale: Steptoe Butte
"federal officials are working on plans to lift those protections as soon as 2014 for bears in the Yellowstone area. Bears around Glacier would follow.
Authority over the animals — which can top 600 pounds and live for 25 years — would transfer to state agencies. And with human-bear conflicts and livestock attacks on the rise, wildlife officials in Montana, Idaho and Wyoming said hunting would help them deal with problem bears."Dec 5, 2012 at 4:35 pm #1933401
Larry De La BriandaisBPL Member
@hitechLocale: SF Bay Area
Education is. If most everyone knew how to be safe in Grizzly territory then the problem would be solved.Dec 5, 2012 at 4:37 pm #1933402
@sschloss1Locale: New England
The courts already ruled against an earlier attempt to de-list grizzlies. If anything, the situation (in terms of fires, whitebark pine, etc.) is worse now. Even if the administration tries to take grizzlies of the endangered list, I'd expect it to end up in court again, with the same outcome.Dec 5, 2012 at 4:40 pm #1933404
Buck NelsonBPL Member
Visitations to the area have risen dramatically. Grizzly populations have risen even more dramatically.
Would bear spray have prevented any of the handful of fatalities? Maybe, but bear spray usage has soared in the last two decades. And I doubt the percentage of people hiking alone is rising dramatically. The most likely explanation is explained in the paragraph above, along with the fact that there will always be statistical anomalies in something like this, especially when it is relatively rare.
Any bear that kills someone should be put down, regardless of the circumstances. The bear that killed Brian Matayoshi should have been destroyed immediately. She was not behaving normally as some authorities said. DNA tests show the bear that killed California hiker Brian Matayoshi in July fed on Michigan hiker John Wallace with one of her cubs
On March 22, 2007, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (Service) announced that the Yellowstone Distinct Population Segment (DPS) of grizzly bears is a recovered population no longer meeting the ESA’s definition of threatened or endangered. This DPS has increased from estimates as low as 136 individuals when listed in 1975 to more than 500 animals as of 2006. This population has been increasing between 4 and 7 percent annually…The estimated number of grizzly bears in the greater Yellowstone ecosystem increased this year to 608, said Mark Bruscino, the Wyoming Game and Fish Department’s large carnivore section supervisor.
And contrary to what Servheen has suggested, I'm not going to hike in a noisy group to further lower the already low odds of becoming a bear victim. I will respect the potential danger, however and take precautions I deem appropriate, including possible carrying of bear spray or firearms, staying alert and keeping my distance.Dec 5, 2012 at 5:05 pm #1933414
Luke SchmidtBPL Member
@cameronLocale: Idaho Falls
First bear attacks "rising" – Could be a trend or just a bad year. I'm skeptical of attempts to say bear attacks are "rising" when there are only a few even on a bad year.
On hunting – My thought is "Why bother?" It would be a huge hassle (with likely court battles) and the hunting would be so restricted I wonder if it would be worth the effort. I doubt the states could raise enough from licence sales to offset the cost of managing a bear hunt and dealing with the legal issues.
Course there is that really stupid side of me that wants to try grizzly hunting with a 19th century muzzleloader like old Jim Bridger.Dec 12, 2012 at 8:12 pm #1935132
Eric BlumensaadtBPL Member
@danepackerLocale: Mojave Desert
OK, OK, I have done the "PC" precautions in bear country such as going in a group, carrying "bear bells" and a big canister of bear spray in a holster.
But I gottasay… the one thing that would give me more comfort than anything else is a Smith and Wesson titanium framed .44 magnum pistol kept very handy.
If'n it's me or the bear I say the bear should lose. Sorry. I am a Sierra Club mamber, a good Democrat, former Peace Corps Volunteer (Philippines) but I'm also an NRA member. I want to remain at the top of the food chain.Dec 12, 2012 at 10:05 pm #1935154
Jerry AdamsBPL Member
@retiredjerryLocale: Oregon and Washington
There was a thread that concluded bear spray was more effective than a gun
I think you want to aim a little low, and then the cloud of spray will get the bear, it will run away, and be afraid of humans and avoid them in the future
With a gun, you have to aim much more accurately, and then the bear has to be killed one way or the other. If you miss and the bear gets you, then they will have to go after the bear.
Like, if you're a hunter, you should carry bear spray alsoDec 12, 2012 at 10:20 pm #1935159
Met a genuine Montana Cowgirl on the trail south of East Glacier.
She was herding cattle on horseback with one arm in a cast cause; "there ain't nobody else to do it."
She had a .45 pistol on one hip and a big can of bearspray on the other.
Said the pistol was for her horse should it fall lame or herself should she fall lame and be suffering beyond help.
The bear spray.. that was for the bears, and she had used it more than once.
When the bear charged her she said the horse spooked so bad she could barely aim the spray.. a pistol would be out of the question.
Don't believe me; ask Sage, she was there too.Dec 13, 2012 at 6:01 am #1935186
Jennifer MitolBPL Member
@jenmitolLocale: In my dreams....
There have been a few studies now that show bear spray far more effective at preventing deaths and injuries in bear attacks, most of these done in Alaska. Here is a blurb from Outside Magazine that references two of those studies…
Makes me feel better about toting my bear spray and not having to be so terribly accurate if I needed to shoot to kill, while being charged, while my adrenaline was up, and while I was peeing my pants.Dec 13, 2012 at 7:02 am #1935200
2 years do not a trend make. Anyone who sees more than coincidence (thus far) in these numbers is a fool. Of the four incidents in Yellowstone one has causes unknown (though photos in the guys camera suggest he may have be following bear too closely), one was in a campground with a history of problems which should have been closed decades ago, one (Matayoshi) was clearly exacerbated by poor human choices, and one was definitely someone being at the wrong place at the wrong time (albeit an area that's been a release zone for quite some time).
The Matayoshi case is illustrative because within 48 hours a solo hiker in Glacier (on the north side of Piegan Pass) jumped a Griz in thick brush, got slapped around, but walked himself out because he had the werewithall to stay on the ground. In my not humble opinion the Matayoshis would still be alive had they acted differently.
Bear spray is "more effective" because 1) it's easy to convince lots of people to carry it and 2) it is ideal at close range. There are extraordinarily few people who could get a CNS hit on a charging bear with any gun, let alone a light .44 mag shooting hot 300 grain solids. Most of the folks I know who choose to carry for bear defense use a .41 or .357 (or 10mm), i.e. a gun with which they can be more consistently surgical.Dec 13, 2012 at 7:58 am #1935210
"2 years do not a trend make"
I LOVE Yoda.Dec 13, 2012 at 9:53 am #1935236
@owareLocale: Steptoe Butte
Love Yoda, I do!
"A biologist friend of mine here told me that fully half of his radio collared grizzly bears were still awake and roaming in early December this year, when they should be denning up for a winter’s worth of beauty sleep."Dec 14, 2012 at 12:14 pm #1935444
Buck NelsonBPL Member
Excellent post, David Chenault.
I think you make a good point on the difficulty of making a good, fatal shot with a firearm with a charging bear. Why? People get rattled. Another advantage with bear spray is that in most cases a charging bear that is shot is bluff charging. A bullet wound turns a bluff charge into a situation where at least one party is probably going to die. With pepper spray a problem bear may turn into one that makes a point out of avoiding people.
Personally, I think the Matayoshis have often been judged too harshly. When they encountered the bear at 100 yards they immediately turned around and starting hiking the other way. They didn't start running until the bears started "coming at us," growling. It is excellent advice to not run from charging grizzlies. I'll bet they knew that. Easier said than done, like "make sure you make the first shot count" when shooting a charging grizzly.
The most significant factor with the Matayoshis and the later Wallace fatality is almost certainly the fact that there was a crazy bear out there. That sow was not acting like a typical sow defending her cubs. If that were true thousands of people would die a year. She wasn't being crowded at all.
And I don't mean to quote the below in an "I told you so" attitude, but to show that what happened to Wallace was, to a degree, predictable. Here's what I said here on Backpackinglight before Wallace was killed (likely by that same sow who was finally killed by the NPS for that reason): The Yellowstone bear expert in the article says: "The chances of this happening were 1 in 3 million," he said. "The odds of it happening again are 1 in 3 million." I disagree with the latter comment…An example of a situation where I WOULD carry bear spray is in the area where that sow grizzly killed the hiker recently and where that bear is still roaming… In my opinion, this is the rare unusually dangerous bear, and I would have this bear killed.
It's like a murderer in a big city. The smart response is not giving mace to everyone in the city, it's making sure the murderer isn't in circulation any longer. A standard policy of killing any bear attacking people will probably result in MORE bears because people will have a higher tolerance for the bear population in general.Dec 14, 2012 at 12:18 pm #1935445
@b-g-2-2Locale: Silicon Valley
How about a homemade Claymore mine?
–B.G.–Dec 14, 2012 at 1:11 pm #1935449
For those who haven't read the FWS incident reports (easily found online), the concern here is that DNA evidence proved that one of the 3+ bears who fed on Mr. Wallace was the sow who mauled Mr. Matayoshi ~7 weeks earlier. That bear may have killed Mr. Wallace, but it is impossible to know.
The retrospective evidence is compelling, but even so I still agree with the original decision to not kill the bear after the Matayoshi incident. IMO turning and walking away without keeping 100% eyes on the bear was a 70% bad choice. Running was a 110% bad choice, with at least as good a chance as not that the bear would charge.
Yes it can be difficult to control yourself in such a situation, but if you don't have a compelling reason to think you can do so I would prefer you not hike in Grizz country at all. Bear spray, and a big wheel gun for that matter, work primarily because they give the bearer confidence and thus increase the chance that they'll use good decision making. The NPS does the public a diservice by having such bland and forgetable literature, and by not emphasizing enough how much difference mind control makes.Dec 14, 2012 at 2:51 pm #1935476
spelt with a tBPL Member
@speltLocale: SW/C PA
My line of thought is: if it's difficult for a hunter (someone who is in the woods with a gun with the express intention of using it to kill) to keep the presence of mind for a killing shot when surprised by a deer–and the deer has neither canines nor claws and is running away–
for a hiker (someone who is in the woods with a primary intention other than killing; that is, any gun carried is an accessory it is hoped there will be no use for) to maintain the presence of mind to make a killing shot at a charging bear–an animal much larger than a deer, with teeth and claws and moving towards you instead of away–very, very fast–is almost certainly exponentially harder. Spray is the logical choice for all but a tiny minority of hikers.Dec 14, 2012 at 3:33 pm #1935486
Tom KirchnerBPL Member
@ouzelLocale: Pacific Northwest/Sierra
"for a hiker (someone who is in the woods with a primary intention other than killing; that is, any gun carried is an accessory it is hoped there will be no use for) to maintain the presence of mind to make a killing shot at a charging bear–an animal much larger than a deer, with teeth and claws and moving towards you instead of away–very, very fast–is almost certainly exponentially harder. Spray is the logical choice for all but a tiny minority of hikers."
Man, does that ever nail it.
+100Dec 14, 2012 at 5:46 pm #1935519
That really is a great post & it hit home with me. Several in my family hunt whitetail deer every year & your post reminded me of their countless stories of missing deer that are STANDING STILL. Not running away or running towards them like a Grizz would be.
You may have just changed my mind on the "gun vs spray" debate.
RyanDec 14, 2012 at 10:21 pm #1935549
generally the first line of defense again those cute fuzzy white bears is a high powered rifle or shotgun …
now there is some small sample data that indicates bear spray may work …
but is any BPLer willing to go out in prime polar bear habitat and pet some cute fuzzy white bears without said firearm???
if love to see a video … it would go viral quickly ;)
he just wants a scratch behind the ear …Dec 15, 2012 at 6:46 am #1935569
obx hikerBPL Member
@obxcolaLocale: Outer Banks of North Carolina
"How about a homemade Claymore mine?" LOL My favorite lightweight option
And pretty much anyone REALLY good enough with a pistol to have a faint chance armed with one that also knows anything about Grizz knows the pistol really isn't gonna cut it, will basically improve the odds to about those of an icecube's chance in H E double hockey sticks and is probably carrying a 10 ga.
Try shouting this out instead:
I know what you're thinking. "Did he fire six shots or only five?" Well, to tell you the truth, in all this excitement I kind of lost track myself. But being as this is a .44 Magnum, the most powerful handgun in the world, and would blow your head clean off, you've got to ask yourself one question: Do I feel lucky? Well, do ya, punk?Dec 15, 2012 at 7:50 am #1935580
No no! The handgun is to shoot your partner in the leg! Doesn't anybody watch The Walking Dead, for crying out loud!Dec 15, 2012 at 8:59 am #1935596
@fluffinreach-comLocale: no. california
" but is any BPLer willing to go out in prime polar bear habitat and pet some cute fuzzy white bears without said firearm??? "
yes. (walked there , but not the petting the bear thing)
and i might add, they are absolutely terrifying.
so, it's been done. i also have noted that even in Jerry Kobalenko's (extremely experienced arctic sled hauler) writing you can find that he, with all his exposure and skill, is having second thoughts about la-dee-da just "being with the bears", and it's starting to weigh on his mind. Jerry packs when he's up there, no doubt about that. and he is not liking the idea at all of non-packing in the arctic.
anybody here ever sprayed a grizzly ?
range : 3 to 4 feet.
i missed it too ! (misjudged the cross wind)
and no, i was not overly nervous or shaking. i was concerned and engaged as a man can be. had plenty of time to watch this thing stroll on over to see if i was good to eat. it just kept coming on, they do that sometimes.
a very short burst (like pop'n a steam valve) of the spray, even though it shot across his bow did the trick. he was more surprised by where the noise came from than the caustic effects (it was not a total wiff of a miss)
white bear issues trend to come to about (if you read enough of them) during situations where folks are camped. not seeing a lot (if ever) of "Jane and Timmy" are walking along and eat by a polar bear. but guys get drug out of their tents often enough that it gives cause to worry, i will tell you that !
separate subject :
i do not agree in concept with David's analysis of the bear trends in Yellowstone. he relates four incidents (that's ok), and then goes on to describe how each incident may have been prevented (also Ok).
the issue i am seeing is that his work does not take into account that (in my words) "people have been doing the same stupid things for decades" and that is actually a control in the data, not a variable !
then we are told "the campground should have been closed …" (or such to that effect), but it wasn't, was it ? and it was open ALL those years before, so it's part of the control data as well. and then we are inferred that using the control as a removable item is ok, and thusly we have no trend showing.
in my view, David's analysis is flawed in those regards, and thusly his conclusion is unsupported. (though granted, he may well be correct.)
peter v.Dec 15, 2012 at 12:15 pm #1935634
but did you carry a few bottles of coke to feed him just in case ;)
polar bears are the one bear that will hunt and stalk humans in general … they know a food source when they see it … or rather smell itDec 15, 2012 at 2:02 pm #1935656
"in my view, David's analysis is flawed in those regards, and thusly his conclusion is unsupported. (though granted, he may well be correct.)"
I wasn't trying to make any particular conclusion other than the original article's claim that Griz attacks are on the rise in the GYE is presumptive. As you point out Peter, we don't have enough data, and won't for quite some time.
The Soda Creek campground is an example of the need to be informed while in Griz country. Look at a map, the campground is at the apex of at least 4 major bear travel corridors. There's a reason the Fishing Bridge campground has been hard shell only for decades, and (to move north) there's a reason there are no BC camps in either of the three drainages which flow into Many Glacier.
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