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Elk Hunter In Grand Teton National Park Injured By Bear



A Wyoming man hunting elk in Grand Teton National Park was attacked by a bear Sunday, but managed to call for help after the bear left the area.

Details were sketchy: The 32-year-old Jackson man could not definitively say whether it was a grizzly or black bear that attacked him, and the extent of his injuries were not immediately known, although they were not considered life-threatening.

Grand Teton spokeswoman Jenny Anzelmo-Sarles said the man was hunting along the east side of the Snake River between Blacktail Ponds and Glacier View Overlooks when he was attacked about 11:30 a.m. 

The man was carrying bear spray and following the recommended protocols for hunting in bear country, she said. The hunter told rangers that when he spotted the bear he dropped to the ground and covered his head, she added. It was not immediately clear if the bear was acting defensively, or viewed him as prey, said Ms. Anzelo-Sarles.

However, reports that the hunter had fired shots at the bear were in error, the spokeswoman said.

"It took about 45 minutes from the time of his call for the first responder to arrive on scene. He was about three-quarters and a mile off the road, in the river bottom," said Ms. Anzelo-Sarles.

The hunter received initial treatment in the field, and was transported to the road in a litter. An ambulance transported him to a Jackson hospital. Rangers were conducting an investigation Sunday afternoon to see if they could piece together what happened.

Attacks by bears in the park are extremely rare. There have been six reported bear attacks in the history of Grand Teton National Park- none were fatal, according to park records. In 2007 a female grizzly bear with cubs mauled a jogger near Jackson Lake Lodge in a surprise encounter.

Grand Teton's enabling legislation allows for a limited elk hunt in the park. All  hunters  participating  in  the  elk  reduction program are provided with a bear information and safety packet.  The following guidelines are suggested for participating hunters:

* Hunt with a partner.

* Carry bear spray (required).

* Avoid “dark” timber during mid-day when bears may be using a day-bed.

*  Have  a predetermined plan of action for retrieving harvested game from the field.

*  Be extra cautious after making a kill and when hunting in areas where animals have recently been harvested.

* Avoid hunting in areas where fresh bear sign is repeatedly observed.

* Avoid gut piles.


In the Sept/Oct 2012 issue of Sports Afield, BYU professor Tom Smith, the author of Efficacy of Bear Deterrent Spray in Alaska and Efficacy of Firearms For Bear Deterrence in Alaska, says "If I'm actually out hunting and I have a gun in my hands and a bear comes at me--do you think I'm going to lay the gun down and pick up bear spray? Are you out of your mind?"

Smith says comparing stats on bear spray to stats on firearms to prove hunters should use bear spray--the bear spray versus guns argument--is "ridiculous."

Smith says it's "not about bear spray versus guns . . . both guns and bear spray have their place."

An ex-marine up in Alaska carrying his 30-06 decided to challenge a griz from 20 yds last month.  The bear was hit, but this man ended up severely mauled.  The rangers found the blood trail but elected not to pursue it.

Hunting partners had to bail out the initial shooter twice in the last month by firing fatal shots to keep the bear from killing their hunting companion.  Both incidences were fortunate that they didn't end up like the one on the ID/MT border where one hunter killed his partner trying to save him from being mauled by a wounded griz.  Both guys were lucky they had partners backing them up.

Guns are great, but you better be both good and lucky to save your arz.  Get the spray!

One or two headshots either grazed it or bounced off.  There were a couple of wounds in the fur, but none penetrated.  In any case, it was a very impressive experience.  I carry bear spray now, but hope never to use it.  However, I did think about it one night recently when I encountered a very stoned individual who was trying to break into a neighbor's home while we were waiting for police to arrive.  But after that experience in the old Old Faithful campground, I think I might believe that spray would be good weapon of choice.  All that firepower took a while to work.  Spray, however, might carry enough startle factor to persuade the critter to go another direction.

I just don't want to be the guy who has to find out.

Dropping a loaded firearm is taboo.

Sorry to bring facts into the discussion again, but when Interangecy Grizzly Bear Study Team leader Chuck Schwartz reviewed bear-hunter conflicts in the Yellowstone region from 1992-2004, not once in 12 years did a hunter "switch" from gun to bear spray.

Lee Dalton:
That bear covered about 60 feet without a heart! I'm not sure I'd have wanted to stand there with bear spray (it wasn't available back then), but after that experience, I almost think I'd be safer. As it was, I almost wet my pants.

 I think the point of any kind of tear gas (including concentrated pepper spray) is that it practically would blind an animal if it gets close enough to the eyes.  If the bear can't see, maybe it just keeps on charging but can't find its target.

Sounds like that bear could still see and move without a heart. Now it you're talking a direct head shot deeply penetrating the skull, I think it would have stopped right there. I have heard of rounds either bouncing off a skull or even sliding along the edge under the scalp without penetrating.

I was involved along with five other rangers in killing a grizz back in 1968.  Three of us were carrying .357 magnum revolvers loaded with SuperVel.  Three had 12 gauge shotguns all loaded with rifled slugs.  We opened fire after a dart filled with a lethal dose hit fat tissue. The bear  reared up on its hind legs and we opened fire from about 70 - 80 feet.  As each of us emptied our weapons, we jumped into a vehicle.  The bear finally stopped about ten feet from us.

When we autopsied the bear the next morning, we found that all 36 rounds had hit the bear.  One of the rifled slugs, fired when he was standing up, had cleaned out his heart.

That bear covered about 60 feet without a heart!  I'm not sure I'd have wanted to stand there with bear spray (it wasn't available back then), but after that experience, I almost think I'd be safer.  As it was, I almost wet my pants.

So about the only thing I can say for sure is be prepared and be sure your will is up to date no matter how you try to face down a bear.  But I do think spray might very well be the better bet.

Dave, your views are black and white, and you think a gun is the only solution to every bear encounter while hunting, which is quite simple-minded.

If you see a bear at 100 yards and you feel you have time to shoulder your rifle and take out the spray so you're ready if the bear charge, do it. Stastically, you'll have a MUCH better chance at survival. If you see a bear at 50 yards and it charges you, by all means, use your rifle as a defense. You probably don't have time to take out your bear spray. If you surprise and are charged by a bear at 10 yards, you'd better do exactly what this hunter did: roll up in a ball an play dead, because you won't have time to use your bear spray OR your gun.

The fact of the matter is carrying bear spray is IN NO WAY a detriment or hinderance to hunters. None. Zero. It can only help them in the right situation. Your comment that hunters are simple-minded Neanderthals seeminglyincapable to switching from carrying a gun to deploying bear spray is an insult to hunters everywhere.

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