Hunters looking for elk in Grand Teton National Park on Thanksgiving Day wound up killing a grizzly bear they said suddenly charged them. The incident prompted calls for the park to bring a halt to the annual elk hunts, but the fact remains more bears are killed by motorists than hunters in the park.
In fact, this marked the first time a grizzly has been killed by a hunter in Grand Teton in its 62-year history, according to Grand Teton spokeswoman Jenny Anzelmo-Sarles. At the same time, at least one, and possibly two, grizzlies have been the victims of motorists this year, she said.
“There are many more bears (grizzlies and black bears) killed each year by vehicles. There are several bears killed each year by vehicles on park roads. We had a grizzly bear killed by a vehicle this year on a park road," she said Monday. “There was another adult grizzly bear found in the northern portion of Grand Teton in late September, early October, that likely was vehicle-caused. There was never a report of a vehicle hitting that animal, but it was attributed to being hit by a vehicle.”
When rangers arrived on the scene to begin an investigation, the remains of a cow elk were found not too far from where the shooting occurred, the park reported.
“The carcass was several days old and had been partially consumed," Ms. Anzelmo-Sarles said. "We don’t know what caused the elk to die. We don’t know if it was a natural death, caused by a predator, or caused by a human.”
This is the 51st known or probable grizzly bear mortality in the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem for 2012, according to a tally maintained by the Interagency Grizzly Bear Study Team. In recent years, on average, about one-third of annual grizzly bear mortalities are hunting related.
Among those criticizing the Park Service for conducting the "elk reduction program" hunt after the grizzly killing was Tom Mangelsen, a well-known wildlife photographer who lives in Jackson, Wyoming.
“I came from a very long and strong hunting background, but this is not a hunt,” Mangelsen told the Jackson Hole Daily. “It increases bad behavior. People are chasing elk in their vehicles while on their cellphones. They’re herd shooting.”
Ms. Anzelmo-Sarles couldn't say Monday whether the park had seen a rise in the number of complaints about the hunt following the shooting of the bear.
“There are always strong opinions on programs like this in national parks. And we routinely receive feedback from members of the community, from the American public, with varying opinons on the issue," she said. "I don’t know if there necessarily has been an uptick on the number of people (calling), but there certainly are some outspoken and vocal opponents to the elk reduction program.”