Grizzlies Kill Three People

Two recent incidents of grizzlies killing humans have been emotionally tragic.
On September 14, 2018, hunting guide Mark Uptain was killed by a grizzly and his hunter was injured in the Teton Wilderness Area north of Jackson, Wyoming. Mark left a wife and five children. I, Jonesy, took his teenage daughter on a horseback ride with some friends two or three weeks later. It helped her deal with her grief.
Very recently, on November 26, 2018, a mother and her 10 month old daughter were killed by a grizzly in Yukon Territory. They had been living in a remote cabin for three months. Valerie took little Adele for their usual walk nearby when the attack occurred. Valerie’s husband was away from the cabin at the time. When he returned, a grizzly charged him. He shot it, then went to the cabin and found his wife and daughter, dead. That particular area of Yukon Territory is saturated with Grizzly bears.
The Yellowstone ecosystem also has too many grizzlies. Their population is placed at more than 1,000 according to the Interagency Grizzly Bear Study Team. This, in habitat that can support about 600 bears without encroaching into human habitation. A few years ago a mama griz and her two cubs tried to cross my horse pasture, which adjoins the Jackson Hole Airport. My horses were curious and wanted to get a close-up look at these strange beasts. I’ll never forget that awesome sight. Yes, even six-month-old grizzly cubs can outrun a horse.
Wildlife officials acknowledge that both Yellowstone and Yukon have large and growing populations of grizzly bears. These kinds of tragedies are going to be more frequent unless we; 1) reduce grizzly numbers by proper wildlife management, and 2) train grizzlies to be afraid of humans.
How do you teach a grizzly to fear humans? The Park Service and the Forest Service teach people, “When you encounter a grizzly, talk softly and back away.” What did you just teach the grizzly?—that humans are subservient and grizzlies are the dominant apex predator. That is a formula for disaster.
I’ve got an outfitter friend who bought a hunting camp in the Teton Wilderness. The first year they had a MAJOR problem with griz. The bears would prowl around the electric fence at their camp perimeter at night and the dogs would bark and keep them awake all night. When they would shoot an elk, a grizzly would often run them off the kill while they were trying to gut it. Grizzlies would follow them around, waiting for them to shoot an elk. Some clients demanded to be taken back to town after only one night and day in the area. They were scared to death. He and the guides had a “confab” to decide what to do about it. It was a dangerous situation. They decided to try and make the griz afraid of them. So every time they saw a grizzly they would charge it with their horses, shouting and hollering. When on foot they would yell and wave their hats and shoot their rifles near the grizzly. Their plan was to make the griz afraid of them. It worked! By the end of the second season the grizzlies would flee at the sight of them. They literally taught those griz to fear humans. That is a healthier situation.
In 2002 my boys and I went on a float-plane fishing trip to Alaska. I asked the outfitter about grizzly problems. He said, “We don’t have a problem.” He pointed at his rifle leaning against a tree near the campfire; “That is the solution to the problem. If a grizzly comes around and tries to raid the camp, we are authorized to shoot it. We eliminate the problem bears.”
I, for one, love to see grizzlies. I have no desire to hunt them. They are really beautiful and majestic animals. But any large predator must be kept at a sustainable population which is compatible with their habitat. Grizzlies must also be taught a proper respect for us. Only then can humans and grizzlies peacefully coexist in our ecosystem.

About Jonesy

Born and raised in Arizona. I've lived in Wyoming since 1983, currently in Jackson Hole. A lifetime of working with horses, taking tourists on trails in the high mountains, including scenic summer trips and fall hunting. I owned a gun shop for 5 years. I owned numerous other businesses over the decades. Active in conservative politics. So my "Cowboy Common Sense" draws on a LOT of life experiences.

Comments are closed.