Casper man charged and bitten by grizzly bear near Union Pass
Wyoming Game & Fish officials encourage bear awareness
by Wyoming Game & Fish
July 12, 2010
With increased bear activity in the Upper Green River areaand the recent injury of a hiker in the nearby Union Pass area, officials with the Wyoming Game and Fish Department and Bridger Teton National Forest are reminding both residents and visitors to ‘be bear aware.’
On Saturday, July 10, a Casper man was charged and bitten by a grizzly bear while hiking with his brother along the South Fork of Fish Creek near Union Pass. Further investigation of the incident revealed the bear had been feeding on a moose calf near the trail the two individuals were hiking. The individual was carrying bear spray, but was unable to use it before the bear knocked him down and bit him in the thigh. The bear left the scene and was not seen again.
The two said they noticed bear tracks just prior to the incident and were trying to make noise, but the thick vegetation, a wind in their face and the noise of the nearby creek may have prevented the bear from hearing them. "It appears to be one of those unfortunate cases where they were able to unknowingly approach the bear at close range and surprise it while feeding on a carcass," said Mark Gocke, Public Information Specialist for the Wyoming Game and Fish Department. "It was just one of those situations where the circumstances made it difficult to avoid a confrontation and the bear reacted naturally."
Wildlife managers do not plan to attempt to capture or take action against the bear since it appeared to have been displaying normal bear behavior. Managers from the Bridger Teton National Forest have placed signs in the area warning of possible bear activity, but have not implemented any closures at this time.
Bridger Teton National Forest officials did recently implement a closure to overnight camping in the upper Green River corridor from the forest boundary to Green River Lake due to several bear sightings and incidents that have taken place in recent weeks. This area is approximately 15 miles south of where the recent bear attack occurred. While recreating in the backcountry, it is recommended to always be cautious, alert and make noise. People are encouraged to recognize areas of heavy bear use based upon tracks, scat, and diggings. Flocks of magpies or ravens often indicate a carcass is nearby, which should be avoided. The department encourages people to recreate during daylight hours and keep dogs under control.
"Aggressive behaviors from bears often occur when bears are surprised at close distances," says Gocke. "This is why it is good to make plenty of noise, avoid traveling alone and carry bear spray as a defense." Commercially available bear spray is effective in stopping aggressive bears and recommended as a deterrent and last resort to avoiding a physical encounter.
Whether at home or camping, it is important to be vigilant at keeping all attractants unavailable to bears. Attractants are anything food related with an odor, such as human foods, garbage, pet or livestock feed, bird seed, barbeque grills, compost piles, and so on.
Allowing bears to get a food reward conditions them to associate food with people, which may lead to dangerous or destructive behaviors. By immediately reporting incidents, wildlife managers can address the cause of the conflict and take steps to prevent further conflict.
For more information or to report a bear incident, please contact your local office of the Game and Fish Department or Bridger Teton National Forest.