No charges filed over grizzly bear shot during Grand Teton elk hunt

Yellowstone National Park managers will focus on hiker education after two visitors were killed by grizzly bears in 2011.

No charges will be filed in a November incident where hunters killed a charging grizzly bear in Grand Teton National Park.

From Staff Reports

Federal prosecutors will not be filing criminal charges against hunters who shot a grizzly bear in self-defense last year during an annual elk hunt in Grand Teton National Park.

Investigators believe that the hunters made sound decisions in responding to a charging grizzly bear during an encounter that lasted less than 10 seconds, according to a statement released Thursday by the Grand Teton public affairs office.

The death of the adult male grizzly bear made headlines during an annual hunt aimed at curbing elk numbers in Grand Teton National Park. Some critics have said that hunting shouldn’t be allowed in the park. Wildlife managers say the elk hunts, held since 1950, have proven to be a safe and effective management tool.

Investigators from the National Park Service and U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service reviewed the circumstances of the Nov. 22 incident in which a father and two sons used bear spray and guns to defend against an adult male grizzly they encountered while legally hunting elk.

The hunters encountered the bear in a timbered area in the Snake River bottom, north of Schwabacher Landing and west of Teton Point Overlook. They spotted the bear and tried to scare it off but it charged from about 40 yards away.

In interviews with investigators, one hunter described the grizzly bear as moving “like a cat,” incredibly fast, snapping tree branches and moving very low to the ground.

One hunter used bear spray and two hunters fired on the bear when it was within 10 feet, according to investigators.

A partially consumed elk carcass was later discovered about 50 yards away, leading park biologists to conclude that the bear was defending its food source against what it perceived as a threat from the three hunters.

The bear weighed 534 pounds and was estimated to be 18-20 years old.

The hunters were appropriately permitted for the elk hunt and carried bear spray, as is required. Had they been found to have acted inappropriately, they could have faced federal charges for the illegal use of a firearm or taking wildlife in a national park.

The grizzly bear is the first killed by hunters in Grand Teton National Park since elk reduction hunts began.

Most human-caused grizzly fatalities in the park result from vehicle collisions, with a total of five grizzlies killed on park roads from 2005-12.

Grizzly-caused injuries to humans are relatively uncommon. Grand Teton has documented six attacks since 1994 when a jogger was mauled on the Emma Matilda Lake trail. Other maulings occurred in 2001, 2007 and 2011. A mauling also occurred in the John D. Rockefeller, Jr. Memorial Parkway in 1997. None of these bear attacks resulted in fatal injuries to humans.

Park managers are reviewing steps that might be taken to reduce such incidents in the future.

Contact Yellowstone Gate at 307-213-9818 or [email protected]

6 thoughts on “No charges filed over grizzly bear shot during Grand Teton elk hunt

  1. Bear spray fails, guns work. Bear spray also failed hunters in Grand Teton NP in 2001, and 2011, and in both cases the hunters were injured. Requiring hunters to carry bear spray is absurd. To provide for hunter safety, Grand Teton NP and Wyoming Game & Fish needs to give hunters solid information on how to use their firearm effectively during a sudden encounter with a grizzly.

  2. You’re absolutely wrong. You have obviously never used bear spray or even regular pepper gas on anything. I have used it multiple times on both humans and animals. Bear spray works extremely well IF YOU USE IT CORRECTLY. If you’re a nervous Nellie and start spraying too soon, and panic and throw down the bear spray before the bear is within range, then it obviously won’t work. I’m betting these guys panicked and abandoned the bear spray too soon and went for their guns because they were scared to death. Bear spray has an amazing record of success if it is used as it was meant to be used by the manufacturer. It was stated that the men shot the bear at ten feet. That tells me they probably dropped their bear spray well before the bear was in range of it, and went to their rifles before the bear spray had a chance to do its job. If they had actually hit the bear with bear spray, it would have been stopped instantly, they wouldn’t have had time to use their rifles unless they wanted to shoot at it while it was running away. Bear spray has an effective range of approximately 30 to 35 feet. You have to have enough testicles to let the bear get within that range before you start spraying. If these guys had only had bear spray and no firearms, it would have worked because they wouldn’t have had the option to throw away the bear spray and go for their rifles. Hunters in grizzly country need to be trained to use bear spray properly. Just requiring them to carry it is obviously not enough.

    • Griz Hunter, you have impressed me with your bravado, if not your cranial circulation. Maybe you should offer to run interference for other hunters who don’t have your ability to stare death in its face without flinching…or making logical decisions. Could be a new career path for you.

  3. Griz hunter–have you considered that since the three men were hunting elk, they might have had a gun in their hands when the bear charged, not bear spray? That scenario makes more sense than people hunting elk slinging their rifle over a shoulder and carrying bear spray in hand. Pretty tough to kill and elk with bear spray. Also, the article clearly states that one hunter used spray. The charging grizzly was 10 feet away. Good thing the other two hunters hand their rifles in hand.

  4. According to the article the hunters shot at the bear from within 10 feet; at a charging speed of 30MPH they had 0.125 seconds left to get it to stop. By all measures they waited long enough to fire.

  5. I have used bear spray and pepper spray multiple times on both humans and animals. Bear spray works extremely well IF YOU USE IT CORRECTLY. If you’re a nervous Nellie and start spraying too soon, and panic and throw down the bear spray before the bear is within range, then it obviously won’t work. I’m betting these guys panicked and abandoned the bear spray too soon and went for their guns because they were scared to death. Bear spray has an amazing record of success if it is used as it was meant to be used by the manufacturer. It was stated that the men shot the bear at ten feet. That tells me they probably dropped their bear spray well before the bear was in range of it, and went to their rifles before the bear spray had a chance to do its job. If they had actually hit the bear with bear spray, it would have been stopped instantly, they wouldn’t have had time to use their rifles unless they wanted to shoot at it while it was running away. Bear spray has an effective range of approximately 30 to 35 feet. You have to have enough testicles to let the bear get within that range before you start spraying. If these guys had only had bear spray and no firearms, it would have worked because they wouldn’t have had the option to throw away the bear spray and go for their rifles. Hunters in grizzly country need to be trained to use bear spray properly. Just requiring them to carry it is obviously not enough.