Idaho wildlife officials say their investigation into a recent grizzly bear attack on a hunter near Yellowstone National Park has determined the incident was likely the result of a surprise encounter in which a mother bear was defending her three cubs.
A 55-year-old man from Idaho Falls was treated and released Monday after a grizzly bear bit his left hand. The man had been bowhunting for elk in the Caribou-Targhee National Forest in the vicinity of Yale Creek, about 15 miles west of Yellowstone.
Investigators with the Idaho Department of Fish and Game have been unable to locate the grizzly or her cubs, but studied the site of the encounter, which the hunter had noted using a GPS device.
“It appeared the sow and cubs had been at the scene for some time,” department spokesman Gregg Losinski said in a statement released Wednesday.
Wildlife investigators found a covered deer carcass at the site, leading them to believe “it is likely the adult bear was defending her young and the deer food source,” Losinski said.
“The terrain, vegetation, and creek sounds were contributing factors to the incident because they prevented the hunter and bears from seeing and hearing each other,” he said.
The archer sustained injuries to his hand and wrist, but hiked out under his own power and was transported by ambulance to Madison Memorial Hospital.
According to a Fish and Game report, the hunter saw the bears when they were 40 feet away, and the attack happened very quickly. The adult grizzly bit the hunter’s left hand, so he could not access his bear spray. He used his right hand to shoot at the bear five times using a .44 caliber revolver.
An extensive search of the area by investigators failed to locate any evidence that the bear involved in the attack had been killed or wounded.
A hiker in Yellowstone was killed earlier this summer by a grizzly with two cubs. That bear was trapped and euthanized, while her cubs were sent to a zoo.
Earlier this summer, a 25-year-old male grizzly near Island Park, Idaho was euthanized after he became habituated to human food and was discovered breaking into buildings in search of food.
Hunters are advised always to carry bear spray and to avoid hunting alone when possible. All forest visitors who smell or encounter a dead animal should be aware that a bear may be in the vicinity and take appropriate precautions.
Contact Yellowstone Gate at 307-213-9818 or [email protected]