Four people were injured Thursday in two separate and unrelated grizzly bear encounters in the greater Yellowstone area.
Two hikers were injured after being charged by a grizzly sow in Yellowstone National Park during a late-morning hike near Canyon Village, according to a statement released by the park’s public affairs office.
Less than an hour later, two technicians working for the U.S. Bureau of Land management were injured in a surprise encounter with a grizzly bear west of Island Park Reservoir, just outside the western boundary of Yellowstone, according to information released by the Idaho Department of Fish and Game.
In the Yellowstone incident, two hikers saw an approaching grizzly cub-of-the-year (born this year) while hiking at approximately 11:30 a.m. on the Cygnet Lakes Trail southwest of Canyon.
A sow grizzly, the cub’s mother, then appeared at nearby and charged the hikers, park officials said. The two hikers immediately discharged their canisters of bear spray and the sow and cub left the area after an encounter which lasted about a minute.
Yellowstone spokesman Al Nash said earlier reports that four people had been hiking together were erroneous. Two separate groups of two hikers were on the trail, and after the first two hikers were charged, the second group of two hikers came to their aid, he said.
At that point, all four hikers returned to the trailhead, where one person was treated at the scene, while a second injured hiker was transported by ambulance to an area hospital with bite and claw wounds. That second hiker has since been released from the hospital, Nash said.
All four have asked that their identities not be released.
Yellowstone bear biologists say the sow’s behavior is consistent with purely defensive actions taken after a surprise encounter with people. Typically, no actions are taken against a bear behaving in such a defensive manner.
Thursday’s encounter is the first report of any bear-caused human injuries in Yellowstone this year. The incident remains under investigation.
Park officials said there had been no recent reports of grizzly bear activity in the area. As a precaution, the Cygnet Lakes Trail and the surrounding area have been temporarily closed. In addition, the park has closed the nearby Mary Mountain area to any off-trail travel.
In the Idaho incident, two men were collecting habitat information for the BLM in the southern portion of Shotgun Valley, west of Island Park Reservoir.
A grizzly surprised the two individuals at approximately noon, biting the first on the thigh and backside, then biting the second on the hands, according to Idaho Game and Fish spokesman Gregg Losinski.
Both men were knocked down by the bear, but one was able to deploy bear spray as the grizzly fled the scene.
The men walked out of the backcountry on their own and drove meet an ambulance from Fremont County, Idaho. After having their injuries examined by the EMTs, they drove on their own to Madison Memorial Hospital in Rexburg, Idaho for treatment.
An Idaho Fish and Game biologist was on site at the hospital to gather samples that will be sent to a laboratory for DNA testing in an attempt to identify the bear. Idaho wildlife officials said that grizzly bears handled in trapping efforts have samples collected to create a DNA directory of bears in the Yellowstone ecosystem.
The Idaho incident occurred about 10 miles north of a July 29 incident during which a wildlife technician was attacked by a grizzly, also while gathering habitat data.
The identity of that grizzly bear has not yet been confirmed, but DNA samples are being processed.
Officials said the bear involved in the July incident was reported to be wearing a radio collar, while no collar was observed on the bear involved in Thursday’s incident.
The BLM has not announced any area closures.
Wildlife officials encourage hikers to carry bear spray and remain 100 yards from bears at all times. Hikers in groups of three or more are typically less likely to be attacked by grizzly bears, based on statistical analysis of bear encounters over the last several decades.
Contact Ruffin Prevost at 307-213-9818 or [email protected].