Teton grizzlies follow hunters
November 16, 2007
JACKSON, Wyo. ” A female grizzly bear and three cubs have been feeding on gut piles left by hunters in Grand Teton National Park, prompting calls for a hunting suspension where the animals have been seen.
But park officials said they wouldn’t close the area unless the bear charges someone.
“She’s been doing this same kind of behavior all over the park, near hunters,” park spokeswoman Jackie Skaggs said. “She hasn’t done anything that was of great concern.”
The bear and its cubs were popular with tourists in the Moran area last summer, and the bear did charge and injure a pedestrian. But Skaggs said the bear was being defensive.
This week, signs warning of a bear were posted at Schwabacher Landing and other parking areas nearby where elk hunters leave for the field. Successful hunters typically leave bones, skin and internal organs in the woods, carrying out only the meat they want.
Those leavings have attracted the grizzly and her cubs.
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One hunter, Lewis Stahl of Sheridan, said news of the bear kept him out of the woods.
“Some hunters came by. They said the grizzly and her cubs were on that gut pile. She came down across the sagebrush and in the timber. I was ready to go in there but I changed my mind,” Stahl said.
“I have my pepper spray, but I don’t want to use it. She can have those gut piles.”
But one local photographer, Tim Mayo, said he’s concerned that other hunters might not be so cautious and might surprise the bear. Mayo wrote park Superintendent Mary Gibson Scott and asked her to close the river bottom area where the bear was feeding.
“The mixture of four grizzly bears, dead elk, elk gut piles and hunters smelling of bloody elk concentrated in a relatively small area is a recipe of disaster,” he wrote.
“I ask that you immediately close the river bottom area to hunting to protect the magnificent grizzly bears and park hunters; anything less than closing the area could result in a disaster and would be irresponsible.”
Skaggs said hunters are required to carry bear pepper spray in Grand Teton and should be aware that they could encounter a grizzly bear.
“It is no different than hunters encountering a bear anywhere else,” Skaggs said.