By Ellen Fike, Cowboy State Daily
A Wyoming Game and Fish Department bear biologist is praising a hiker for his reaction to a close encounter with a grizzly bear in Yellowstone National Park on Monday, saying the man did the right thing by staying far back from the animal.
Stan Mills is a hiker who regularly posts about his Yellowstone excursions on YouTube and on Tuesday, he uploaded a video in which he had a “friendly” grizzly bear encounter inside of the park.
“Friendly” meaning that Mills didn’t get his head ripped-off. But he was much closer to the bear than he should have been — less than 30 yards.
He said he didn’t intend to get so close. He just came upon the grizzly. Or, more accurately, it the grizzly came upon him.
“I was sitting in the rain under my poncho just kinda gazing off into the distance while resting under a tree when I took a look to my left,” Mills said on his YouTube channel.
“I immediately saw a grizzly walking towards me. I was not very visible to the bear because I was under my poncho but the grizzly finally spotted me from the movement I was making while going after my bear spay and then my camera,” he said.
An experienced hiker, Mills said he knew that one should never get within 100 yards of a bear but when surprise encounters happen, “you have no choice and you have to do the right thing.”
“As most people know, my thinking is to never do anything that can upset a grizzly. So I moved away at the opportune time. It turned out to be another great experience in the backcountry of Yellowstone,” he said.
“The Right Thing”
Dan Thompson, large carnivore biologist for the state Game and Fish Department, told Cowboy State Daily that Mills did the right thing by staying away from the bear and filming it from a reasonable distance.
“You’re trying to dissuade a surprise encounter,” Thompson said. “So if you see the bear to begin with, that’s a good thing. You don’t want to act aggressively toward a bear just standing there, because then they might act aggressively back.”
That’s similar to what noted Wyoming outdoorsman Paul Ulrich said when discussing the grizzly encounter a group of cyclists had only two days before in Glacier National Park. Except those cyclists were less than 10 yards away from a grizzly.
“Because they stayed calm, everything turned out ok,” Ulrich said.
Thompson said that while it is incredible to see wildlife such as grizzlies or moose out in the open, those recreating outdoors need to be aware of their surroundings and be prepared of a potential encounter, including carrying bear spray.
If not, it could mean negative consequences for both a person and the wild animal.
“Most people are really good about it, but there are some bad apples that take advantage of the scenario,” Thompson said.
This is not the first time Mills has encountered a grizzly in the park, as evidenced by some of his most popular videos which include grizzly footage.