A “sudden, surprise encounter with a grizzly bear at close range” near Dubois early Saturday left a man hospitalized, the Wyoming Game and Fish Department reports.
No details were released about the man’s identity or the extent of his injuries, which apparently were not life-threatening. The attack happened too quickly for him to use his bear spray, according to Game and Fish. But he did the right thing by dropping, covering his head and neck and not fighting back.
“First and foremost, we want to wish the individual a quick and successful recovery. His split-second reaction to this sudden, defensive encounter with a bear was the best possible response to this unfortunate situation,” Game and Fish Lander Regional Wildlife Supervisor Jason Hunter said in a statement about the incident.
The bear is thought to have left the area, and Game and Fish isn’t searching for it or taking any further action, according to the agency.
It was the second grizzly attack reported in the region recently.
A grizzly attacked and killed Amie Adamson, 47, of Derby, Kansas, last month after she apparently suddenly came upon a female grizzly and her cub on the Buttermilk Trail roughly 8 miles west of West Yellowstone, Montana. After a few days, wildlife agents suspended the search for those bears.
Sometimes It’s Just Bad Luck
Even for experienced people in grizzly country, sometimes it comes down to bad luck, a bear biologist told Cowboy State Daily.
“People living, working and recreating in grizzly bear country can do a lot to prevent bear conflicts or an attack, but there will always be an element of chance involved,” said Frank van Manen, the supervisory research wildlife biologist with the U.S. Geological Survey’s Interagency Grizzly Bear Study Team.
“So even if someone is very experienced and does everything right, there is unfortunately always a possibility that an attack cannot be averted,” he added. “This is particularly true for instances involving a surprise encounter, which often occur at distances where timely deployment of bear spray is not possible.
“That's why it is also important to know what to do in those rare instances where a bear does make physical contact.”
Experts recommend not trying to run or fight back during grizzly attacks. Rather, people should lie flat face-down and use their arms and hands to cover their heads and necks. In other words, exactly what Game and Fish reported the man near Dubois did.
‘Aggressive Defensive’ Attack
The incident was still under investigation Monday, but evidence suggests it was an “aggressive defensive” attack by a single grizzly after a surprise encounter at close range, according to Game and Fish.
The man was doing survey work in Sheridan Creek drainage on the Shoshone National northwest of Dubois when he was mauled. He was able to leave the scene of the attack and call for help.
Fremont County Sheriff’s deputies, an ambulance crew and Game and Fish agents responded. After receiving first aid being interviewed briefly by Game and Fish, “He was flown to a hospital for further treatment,” according to the agency.
Game and Fish searched the area, including with a drone, but found no sign of the bear.
Bears Don’t Always Pay Attention
Making noise in grizzly country can reduce the risk of a chance encounter, van Manen said. People can run into bears unexpectedly because bears aren’t always paying attention.
“One aspect of reducing the probability of a surprise encounter, and what we emphasize in our field work, is related to situational awareness,” he said. “Always being alert and making your presence known through noise is key, especially when you transition from more open habitats, where visibility is good, into forest edge and forested habitats where visibility is much more limited.
“One thing to remember is that bears sometimes pay less attention to their surroundings themselves because they may be completely focused on foraging or they may be in a day bed; a human voice or other human noises that warn them of our presence can make a big difference in alerting them to our presence. Of course, that does not work when you're hunting or doing wildlife photography, but it can be very effective.”
Mark Heinz can be reached at email@example.com.