A Grizzly Bear that had been foraging for food around settled areas in Park County near the base of Heart Mountain has been captured and killed by Wyoming Game and Fish Department agents.
The 3-year-old male bear was featured in Cowboy State Daily’s “Your Wyoming Sunrise” photo published Monday. By that time, it was already dead, having been euthanized the day before, according to Game and Fish.
The photo, showing the grizzly wandering through a pasture at dawn, was taken Thursday, Pat Winlow told Cowboy State Daily.
She submitted the photo, which was taken on a neighbors’ property. Winlow lives along a county road near U.S. Highway 14A between Cody and Powell.
Grizzlies are known to frequent the slopes of nearby Heart Mountain, but it’s rare to see them in the flat county where her property is, Winlow said. It’s an area occupied by rural homes, farms and ranches.
When grizzlies or black bears show up in settled areas, Game and Fish tries to capture and relocate them to the wild as its first option.
The photo featuring the bear captured the essence of wild Wyoming, Game and Fish Large Carnivore Specialist Dan Thompson told Cowboy State Daily. But the grizzly pictured in it had become too habituated to settled areas, so relocating it wasn’t an option.
“That was a picturesque sunrise and captures the essence of the Absaroka front, but the reality for that particular grizzly bear was that it had been frequenting yards, ranches and farms and gotten into livestock feed and crops and was too far down the road for relocation or relearning those behaviors,” he said.
“A grizzly walking through a pasture is not an issue, especially in areas within the DMA (grizzly demographic monitoring area), but as they amble through these areas of higher human density there is a higher potential for conflicts such was the case with this individual,” he added.
‘We Were All Very Nervous’
Winlow said the sunrise photo was taken by Dana Ruge of Florida, who was visiting Winlow’s neighbors, Jim and Wanda Shorb.
Folks in the area had known of the bear’s presence for days and were uneasy about it, she said.
“We have a view of Heart Mountain and there are grizzlies there, but we’re out here on the flats, so it’s unusual to see them down here,” she said. “You would kind of expect to see them on the North and South Forks (west of Cody), but not really out here.”
The grizzly had been going through people’s yards and raiding the feed barn and corn fields at a nearby dairy farm, she said.
“It made us all very nervous. My son’s disabled and he rides a bike all over the place,” Winlow said. “My husband and I like to go out for walks, my neighbors all like to go for walks and there are horses around here. So yes, we are all very nervous.”
She added that she and her husband moved into their current home in 2011 and hadn’t previously seen or heard of any other grizzlies in that area.
“I think a couple of years before we moved out here, one of the neighbors had a grizzly getting into their pet food,” Winlow said.
‘We Don’t Punish Bears’
The decision to euthanize a grizzly is never an easy one, Thompson said. And more grizzlies have been showing up in the low country in recent years.
“Generally speaking, we have dealt with grizzly bears throughout the Absaroka Front, which includes Cody, for many years, well over a decade,” he said. “But the frequency has increased through time as grizzly bears have expanded beyond suitable habitats. In these areas they are more visible and there is higher conflict potential — this is something our Large Carnivore Section personnel deal with annually and frequently.
“We don't ‘punish’ bears for expanding beyond suitable habitat, it is not the bears' fault the population is beyond carrying capacity within the suitable habitat of the demographic monitoring area, despite being still listed as a threatened population,” he added.
“That being said, we do not promote grizzly bears outside of suitable habitat and deal swiftly with bears involved with conflicts or habituated to human activities in these areas, including a litany of efforts that range from outreach and electric fencing to that of management operations involving relocation and/or removal.”
Mark Heinz can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.