By Ellen Fike, Cowboy State Daily
An hiker from Buffalo, New York, was attacked by a grizzly bear on Monday near Meeteetse, Wyoming Game and Fish Department and Park County sheriff’s officials announced Tuesday.
On Monday, the Park County Sheriff’s Office notified the Game and Fish Department that a 68-year-old man had been injured by a bear while hiking Francs Peak west of Meeteetse. The unidentified man was flown to a hospital in Billings, Montana, where he was receiving treatment.
Cody Wildlife Management Coordinator Corey Class told Cowboy State Daily that this is possibly the second bear encounter that has occurred within a week.
“We are in the process of investigating a report of another bear encounter that occurred late last week and reportedly resulted in minor human injury,” Class said. “No further details are available for this incident and the joint U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service/WGFD investigation is ongoing.”
According to sheriff’s officials, the department’s communications division received a report of a possible downed aircraft in the Francs Peak area from the Air Force Rescue Coordination Center, which was was receiving a distress signal.
It was later found that the signal came from the injured man’s personal locator beacon.
The man was on a multi-day backpacking trip and had been “severely” mauled, sheriff’s officials said Tuesday.
The hiker’s medical status was not available as of Tuesday.
“We wish the individual a full and speedy recovery,” Class said.
According to Game and Fish Department officials, based on the initial investigation, the incident appears to have been the result of surprise encounter between the individual and a grizzly bear.
Class would not specify on Tuesday whether this was an encounter that could have been avoided or not, referring back to the initial Game and Fish Department release.
The man, an experienced recreationist, was hiking at high elevation when he encountered the bear at close range. The incident happened too suddenly for him to deploy the bear spray he was carrying, department officials said.
Based on the information gathered during the initial investigation, the Game and Fish Department plans no management action at this time, but staff will continue to monitor bear activity in the area and make management decisions in the best interest of public safety.
According to the Powell Tribune, only one conflict between grizzly bears and humans has resulted in permanent removal from Wyoming’s ecosystem so far this year. In 2021, 31 grizzlies were removed in management decisions in Wyoming.
In April, the department’s large carnivore biologists removed a grizzly for cattle depredation in a collaborative decision with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.
The outlet also reported that the department averages about 20 relocations a year in a labor-intensive process involving multiple agencies and boots on the ground.