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Grizzly Bears

Grizzly Bear Killed At Grand Teton After Becoming Food Conditioned

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By Ellen Fike, Cowboy State Daily

A 4-year-old female grizzly bear was killed on Saturday by Grand Teton National Park officials after repeatedly entering areas frequented by humans in search of food, officials announced this week.

The decision to kill the bear was made after it received numerous food rewards from unsecured sources, causing it to exhibit increasingly bold behavior. This behavior caused the bear to pose a threat to human safety and therefore it was killed, the park said.

Over the course of two years, the grizzly received multiple food rewards and grew more aggressive in its searches for food in populated areas.

In October 2020, the bear obtained food from a private residence south of the park. This fall, the grizzly took food from other private lands and caused property damage.

The bear eventually grew bolder in its attempts to obtain human food, breaking into bear-resistant dumpsters in the park.

Once a bear obtains food from human sources — referred to as “food rewards” — it can become “food conditioned”. Food rewards can include human food, trash, livestock feed, compost, pet food, beehives and more.

Over time, food conditioned bears may become bold or aggressive in their attempts to obtain human food, as was the case with this bear.

Park officials made the decision to capture and remove the animal under terms of the Interagency Grizzly Bear guidelines and the park’s bear and wildlife management plan. On Oct. 16, the grizzly bear was captured by Grand Teton park staff and euthanized.

As the grizzly bear population continues to expand in the southern end of the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem, bears continue to disperse outside of Grand Teton National Park.

As of August, 27 bears had been euthanized due to conflicts with humans, killed by other bears, hit by cars or drowned in canals so far in 2021. Another five carcasses that were found are suspected to have died in late 2020.

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Woman Gets Jail Time For Getting Too Close to Grizzly Bears

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By Ellen Fike, Cowboy State Daily

An Illinois woman who was caught on video getting too close to grizzly bears in Yellowstone National Park earlier this year received four days in jail as punishment this week.

Samantha R. Dehring, 25, pleaded guilty to willfully remaining, approaching, and photographing wildlife within 100 yards. The other count, feeding, touching, teasing, frightening or intentionally disturbing wildlife, was dismissed.

Dehring appeared in front of Magistrate Judge Mark L. Carman in Mammoth Hot Springs, Wyoming on Wednesday for her change of plea and sentencing hearing.

She was sentenced to four days in custody, one-year of unsupervised probation and ordered to pay a $1,000 fine, a $1,000 community service payment to the Yellowstone Forever Wildlife Protection Fund, a $30 court processing fee and a $10 assessment.

Dehring also received a one-year ban from Yellowstone National Park.  

According to the violation notices, Dehring was at Roaring Mountain in Yellowstone National Park on May 10, when visitors noticed a sow grizzly and her three cubs.

While other visitors slowly backed off and got into their vehicles, Dehring remained. She continued to take pictures as the sow bluff charged her.  

“Wildlife in Yellowstone National Park are, indeed, wild. The park is not a zoo where animals  can be viewed within the safety of a fenced enclosure. They roam freely in their natural habitat  and when threatened will react accordingly,” said Acting United States Attorney Bob Murray.  “Approaching a sow grizzly with cubs is absolutely foolish. Here, pure luck is why Dehring is a  criminal defendant and not a mauled tourist.” 

According to the National Park Service, a bluff charge is the more common type of charge and is meant to scare or intimidate. If a bluff charge is about to happen, a person is supposed to slowly back away from the bear while waving their arms above their head and speaking to the bear in a calm voice.

People should not run when a bear bluff charges, because it may trigger the animal to attack.

According to Yellowstone National Park regulations, when an animal is near a trail, boardwalk, parking lot, or in a developed area, give it space. Stay 25 yards away from all large animals – bison, elk, bighorn sheep, deer, moose, and coyotes and at least 100 yards away from bears and wolves.

If need be, turn around and go the other way to avoid interacting with a wild animal in close proximity.

This case was investigated by Yellowstone National Park Rangers and was prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorney Stephanie Hambrick.

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Grizzly Sow Shot & Killed in Idaho; Two Cubs Left On Their Own

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By Jimmy Orr, Cowboy State Daily

Another day, another dead bear in the Rocky Mountain West.

This time hunters in Idaho stumbled upon a grizzly sow and her two cubs on Thursday morning in the Stamp Creek Meadows Road area of Island Park in the Caribou Targhee National Forest.

When the sow charged the two, one hunter pulled out bear spray while the other was able to reach his firearm and mortally wound the animal.

The Idaho Fish and Game department said neither hunter was injured during the encounter.

The cubs were able to scramble away into the Stamp Meadows wilderness in the Caribou Targhee National Forest about 40 miles west of Yellowstone.

“Everything seems to point that this a case of self-defense,” an Idaho Fish and Game spokesman said. “We are trying to find the cubs and make a plan on what to do with them.”

Depending on the age of the cubs, the options could be limited. The odds of survival for first-year cubs without a mother in the wild are slim.

In Wyoming, two first-year cubs will likely die because their mother was killed by a motorist earlier this month and if wildlife officials capture them, they will be euthanized.

Wyoming Game and Fish Department officials explained that would be their only option as there is no place to put the bears if captured.

There are very few facilities with room for grizzlies, John Heine, director of the Grizzly and Wolf Discovery Center, in West Yellowstone, Montana, told the Powell Tribune. Once a grizzly is taken on, it’s a “lifetime commitment — and it’s rare a spot opens up for an addition to a zoo,” he said. “There are not enough spots available.” 

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Three Bears Hit By Cars Last Week Between Cody & Yellowstone

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By Wendy Corr, Cowboy State Daily

Record traffic and an increased presence of bears on the highway between Cody and Yellowstone National Park are being blamed in part for the deaths of two bears, including one grizzly, earlier this month.

Three bears were hit by cars between Sept. 10 and 12 and two died, according to Luke Ellsbury, a large carnivore biologist with the Wyoming Game and Fish Department.

“We initially had a call on Friday morning (Sept. 10) of a grizzly bear that was hit on the North Fork, struck by a vehicle,” he said. “Upon investigation, we found it was a young female grizzly bear, 5 to 6 years old, had not had cubs that we knew of and didn’t look like she currently had cubs. 

“And so that led to the next day, on Saturday morning (Sept. 11), where we received a report of a black bear that had been hit on the North Fork, it appeared to be an adult male black bear,” he continued. “It was probably feeding the chokecherries along the road there.”

Ellsbury said a third bear was hit by a vehicle Sunday, Sept. 12, but it bounded away from the scene of the collision.

“It ran down the hill out of a patch of chokecherries, trying to cross the highway,” he said, “and as it did it ran into the side of their camper, then rolled down the side of the camper, and then got up and ran over to the other side of the road and into the brush.”

Berries and chokecherries are prime foods for bears trying to put on weight for the winter. But when chokecherry bushes grow close to the road, that increases the hazards for bears — and for vehicles, Ellsbury said.

“This is the time of year where bears come out of the high country to the lower country in search of foods, and especially along the North Fork, chokecherries,” he said. “And so there’s a lot of chokecherries along the river corridors, the stream beds. And this was a really good year for chokecherry production. So we’re seeing, in the last week, a big influx of both black bears and grizzly bears along those corridors. And people need to just be aware that there’s a really high use in that area.”

The increase in the population of bears is also a contributing factor to the dangerous conditions on Wyoming highways. 

Ellsbury, who was born and raised in Cody, said he’s seen firsthand the effects of the growing bear population.

“All carnivore populations in this area have really gone up in the last, especially 20, years,” he said. “We see grizzly bears not only expanding in numbers, but in range. So they’re coming further and further out into the base, and we’re seeing them in areas that they probably haven’t been in 100 years. And so it’s just kind of the bonus of having a good recovery, just part of that success story.”

A distraction for drivers on the highway between Cody and Yellowstone lately has been sightings of a pair of grizzly cubs that seem to be motherless. But Ellsbury said as far as wildlife officials can tell, the grizzly bear that was killed on Sept. 10 did not have cubs of her own.

“Actually, she was hit a day after these cubs showed up on their own,” he said. “We’re not currently aware of what the situation was that led to them being orphaned, although it does appear now that there’s been enough time that they are on their own. But we do not know the circumstances behind that.”

Ellsbury cautioned drivers — especially at night — that the highway can be a dangerous place. 

“The first two vehicle strikes happened in the middle of the night,” he pointed out. “We’re not exactly sure at what times they did, but they were at night. The third incident happened about mid-morning on Sunday.”

When drivers do experience wildlife collisions, they should be reported to the local sheriff’s department, the Game and Fish Department or the Forest Service, if the incident occurred in one of Wyoming’s national forests.

“People need to just be aware that not just bears, but a lot of wildlife is along the highway,” he urged. “They just need to be vigilant and watch their speeds, keep their speeds slow, and just keep an eye out.”

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Motherless Grizzly Cubs In Danger On North Fork Highway

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By Mark Davis, Powell Tribune

At least two bears were killed in vehicle collisions on the North Fork Highway over the weekend as visitors continue to flood into Yellowstone National Park. And the lives of two young cubs, now alone in the Shoshone National Forest, hang in the balance.

A grizzly bear sow was struck and killed Friday and a black bear was killed Saturday in the late season rush to visit the park. Bears are gathering in the North Fork corridor of the Shoshone River east of Yellowstone, feeding on a bumper crop of chokecherries, said Luke Ellsbury, large carnivore biologist for the Wyoming Game and Fish Department.

Coincidently, two cubs of the year have been seen frequenting the area surrounding the two-lane highway, apparently without a mother to guide them. Tests conducted on the sow killed Friday found the animal was not the cubs’ mother, but there is some speculation their mother might also have been hit by a vehicle and its body has yet to be found.

The cubs continue to draw a crowd along U.S. Highway 14/16/20, but their future is fairly grim, Ellsbury said.

“Survival for cubs of the year without a mother is pretty low,” he said Tuesday. 

The Game and Fish Department has considered its limited options and currently has no plans to attempt to capture the cubs.

“There’s nowhere to take them,” Ellsbury said.

There are very few facilities with room for grizzlies, John Heine, director of the Grizzly and Wolf Discovery Center, in West Yellowstone, Montana, told the Tribune for a recent story. Once a grizzly is taken on, it’s a “lifetime commitment — and it’s rare a spot opens up for an addition to a zoo,” he said. “There are not enough spots available.” 

If the Game and Fish is forced to capture the abandoned cubs, they would have to be euthanized. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service ultimately makes the final decisions on what happens to grizzly bears because they are a federally protected species under the Endangered Species Act.

The spectacle is causing a bear jam, and yet traffic is still moving fast through the area, placing wildlife and people in jeopardy, Ellsbury said.

Wildlife photographer Tim O’Leary found the grizzly sow killed Friday and dragged it off the road.

“With my photography, there’s two things that I try to avoid: power lines and roads,” he said.

But O’Leary intentionally photographed the cubs while they were on the North Fork Highway because “this story must be told,” he said. 

He’s afraid the cubs and other bears will be hit and killed as they circle between the river, berry bushes and cover.

“Traffic is just flying through there,” O’Leary said.

Yellowstone National Park has been breaking attendance records every month this summer. In August, 921,844 recreation vists were counted in the park, roughly 40,000 visits more than the same month last year. It’s easy to blame tourists, he said, but there are many locals driving way too fast through the area as well.

“If they put up a sign about bears on the road and to slow down, I think that would help,” he said.

Biologists for Game and Fish are often tasked with euthanizing grizzly bears. So far this year, the U.S. Geological Survey reports 25 grizzly bears have been put down for frequenting agricultural areas, killing sheep and cattle, for property damage, obtaining numerous food rewards, repeated bold behavior at guest lodges and trailheads, and property damage while searching for food. Fifteen of those killed were inside habitat deemed suitable by the Interagency Grizzly Bear Study Team in the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem and known as the Demographic Monitoring Area (DMA). Eleven more grizzly bears were euthanized outside of the DMA.

More grizzlies could meet the same fate due to increasing conflicts in the fall and the growing population of the large predator species.

“It’s that time of year when conflicts increase as grizzly bears are looking for food sources,” Ellsbury said.

The department has moved several bears this year, but it is becoming increasingly difficult to find safe areas. In the past decade, there have been fewer bears moved, according to Dan Thompson, who heads up the large carnivore section for the Game and Fish.

“The ability to find available habitat is more difficult as the species has reached its carrying capacity inside core habitat,” he said. 

It’s especially difficult now as more people are seeking outdoor recreation during the pandemic.

“The thing we’re dealing with now is, 20 years ago relocation was a lot different because there weren’t near as many bears,” Thompson said. “There was more open home range areas, and you could move a bear and find a place for it to live. Nowadays, it’s just hard to do that.”

The Game and Fish Department captured and relocated an adult male grizzly bear on Saturday, according to a Tuesday press release. The bear was captured for killing cattle on a U.S. Forest Service grazing allotment north of Pinedale and relocated to the Five Mile Creek drainage, approximately 5 miles from Yellowstone’s East Entrance.

“Bears that are considered a threat to human safety are not relocated,” the release said, adding that grizzly bear relocation is a management tool that’s “critical to the management of the population.”

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399 And Cubs Spotted in Park; Tour Bus Passengers Go Berserk

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By Jimmy Orr, Cowboy State Daily

At Cowboy State Daily, we have received emails asking us why there aren’t as many stories this summer about the grizzly known as 399 and her four cubs who make their home in Grand Teton National Park.

Although we haven’t quantified media coverage or social media posts from year-to-year about the celebrity bear family, anecdotally it does seem like there could be some truth to the idea they just aren’t getting the attention this year they have in the past.

Maybe it’s because individuals are heeding the advice of wildlife advocates who have asked people not to document their sightings of the bears when the group is outside Grand Teton National Park.

Or it could be that the bears are more reclusive this year as the cubs have grown larger and less prone to attack by male bears.

Regardless, a group of tourists went absolutely berserk on Wednesday when the fivesome strode past their traffic-jammed tourbus on Wednesday.

Similar to Sesame Street (outside of the shrieks of “oh my God!”), passengers counted each bear as they walked across the highway.

“Look at them! There’s another one! There’s another one! WAHHHHHH! There’s the fourth one. WHAT? Is that four or five? Oh my God! WAHHHHHHH! I can’t believe it! Don’t leave! WAHHHHHH!”

Whether anyone knew the credentials of this famous family or not isn’t known. No one in the video clip identified 399 or her brood by name … or number.  

However, someone tipped one of the photographers off because the YouTube video identified the famous bear and said the video was shot near Willow Flats in Grand Teton National Park.

Fans of the bears will be grateful to learn they are still located in the park.  Advocates get concerned when the group goes beyond the boundaries because of traffic, the increased possibility of interaction with people, and unnatural food rewards.

Noted Wyoming outdoorsman Paul Ulrich said he was pleased no one got out of their car to take a photograph with any of the bears.

“Make no mistake, any of these bears could rip your head off,” Ulrich said. “I’ve seen it happen too many times.”

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Grizzly Bear Deaths On The Rise In 2021

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By Mark Davis, Powell Tribune

It’s been a tough year for grizzly bears in the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem. As of Wednesday, 27 individuals had been euthanized due to conflicts with humans, killed by other bears, hit by cars or drowned in canals so far in 2021.

Another five carcasses have been found that are suspected to have died in late 2020, bringing the total number to 32 known or probable deaths reported this year. That’s more than the 30 grizzly bear deaths reported in all of 2020 — and there are still several months left before the species typically hibernates, including the time period when hunters will be out in the backcountry areas.

Dry conditions mean the bruins might be more aggressive in search of food, said Luke Ellsbury, large carnivore biologist with the Wyoming Game and Fish Department.

“Drought means a busier fall because bears will be more food-stressed,” Ellsbury said, adding, “We’re busier than average this year.”

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service makes the call on management actions for the species due to being listed for federal protections under the Endangered Species Act. But Game and Fish biologists are tasked with capturing, moving or euthanizing bears selected to be relocated or removed from the ecosystem.

So far this year, 17 grizzly bears in the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem have been euthanized including 16 in Wyoming. A total of 13 grizzlies were euthanized last year, with nine in Wyoming, in a year that saw a below-average number of lethal removals.

Cody Regional Health

Bears are captured when they become aggressive, kill livestock or receive food rewards and become accustomed to people. Wildlife managers attempt to move grizzlies to more suitable areas when possible.

For instance, on July 23, the department relocated a subadult female to the Five Mile Creek drainage — about 5 miles from Yellowstone National Park’s East Entrance — after it killed cattle on a grazing allotment north of Pinedale.

When relocation is warranted, the department says it considers a bear’s age, sex and the type of conflict it was involved in, as well as potential human activity in the vicinity of the relocation site. The Fish and Wildlife Service and the Game and Fish Department say they will not move dangerous bears or those that repeatedly kill livestock or cause conflicts.

“Game and Fish continues to stress the importance of the public’s responsibility in bear management and the importance of keeping all attractants (food items, garbage, horse feed, bird seed, and others) unavailable to bears,” the department says. “Reducing attractants available to bears reduces human-bear conflicts.”

Every known or probable grizzly bear death is tracked by the Interagency Grizzly Bear Study Team team while the species remains listed for federal protections under the Endangered Species Act. In a change to the grizzly bear mortality statistics reporting process, the team has moved its grizzly bear mortality statistics in anticipation of an update to the U.S. Geological Survey website.

New reports are now available in a downloadable PDF document. The reports can be found at on.doi.gov/3xTzgoZ.

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Search Continues For Grizzly Who Ripped Woman Out of Tent And Killed Her

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By Jimmy Orr, Cowboy State Daily

A full-on search continued on Wednesday for a grizzly bear in Montana who dragged a 65-year-old woman out of her tent in the middle of the night and killed her.

But after two days of intensive search efforts, including the use of helicopters and infrared technology, the bear has escaped without a trace.

Terrifying details of the attack emerged on Wednesday when Montana wildlife authorities and law enforcement personnel discussed the events which led up to the fatal attack of Leah Davis Lokan of Chico, California.

According to the Powell County, Montana, Sheriff’s Office, three campers were spending the night in the town of Ovando, Montana, inside their tents outside of a local museum.

At approximately 3 a.m., a 400-pound male grizzly awakened the campers but ran away.

The campers removed food from their tents and secured it in an area designated for food storage before going back to bed.

A security camera at a local business a block away captured footage of the bear at 3:15 a.m.

Fifteen minutes later, two people in a tent were awakened by screams as the grizzly returned and pulled the victim out of her tent.

The campers sprayed the grizzly with bear spray, causing it to retreat.

At 4:14 a.m., the sheriff’s office received it first 911 call regarding the attack.

The victim was pronounced dead at the scene.

Officials said the bear at some point in the evening killed and ate several chickens after breaking into a chicken coop in the town.

That location, officials said, gives them the best opportunity to locate the grizzly.

“At this point, our best chance for catching this bear will be culvert traps set in the area near the chicken coop where the bear killed and ate several chickens,” said Randy Arnold, Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks regional supervisor in Missoula.

DNA of the bear was acquired by wildlife personnel and will be used to compare it against any bear they are able to capture.

A spokesman for Fish, Wildlife, & Parks said if the bear is captured, it will be killed.

“This is just devastating,” Ray Francis, an Ovando resident, told The Associated Press. “This is a big biking community and I don’t know what’s going to happen.”

A local store owner, Tiffanie Zavarelli, said the incident has “shaken the town.”

“We’re all in contact with one another and my husband and I want to let the community know that we care and that we’re here if they need anything at all,” she said.

“Our thoughts and prayers go out the family and friends of the victim. Many thanks to the residents that assisted in the search and pulled together to support the first responders, the Powell County Sheriff’s Office and the Fish Wildlife and Parks as we worked to process the scene and conduct the searches,” a spokesperson from the Powell County Sheriff’s Office said.

All campsites in Ovando will be closed until Sunday. 

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Felicia And Grizzly Cubs Avoid Death Row as Fish & Wildlife Service Says Hazing Is Working

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By Jimmy Orr, Cowboy State Daily

It looks like Grizzly Bear 863, better known as Felicia, and her cubs will live to see another day.

The U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service reported on Monday that the two-week intensive hazing operation to keep the celebrity bear and her family away from the highway on Togwotee Pass has been successful.

That means the agency won’t kill the bears as officials suggested was a possibility due to Felicia’s proclivity to approach vehicles and people in search of food.

The Fish and Wildlife Service thanked members of the public for not stopping on the highway to watch wildlife during the hazing period but added that making lasting changes in the bear’s behavior will require a long-term effort.

“The public’s avoidance of the area in recent days has contributed to the ability of wildlife managers to conduct operations safely and productively,” the U.S. Fish & Wildlife said in a release.

“However, Grizzly 863’s healthy fear of people and vehicles will continue only if the public avoids the area and practices responsible wildlife viewing behavior,” it said.

In the lexicon of the criminal justice system, the successful hazing doesn’t mean the bears have been removed from death row.

It only means that they have received a temporary pardon. They could still receive a death sentence. It is up to the public to keep the bears alive.

“By avoiding stopping on or along the highway, approaching, or feeding bears, the public can minimize the need to escalate the severity of management options for the bear,” the Fish and Wildlife Service said.

But this time it didn’t mention the word “euthanasia.”

When the organization did raise that prospect earlier this month, it was a public relations fiasco with nationwide press coverage and nearly 75,000 people signing a petition to stop “the murder of this bear and her two cubs” as it was written on the change.org website.

What happens now?

The agency said it would continue to monitor the bears and will engage in “limited hazing efforts” in coordination with the U.S. Forest Service, the Wyoming Highway Patrol and the Wyoming Game & Fish Department.

As for intervention by a volunteer group — or “posse” —  to monitor the highway and to intervene when people fall back on old habits, the Fish and Wildlife Service said that would be a bad idea and likely make things worse.

“The Service and partners have determined this option is not viable due to significant safety concerns,” it said. “Highway 26/287 is a major arterial highway for western Wyoming. The agencies involved concur that any attempt to facilitate viewing would encourage unsafe conditions along this already busy highway.”

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Grizzly Relocated In Grand Teton Due to People Feeding It

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By Ellen Fike, Cowboy State Daily

A young adult male grizzly bear had to be relocated within Grand Teton National Park this week after obtaining human in two incidents earlier this month.

On June 11, a visitor reported that a grizzly bear walked through a Grassy Lake Road campsite, sniffed a picnic table and unoccupied tent, which it then put its paws on. No damage was done to the tent. 

Visitors yelled at the bear and it ran away.

The next day, Teton Interagency Dispatch Center received a report of people feeding a grizzly bear from their vehicle south of the Lizard Creek Campground.

On June 13, there was a report of a grizzly gaining access to unattended trash and a drink at a campsite.

Both incidents are under investigation, although one person was cited for improper food storage, which carries a mandatory court appearance.

Later on June 13, the grizzly was captured and collared. He is a young male around 2.5 years old. All reports and evidence indicate he was the bear involved in each incident.

Park spokewoman Denise Germann told Cowboy State Daily on Friday that the decision was made to relocate the bear to try and break the cycle it had developed of approaching humans in hopes of some kind of food reward.

She added that it was irresponsible for people to feed grizzlies, either directly or indirectly.

“When people take these actions, there are consequences, many of which are for the bear, who can either be relocated or removed,” Germann said. “It’s an awesome opportunity to come to the park and see a bear in the wild, but we also have to be good stewards of the land, which includes not feeding wildlife.”

The bear was relocated on June 15 to the west side of Jackson Lake.

Bears that obtain human food may lose their natural fear of humans and may seek out humans and human-developed areas as an easy source of food. 

As a result, bear may become aggressive toward people and may have to be killed.

The proper storage of food items and responsible picnicking are vitally important in bear country. Picnickers should only have out the items they plan to use immediately so that if a bear approaches, food items can be quickly gathered and the opportunity for the bear to receive a food reward is removed. 

Visitors should store food and scented items in bear-resistant food lockers that are located throughout the park or in a hard-sided vehicle. Deposit trash in bear-resistant receptacles and do not burn waste in fire rings or leave litter in campsites.

“Feeding wildlife is illegal and dangerous, and we take these incidents very seriously,” park superintendent Chip Jenkins said. “The impacts of irresponsible behavior can have very negative effects for humans and wildlife.” 

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