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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 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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Black Bear Escapes Charging Grizzly Bear With ‘Powerful Exit Strategy’

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By Jimmy Orr, Cowboy State Daily

Heeding proper bear advice is important. It can be a matter of life or death.

Thinking it’s possible to outrun a bear is fraught with peril.

A video shared on Tuesday by Glacier National Park shows why attempting to run from a bear is a bad idea.

The video showed what could have been a nasty confrontation between a grizzly bear and a black bear.

The National Park Service describes the encounter as a battle for food. It’s still not plentiful, so battles over a food source happens often.

That means, as horrible as it sounds, a bear can be the equivalent of a cheeseburger for another bear.

In this case, a much larger grizzly goes after a black bear, but the black bear does not turn into a cheeseburger.

That’s because of — as the Park Service describes it — the black bear’s exit strategy: climbing.

The black bear escaped up a tree.  And although the grizzly acted like it was going to follow the black bear up, it couldn’t.  Although it gave the viewing public a thrill.

Glacier National Park described the difference of the two bears like this:

“The short, sharp claws of the black bear are ideal for tree climbing. The grizzly’s longer, duller claws are great for digging, but poor for climbing—especially because an adult grizzly is substantially heavier than a black bear,” the Park Service said.

It’s a fantastic video and a great lesson for humans who think they can outsmart bears.

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Grizzly Hazing To Occur on Togwotee Pass Because Of Irresponsible Human Behavior

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By staff reports, Cowboy State Daily

As a result of continued harassment by wildlife viewers creating unsafe conditions on Togwotee Pass in Wyoming, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (Service) and partners plan to conduct targeted hazing operations on grizzly bear 863. 

The Service and partners ask the public to avoid the area if possible and not interfere with these management operations, currently planned for the remainder of June 2021. Allowing wildlife experts to address this issue uninterrupted will increase the chances of this management tactic being successful.

People and cars dangerously close to a grizzly bear on U.S. Highway 26/287, creating unsafe conditions for people and wildlife. Credit: Todd Stiles/U.S. Forest Service

This operation will be conducted alongside partners at the U.S. Forest Service, Yellowstone National Park, Grand Teton National Park, Wyoming Highway Patrol, and Wyoming Game & Fish Department. 

Approaching, disturbing, or feeding bears – as is occurring on Togwotee Pass – is extremely dangerous to both humans and bears. 

These actions habituate animals to human development and can lead to dangerous human conditioned behavior. When this happens, bears may become aggressive and threaten human safety. 

If hazing does not resolve conflicts on Togwotee Pass, escalating management options include relocation and possibly euthanasia. By avoiding approaching or feeding bears, the public can help ensure that the need for such significant management options is unnecessary.

A female grizzly bear, known as “863” by wildlife managers and “Felicia” by public observers, and her two cubs have become habituated to the roadside along Highway 26/287. 

As more people become aware of these bears and stop to approach them, it creates unsafe conditions for people and wildlife. The public’s help is needed to ensure the continued safety of these bears and people passing through the area.

The Service and our partners continue to raise calls to the public to stay safe and help keep grizzly bears wild (see: USFWS and Partners Urge Responsible Grizzly Bear Viewing in Togwotee Pass Area, As Grizzly Bears Emerge from Dens, USFWS Urges Public to Stay Safe and Keep Bears Wild, and Multi-agency Effort to Maintain Safety of Grizzly Bears and People). 

The Service again reminds residents and visitors that approaching, feeding, or otherwise disturbing grizzly bears poses a significant threat to humans and bears, in addition to being a federal offense under the Endangered Species Act.

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, U.S. Forest Service, National Park Service, Wyoming Highway Patrol, Wyoming Game & Fish Department, and other partners are unified in our approach and committed to ensuring safe conditions for people and wildlife. To achieve this goal, we need your help. Please remember to:

Never approach bears; always remain at least 100 yards (300 feet) away, or about the length of a football field

Practice ethical wildlife viewing by remaining a safe distance and never disturbing natural behaviors – if an animal notices you and/or changes their behavior or actions, you are too close

Never feed, leave food for, or make food accessible to bears

Obey traffic signs, laws, and regulations – stop only in designated pull-off areas

Follow the direction of wildlife management officials, do not interfere with or approach hazing operations

Additional grizzly bear safety information is available from the Interagency Grizzly Bear Committee for residents, hunters, hikers/campers, farmers/ranchers, and wildlife watchers.

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Wyoming Game and Fish: Don’t Fight Grizzlies

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By Ellen Fike, Cowboy State Daily

The Wyoming Game and Fish Department is reminding people that no matter how tough they might think they are, a grizzly bear is tougher.


A recent national poll conducted by YouGov America showed what animals Americans thought they could defeat in a fight, and about 6% of respondents believed they could definitely win in a fight against a grizzly bear.

This group of people obviously has never seen the film “Grizzly Man,” about a bear enthusiast who claimed to have won the trust of certain brown bears and was later killed by one.

Nonetheless, the Game and Fish department reminded people that even though it might sound cool to take part in a cage match with a grizzly, no one should ever fight bears — or any animal, for that matter.

“The Wyoming Game and Fish Department views human-wildlife conflicts very seriously, and interactions between humans and grizzlies can be extremely dangerous,” Game and Fish Spokeswoman Sara DiRienzo told Cowboy State Daily on Friday. “Seeking out conflict with any wildlife is not only dangerous but irresponsible as well.

“Obviously, Game and Fish does not support anyone instigating a fight with bears (or any wildlife) and urges people to educate themselves on bear safety and take extra steps to avoid conflicts,” she continued

The top three animals people thought they could beat in a fight were a rat (72% thought they could win), a house cat (69%) and a goose (61%).

Admittedly, grizzlies were the animal the fewest people thought they could beat. Lions, elephants and gorillas were selected as the underdog by 8% of those responding. Crocodiles (9%) and wolves (12%) were also selected as more likely to be bested in a match with a human.

Noted outdoor enthusiast and Pinedale resident Paul Ulrich, who has had multiple encounters with bears, said anyone who thinks they can take a grizzly is an “idiot.”

“A few years ago, I was about 20 yards away from a 1,200-pound grizzly bear and if it wasn’t for my bear spray, it wouldn’t have been pretty,” Ulrich said. “I think I would have been fine because I’m in shape but my buddy is a 300 pounder and that bear was looking at him like a double cheeseburger.”

Ulrich said the bear spray stopped the grizzly and allowed he and his friend to get to their pickup truck in time to escape.

“These bears are not only fast but they’re nimble,” Ulrich said. “My friend is slow, fat, and uncoordinated. That bear would have chopped him up like a food processor.”

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Hiker Injured By Bear In Yellowstone, First Incident of 2021

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By Ellen Fike, Cowboy State Daily

A man was attacked Friday morning by a bear while hiking in Yellowstone National Park, according to park officials.

Park officials said the unidentified 39-year-old man was attacked while hiking alone on the Beaver Ponds Trail at Mammoth Hot Springs. The incident occurred around 1.5 miles from the trailhead that originates from the Old Gardiner Road.

The man told park officials he was hiking when he encountered what he believed to be two grizzly bears. One attacked him and he sustained significant injuries to his lower extremities, but was able to hike out on his own.

The hiker was transported to the Livingston, Montana, Hospital by park ambulance.

The Beaver Ponds Trail was closed until further notice. Bear management staff swept the trail Friday morning to ensure no hikers were on it.

Park officials are advising those hiking in Yellowstone to stay at least 100 yards away from bears at all times and carry bear spray.

The last bear-human conflict in the park occurred in June 2020, when a grizzly knocked a woman to the ground and scratched her thigh.

The woman was hiking alone when she encountered two grizzlies at close range. The female bear knocked her down despite the woman’s attempt to use bear spray.

When the woman fell, she also received minor injuries to her face. She declined medical attention.

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Grizzly Bear Spotted In Southwestern Wyoming Near Utah, Idaho

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By Ellen Fike, Cowboy State Daily

A grizzly bear was recently spotted in Lincoln County close to the Idaho and Utah borders, the Wyoming Game and Fish Department announced Wednesday.

Remote camera photos captured images of the grizzly, which were then reported by a member of the public. This is the second spring in a row that a grizzly has been spotted in the southern Wyoming Range.

“This is black bear country, but with the verified presence of a grizzly, people enjoying the upcoming Memorial Day weekend should be practicing bear safety while outside,” said Todd Graham, Green River Region wildlife supervisor. “Be sure to keep a clean camp, free of food waste and garbage.”

The grizzly bear was unmarked and not known to be involved in any conflicts. The Game and Fish Department will continue to monitor the situation.

“It is important to report any conflicts with large carnivores immediately to local Game and Fish,” Graham said.

The bear was spotted approximately 65 miles south of the area considered suitable for the long-term viability of grizzly bears by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. The sighting in the area is further evidence of a recovered and growing grizzly bear population, the department said.

“These spring sightings are the furthest south grizzly bears have been verified since well before recovery efforts began in the 1970s,” Graham said. 

Game and Fish recommends that campers:

  • Never store attractants in your tent.
  • Store all food, pet food, garbage and any other odorous items inside a vehicle, hard sided campers, horse trailers, bear canisters, or bear boxes.
  • Keep clothes worn while cooking stored with food and other attractants.
  • Burn all grease off camp stoves.
  • Wipe down eating and cooking areas after each use.
  • Do not bury garbage; bears will just dig it up.
  • Dispose of all garbage properly and pack out any remaining trash.

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National Park Service Investigating Woman Charged By Grizzly In Yellowstone

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By Jimmy Orr, Cowboy State Daily

A woman in Yellowstone National Park who appeared to disregard National Park Service rules by approaching wildlife is under investigation by federal authorities.

The National Park Service is asking the public to help identify a woman who was charged by a female grizzly bear after walking up to the animal with her phone to film it.

Video of the encounter captured onlookers’ gasps when the grizzly rushed the woman who calmly walked away after the bear’s charge.

The Park Service describes the suspect as a white woman in her mid-30s with brown hair, heavyset, and wearing black clothing.

According to the statement, the violation occurred on May 10 at around 4:45pm.

Commenters on Yellowstone National Park’s Facebook page had little sympathy for the woman.

“If they didn’t euthanize the bears, I would fully support them eating a few tourists each year,” wrote Ken Weisz.

“People really just act like they are seeing squirrels at their local park. She’s lucky she didn’t get yeeted out of existence,” said Shiloh Barksdale.

“I guess this Darwin Award recipient thinks she’s at a petting zoo,” Lacy Teel said. “She’s lucky to be alive and lucky she didn’t cause the death of this mother and her cubs.”

There have been many high-profile bear attacks so far in 2021, some fatal.

A woman was killed by a black bear near Durango, Colorado in April and a Montana man was mauled to death by a grizzly near Yellowstone earlier this month.

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Highway Patrol To Ticket Drivers Who Pull Over To Look At Bears On Togwotee Pass

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Staff reports

Despite a concerted multi-agency effort to provide safe wildlife viewing of grizzly bears frequenting U.S. Highway 26 near Togwotee Pass, officials are now planning to step-up management efforts in order to maintain the safety of both wildlife and people.

“What started as just a handful of people occasionally watching a sow grizzly bear and her cubs has now turned into large crowds of people getting out of their illegally parked vehicles, creating a serious safety issue along this busy highway due to vehicles traveling at a high rate of speed as they pass by,” said Lieutenant Matt Brackin with the Wyoming Highway Patrol. 

“This is not like a national park where motorists are traveling at much lower speeds and expecting to see wildlife with the public pulled over to wildlife watch. This is a major highway with numerous large semi-tractor trailers that can’t stop in short order to avoid stopped vehicles or excited pedestrians that are criss-crossing the road. It has become a significant safety issue.” 

Wyoming state troopers plan to start citing individuals who have illegally parked their vehicles along the highway rather than parking in a designated legal pull-out.

Wyoming Game and Fish officials have begun to haze the sow grizzly bear and her cubs away from the road when conditions allow it to be done safely for both the bears and people. “Hazing wildlife away from busy highways and other areas of human development is a commonly-used practice to prevent a wildlife-vehicle collision or a dangerous encounter between people and wildlife,” said Dan Thompson, Large Carnivore Supervisor for the Wyoming Game and Fish Department. 

“As an agency, we promote safe and ethical viewing of wildlife, but unfortunately this has escalated into a situation that is not safe for people or the grizzly bears. Bears occasionally seen from a road are much different than bears that frequent these areas and become habituated to people. When allowed to persist, it only increases the likelihood for either people or bears to behave poorly, which can result in a human injury or death, or the grizzly bear having to be euthanized.”

All of the agencies involved are in consensus that these management actions are necessary for the safety of grizzly bears and people. People are reminded to heed all signs along the road and follow the direction of authorities from the Teton County Sheriff’s Office, Wyoming Highway Patrol, U.S. Forest Service and Wyoming Game and Fish Department. 

“The efforts to recover our grizzly bear populations have afforded people unprecedented opportunity to see and photograph bears on a regular basis in northwest Wyoming,” said Thompson. “But with that comes the responsibility to do it safely and ethically for the benefit of both grizzly bears and people.”

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