Thanks to the quick thinking of one Wyoming elk hunter, what could have been a lethal encounter with a grizzly sow instead became merely a painful nip. KBZK reported that two bowhunters encountered a female grizzly with cubs north of Dubois on Sunday, which resulted in an attack. One of the hunters was walking near Horse Creek Drainage when the grizzly approached the men. Officials say that it was likely that neither the hunters nor the bear noticed each other until they got too close, at which point the grizzly instinctively charged. According to Reuters, the grizzly bit one of the hunters in the side before the other rushed to his aid and used bear spray to scare off the aggressive sow. The victim was transported to a local hospital for treatment of minor injuries.
Although this bear encounter did not end in tragedy, it comes on the heels of another attack earlier this month. The body of Adam Thomas Steward, 31, was found on September 12 in Wyoming’s Bridger-Teton National Forest, where officials say he was killed near his campsite. A native of Utah, Steward was in the area conducting research for the US Forest Service. In light of the recent attacks, the Wyoming Game and Fish Department sent out a warning for hunters to carry bear spray while in grizzly territory.
“As bears become more active and hunters begin to pursue game in the field, we anticipate that there will be an increase in human-bear encounters,” said Tara Hodges, information and education specialist for Game and Fish. “As hunters, we do exactly the opposite of what we would have most recreationists do to avoid bear encounters—you might say that hunters are pre-disposed to encounters.”
Some hunters prefer carrying a compact but powerful firearm in case of bear encounters, but officials suggest that bear spray may be a more efficient deterrent. Pulling off an accurate shot at a charging bear—which you may not notice until the last several yards—is a difficult proposition for even a veteran hunter. In addition, it may take more than one shot to stop an aggressive grizzly. However, some hunters are more comfortable with firearms than a can of bear spray and many states, such as Wyoming, allow hunters to carry a firearm during bow season for the purpose of self-defense.
“Firearms have been used successfully in self-defense situations and using one as a deterrent is a personal choice,” Hodges added. “No matter what type of deterrent a person chooses, it is essential that a person has practiced and can use the deterrent in sudden, high stress situations.”
Image courtesy Ken Conger/ National Park Service