Bruin trapped in rural Park County subdivision late Tuesday
A grizzly bear has been captured near the Eaglenest subdivision.
The Wyoming Game and Fish Department received several tips last week about a black bear in the area, but they were unable to track it, said Luke Ellsbury, Game and Fish large carnivore biologist in Cody.
On Tuesday, Ellsbury, working with Dusty Lasseter, Game and Fish bear wise community coordinator in Cody, found the bruin’s trail. They set a culvert trap in the bear’s path, Ellsbury said, but what they found wasn’t a black bear.
They captured a 4- to 5-year-old male grizzly. He wasn’t a large bear, weighing 287 pounds. The bear was eating mostly fruit and bird seed in people’s yards in Eaglenest subdivision, Ellsbury said.
Jan Clements, who lives in the 1700 block of Eaglenest, heard the trap slam shut around 10:15 p.m. Tuesday, according to Nancy Phillipe, who lives next door. When the bear experts came around Wednesday morning, the bear was inside the trap.
Phillipe and Peggy Horvath snapped photos of the grizzly in the trap and shared them with the Tribune. The women said it was an impressive sight.
“It was so big and just beautiful,” Phillipe said. “He was just gorgeous. Healthy and very furry and very well fed.”
She said her German shepherd Jaxx has been making a lot of noise for several nights as he sensed the bear’s presence. They assumed it was a black bear but saw it was a large male grizzly instead.
Ellsbury and Lasseter told them there was likely a “litter mate” in the area and another trap was set for it.
A culvert trap is a large steel culvert mounted on a trailer. One end is sealed off, and the other end contains a door with a spring connected to bait, such as a pungent old animal carcass, inside the trailer. When the bear takes the bait, the door slams shut and the bear is captured without risk to humans.
To release the bear, the trailer is attached to a pickup truck. When the driver jackknifes the trailer, the door opens and out goes the bear while the driver remains in the truck, able to beat a hasty retreat if necessary.
Wednesday’s bear is gone. “He’s already on his way to Jackson,” Ellsbury said.
When bears get into trouble raiding human food or killing livestock in the Cody area, they are transported to the Jackson area in hopes the bear will not return to the scene of its crime. In turn, Jackson transports its problem bears to the Cody area, and the animal is freed in national forest bear habitat.
Not out of the woods yet
Another bear sighting was reported after the grizzly was captured.
“Actually we did get another report this morning,” Ellsbury said Wednesday.
The caller believed it was a black bear. If it can be verified there is a bear in the area, Ellsbury said he will set traps.
A black bear is plausible. Black bears do frequent Eaglenest Creek, he said. If a bear is around, they’ll try to catch it.
“If one shows up, we’re going to be proactive about handling it to prevent conflicts,” Ellsbury said.
He said he doesn’t believe residents should be overly concerned, but they can take a few steps to avoid potential conflict: Store pet food, bird seed, livestock feed and other attractants securely where the products are unavailable to bears. If fruit is falling from trees, pick it up, Ellsbury said.
To report bear sightings in developed areas, call the Game and Fish at 307-527-7175.
In the fall, there are more bear and human conflicts as bears travel to lower elevations in search of food.
Bears are in hyperphagia mode now. The omnivorous creatures are seeking and eating everything in sight to increase their calorie intake in preparation for winter hibernation. As a result, bears can become preoccupied and may fail to notice humans in close proximity, Ellsbury said.
Hunters should be extra-vigilant and carry bear spray or some other bear deterrent. Hunting with a partner is a good idea.
“Being alert while you’re out there is the big thing,” Ellsbury said.
Nancy Phillipe placed her hand next to a bear paw print discovered in the Eaglenest subdivision just west of Ralston.
Photo courtesy Nancy Phillipe