As hunters begin heading into the hills, safety in grizzly territory comes with many challenges. This season there has already been a conflict in the Beartooth Mountain Range that resulted in a dead …
As hunters begin heading into the hills, safety in grizzly territory comes with many challenges. This season there has already been a conflict in the Beartooth Mountain Range that resulted in a dead grizzly bear, according to a Wyoming Game and Fish Department official.
“[The department] assisted in an investigation regarding an encounter between a hunter and a grizzly bear in the Beartooths,” said Dan Thompson, large carnivore section supervisor for the Wyoming Game and Fish Department.
“This is an ongoing investigation and is under the jurisdiction of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service,” he said, adding “there were no human injuries sustained and there is not a threat to the public.”
Bears are entering into pre-hibernation hyperphagia, an increase in feeding activity driven by a biological need to fatten up before bears go in to den for the winter. They are hoping to find up to 20,000 calories per day during the fall, often on the move 20 hours a day following their noses to a decent source of food.
“The most powerful tool [in avoiding conflicts] is your brain and a common sense approach to recreating in bear country,” Thompson said. “People need to be prepared mentally and physically when sharing the same area as grizzly bears.”
Thompson offered several important tips to help keep those heading to the hills safe this fall:
Always try to hunt or call with a partner and stay within sight of each other. Remain alert and watchful for bear activity; avoid “tunnel vision” while pursuing game.
There are several natural signs to take note of when traveling through grizzly-occupied corridors. Learn to recognize bear sign such as scat, tracks, and diggings, Thompson advised.
And know where seasonal food sources are present and either avoid or be especially cautious in those areas.
Be aware that the presence of ravens and other scavengers is a good indication that carcasses or gut piles are nearby and a bear may be in the area and carry a defense readily accessible, such as bear spray and/or firearm. The knowledge of how to use your defense should be automatic.
Proper handling and retrieval of game is important in bear territory. The best way to minimize conflicts over a carcass is to pack and remove the game meat out of the field as quickly as possible. The longer game is in the field, at camp, or in the back of a vehicle the more likely it is to be discovered by a bear.
Separating the carcass from the gut pile with as much distance as possible is important. Quarter and hang the carcass in a tree at least 10- to 15-feet from the ground and 4-feet from the tree trunk.
If you must leave the carcass on the ground, place it in plain view so when you return, you can see if a bear is present or if it has been disturbed prior to making your approach. Placing something conspicuous on the carcass that may help you detect if there has been a bear at the carcass. For example branches or an article of clothing that can easily be seen from a long distance.
When returning to a carcass that has been left overnight, use caution. Stop and view the carcass from a distance with binoculars. Approach the carcass upwind and make sufficient noise to alert a bear of your presence.
If you detect disturbance from a distance or if the carcass has been buried, a bear has probably been to the carcass or may be bedded nearby. Never attempt to scare a bear off of a carcass it has claimed.
In camp, store game meat, capes, and dirty tools/clothes at least 100 yards from your sleeping area and preferably down wind. Clean fish at designated cleaning stations or at home. Wash all your gear to ensure there are no desirable odors for future use.