September 22, 2011

Traces of Yellowstone Grizzly Bears

Wapiti Lake access blocked (MSNBC, July 2011).
On Monday, Sept. 12, which was a rainy day, M. and I car-toured the eastern side of Yellowstone National Park. (I had never seen some of its famous sights, such as the view of the falls from Artist's Point.)

When we passed the turn-off to the Wapiti Lake Trail, it was blocked every kind of barricade and tape in the Park Service warehouse.

Electric signs on the main road warned drivers not to stop and to stay in their vehicles. (And what about the many bicyclists? Are they just bear bait?)

Why? Because of the grizzly bear attack that killed a California hiker, Brian Matayoshi.

At the time, the bear that killed Matayoshi was not hunted down, but treated as a sow with cub exercising a legitimate right of (perceived) self-defense.

Now the Powers That Be are blaming Matayoshi and his wife for running and triggering the bear's predatory instincts.  
Authorities concluded that the couple's reaction - running, yelling and screaming upon the bear's approach - might have escalated the severity of the attack, according to reports.
Bear safety experts recommend people talk in a low, calm tone and stand their ground when encountering grizzlies. They say bears will sometimes "bluff charge" toward a perceived threat.
 Well, that settles it. 

In August, a visitor from Michigan, John Wallace, was killed on the Mary Mountain Trail, which we noticed was also barricaded at both ends.
"We recommend people carry bear pepper sprays," wildlife biologist Kerry Gunther told ABC. "It gives people a lot of the confidence to stand their ground." 
Yes, we carried  bear spray. On our one backcountry hike, we encountered an excited Canadian couple coming the other way who said that they had seen a sow grizz and a cub.

(I think they were Canadians because the guy used "half a mile" and "200 meters" in the same sentence.)

They were wearing bear bells. Personally, I don't think that bear bells do any good unless you chant Om Mani Padme Hum as well. Then if a bear eats you, you have a beneficial rebirth.

A German (?) man was walking out the trail behind them calling "Bär bär!" at intervals.

I decided just to fish a little more where we were, because the brookies were hitting a bead-head nymph pretty regularly.

Eventually we hiked in to the lake and back out again. I carried the bear spray canister in one hand. Saw nothing. I noticed that the older hikers tended to have bear spray, while the younger ones did not. Make what you will of that.

It's always interesting being in the (possible) presence of a superior predator. Sharpens your senses. But the truth is that although I have had many black bear encounters, I have never seen a grizzly bear in the wild (unless I did on my childhood trip to Yellowstone—can't recall).  That comes of living in the Southern rather than the Northern Rockies. Ours were eliminated a century ago, except for the puzzling grizz killed in 1979 in the Southern San Juans.

UNRELATED POSTSCRIPT: Amazon warrior on a big Percheron-cross horse saves boy from grizzly attack in Montana.

5 comments:

Mark Churchill said...

'I think they were Canadians because the guy used "half a mile" and "200 meters" in the same sentence.)'

'They were wearing bear bells. Personally, I don't think that bear bells do any good unless you chant Om Mani Padme Hum as well. Then if a bear eats you, you have a beneficial rebirth.'

I'm declaring a tie for today's funniest quote on the Internet. And the winner is Chas, both times!

Chas S. Clifton said...

Awww...

Darrell said...

I worked with an old timer up in Summit County in the mid 1970s. He once told me he knew of a sow grizzly with cubs crossing from SE Summit county into Park county (over the continental divide, near Boreas Pass, I think) in 1963.

A coworker took some photos of a bear near Lake City a few years ago. It looked for all the world like a grizzly.

There were reports of grizzly seen on Independence Pass a few years ago.

I also heard of a grizzly seen in the Brown's Park area, IIRC, in NW Colorado in the last year or two. It was thought to have come down from Wyoming.

Cat Urbigkit said...

I'm totally with Mark Churchill on this - laughed out loud over the bear bells!

Steve Bodio said...

Did you see Cat's photo of the moronic touron in the bear jam taking grizz pics (outside her car) from five feet away?