Grizzly Bears Continue to Stay Active in Wyoming- Hunters Need to Stay Alert

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Mid-November usually marks the official denning period for grizzly bears, but until then, they will remain very active in their search for food-creating challenging conditions for hunters.

On Oct. 3, 2011, two hunters in two separate areas encountered grizzly bears; both suffered minor injuries as a result. In each case, the hunters surprised a bear, which then became aggressive.

According to the Wyoming Game and Fish Department, a Casper hunter in the Dubois area chose to "drop and cover" when the bear charged. He was bitten on the buttocks and ankle and the bear left the area. In a second encounter on the same day, an Oregon hunter near Meeteetse surprised a bear and it charged the hunter, knocking him down and biting him on the hand as it ran past. Both incidents were investigated by Game and Fish personnel who determined that both bears were acting naturally. No attempt to capture either bear will be made.

In most instances, getting too close to a grizzly bear and suddenly surprising it is considered threatening by most adult grizzlies," said Dennie Hammer, Cody information specialist for the Game and Fish. "When threatened, grizzlies generally exhibit one of three behaviors; grizzlies either run away, bluff charge, or charge with the intent of removing the threat."

Given their behavior, knowing what to do in an encounter is very important according to Hammer, "Should you encounter a bear while hunting it is important to know bear behavior and to be able to "read" the bear's body language - if there is time to do so.

A bear that hears or smells something that it cannot identify may stand on its hind legs to get a better look and/or smell. This is typically not an aggressive behavior. A bear that runs toward you with its head up, ears erect, and stiff legged is probably bluff charging. One that has its head down and ears laid back feels threatened enough to charge."

Hammer adds that in instances where there is not enough time to read the bears behavior or to use a deterrent such as bear spray or a firearm, the only viable option is to "drop and cover."

Many people were taught as youngsters to curl into a ball and play dead," he said. "This might still work for those limber enough to stay in this position, but we think the drop and cover technique - lying flat on the ground with your fingers interlocked over your neck - is better. And, where a daypack to protect your back - always.

However frightful this might seem, lying quietly and still is not threatening to the bear and most bears quickly determine that the threat is gone and they leave the area."

To improve the odds of minimizing hunter-bear conflicts, Hammer suggests the following;

Carry a bear deterrent and know how to use it. Many aggressive bears have been deterred through the use of bear spray and all hunters should carry it where it can be reached and know how and when to use it.

Hunters should hunt with a partner and keep relatively close together.

When using calls, pay close attention to your surroundings, not just the area within which the hunted species is located.

Continuously watch for bear sign, which includes tracks, scats, and diggings and for the bears themselves.

Retrieve game animals as quickly as possible and watch for approaching bears when field dressing and quartering.

If game must be left on the ground overnight, separate the carcass from the entrails when field dressing and place the carcass in an area that can be viewed from a distance.

When retrieving game, make lots of noise; use binoculars to search the area for bears and to determine if the game has been disturbed by bears prior to walking in on the carcass.

Bears often daybed near food sources.

If a bear has claimed your carcass, leave the scene and report the incident to the Game and Fish.
(Contact: Dennie Hammer (307) 527-7125)


Retired2hunt's picture

  I don't know if I am taking


I don't know if I am taking the time to "read" a bear to see if it is bluffing or not.  I'm whipping out my bear spray with one hand and my handgun in the other.

Hunters in grizzly country are in a catch 22 situation - the are trying to be quiet and downwind of their elk while at the same time trying to let a bear know in advance of them being in the area to ward off any chance of an encounter.  Like most hunters this possible situation would be in mind the entire hunt and I don't know if I could completely enjoy the time in the woods.

This is great information for the hunters in Wyoming.  There have been too many bear and human encounters in the news this year.  Anything to prevent more while sustaining current ability to hunt is definitely a good thing.



hunter25's picture

This is a good reminder for

This is a good reminder for everyone but I have to say withg all the attacks there have been this year I'm pretty sure my awareness level would be very high no matter what month of the year I'm out there. Even in th emiddle of winter I'm sure it would be on my mind just in case.

Hopefully things will slow down next yer and we won't have the same rash of attacks that we had this year or at least people will be more prepared for things if it does happen.

numbnutz's picture

This is a great reminder to

This is a great reminder to hunters or anyone using the outdoors that bears are no joke. I'm glad the two hunter made it out of the woods alive. Not all this year who have encountered Grizzlies have been so lucky. This article has some great information for hunters and anyone heading into Grizzly country. The bears this year over any in the past few years have been more aggressive. Even the Black bears in my part of the world. I went out a bought a can of bear spray just because of that reason. I'd rather have the stuff and not need it then need it and not have it.  Un like the bears in the rockies are bears really don't den up for the winter they may spend a couple weeks at a time in a den then they'll go out looking for food. Good luck to the hunters in Wyoming and be safe and fallow some simple safety precausions.


jaybe's picture

Whew! When I first started

Whew! When I first started reading this report, the word, "Casper" caught my attention because I was hunting near there a couple of weeks ago. But then I saw that it was a hunter from Casper who was hunting near Dubois, which is much further up toward the NW corner - toward Yellowstone.

 My question is, are most of the bears in Wyoming up near that corner of the state? The guys I was hunting with have been going near Casper for over 20 years and have never seen a bear or any sign. I'd like to think that they aren't moving down into the central part of the state.