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Yellowstone National Park Hikers Injured During Grizzly Encounter


Two Yellowstone National Park hikers sustained relatively minor injuries when they encountered a sow grizzly and her cub on a trail southwest of Canyon Village.

The sow attacked when the hikers came upon her cub-of-the-year Thursday morning along the Cygnet Lakes Trail. Just after they saw the cub the sow "appeared at very close range and charged the group," a park release said.

"Two of the hikers immediately discharged their canisters of bear spray and the sow and cub left the area after an encounter which lasted about a minute," the release added.

All four members of the group hiked out to the trailhead. One person was treated at the scene, while the second injured hiker was transported by ambulance to an area hospital with bite and claw wounds. All four asked that their identities not be released.

"Yellowstone bear biologists say the sow’s behavior is consistent with purely defensive actions taken after a surprise encounter with people," the park release said.

This was the first report of any bear-caused human injuries in Yellowstone this year. The incident remains under investigation.

Yellowstone regulations require visitors to stay 100 yards from black and grizzly bears at all times. The best defense is to stay a safe distance from bears and use binoculars, a telescope or telephoto lens to get a closer look. These hikers were heeding the park’s advice to hike in groups of three or more, make noise on the trail, keep an eye out for bears and carry bear spray. Bear spray has proven to be a good last line of defense, if kept handy and used according to directions when a bear is approaching within 30 to 60 feet.

There had been no recent reports of grizzly bear activity in the area of the attack, the release said. Nevertheless, as a precaution the Cygnet Lakes Trail and the surrounding area were temporarily closed.

In addition, the park has closed the nearby Mary Mountain area, where a hiker was mauled to death by a grizzly in August 29011, to any off trail travel.


Maybe these folks should consider firearms instead of bear spray. The 2 bear spray studies are really, really vague on details, but less than 1/3 of all bear spray incidents involved "aggressive" bears, and neither study included data on incidents when people didn't have time to use bear spray. Those factors would tend to inflate the success rate for bear spray.

Meanwhile, unbiased research on over 1,000 incidents in Alaska from 1985-96 involving guns shows that < 2% of the people involved were injured. Miller & Tutterrow, Characteristics of Nonsport Mortalities to Brown and Black Bears and Human Injuries, etc.

Now, some of those bears were killed in "defense of property," which is like shooting fish in a barrel. But the 2008 Alaska bear spray study included 2 incidents when "humans" in a pickup truck sprayed bears, and that's the bear spray equivilent of shooting fish in a barrel. To make matters worse, the authors of the bear spray study neglected to mention that the humans in the truck were U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service biologists. The biologists were "hazing" bears, but the Alaska bear spray study describes this as one of 72 incidents when people "defended" themselves from bears. Give me a break.

Of course some people would never consider using guns, so bear spray is their self-defense tool in bear country, and that's fine. To provide for public safety, the NPS and state and federal agencies need to place far more emphasis on avoiding dangerous situations with bears, and being prepared to use your bear spray or firearm very, very quickly.

Just carrying bear spray, or a firearm, won't keep you safe. Carrying bear spray or a firearm is one issue; using it is another.

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