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Guidelines for Grizzly Country
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David Chenault
(DaveC) - BPL Staff - F

Locale: Crown of the Continent
griz attack on 09/17/2011 08:04:42 MDT Print View

In early July there were two human-Griz encounters within a week or so, one on Yellowstone, one in Glacier. I think they're pretty illustrative.

In Yellowstone a couple were hiking a few miles out on the Wapiti Lake trail (which is prime Griz terrain). They surprised a mom and a cub when they came out the trees. Mom charged, the people ran, and the man was caught and fatally mauled.

In Glacier a guy was hiking solo up toward Siyeh Pass from Many Glacier (also prime Griz terrain). He surprised a mom and cub while hiking in dense brush. He was charged, but played dead. He got swatted a few times, then hiked out under his own power.

I believe both parties had spray. Neither had time to draw it.

Which is also a long way of saying that evidence suggests your gun will do you no good at all, save provide false comfort.

Hk Newman
(hknewman) - MLife

Locale: Western US
Re: griz attack on 09/17/2011 10:15:14 MDT Print View

Nice article and in response to the recent post(s) above, there's been another incident:

From recent news, three hunters got tangled up with a griz, which killed one of the hunters despite numerous firearms.

One of the remaining hunters shot the griz dead after the fatal mauling but this story really illustrates the speed and power of these bears in the face of multiple high-powered firearms in the hands of experienced hunters who knew the local area (think it's another recent link on this forum). If I ever get up there, I will be most def follow the advice of the local experts.

Edited by hknewman on 09/17/2011 10:22:45 MDT.

Mary D
(hikinggranny) - MLife
Re: Re: griz attack on 09/17/2011 12:30:16 MDT Print View

If this news article is correct
The griz was shot and wounded by one of the hunters, who thought it was a black bear (how did he get his license without passing the MT grizzly identification test?). The grizz ran off and the hunters were tracking it when it attacked. Hell hath no fury like a wounded grizz!

Edited by hikinggranny on 09/17/2011 12:31:27 MDT.

David Olsen

Locale: Steptoe Butte
Ride a big horse and be brave on 09/18/2011 14:53:12 MDT Print View

"Gutsy wrangler, huge horse save boy from charging grizzly"

Tom Kirchner
(ouzel) - MLife

Locale: Pacific Northwest/Sierra
Re: Ride a big horse and be brave on 09/18/2011 17:17:34 MDT Print View

Great story. That lady has pair of size 12 ovaries.

Gary Dunckel
(Zia-Grill-Guy) - MLife

Locale: Boulder
Huge Hungry Horse Hybrid on 09/18/2011 20:43:50 MDT Print View

She just needs to get that mega-horse used to .44 magnum sounds, and she's all set for the next griz they come across. What a lady, what a horse, what a great story. I'm willing to bet that the deer will tag along with any horse it comes across from now on...

David Chenault
(DaveC) - BPL Staff - F

Locale: Crown of the Continent
horses and bear on 09/18/2011 21:26:47 MDT Print View

Chatted with her back in July when she was leading a pair of (acutely out of place looking) dudes down from Sperry. A cruder person might note that she's rather hot.

(Tideplay) - F

Locale: Upper new York state
Respectfully not a responsible article on 09/20/2011 11:27:51 MDT Print View

Choosing to place oneself, wildlife, and others at risk is a complex subject. One that requires citing a range of perspectives, and doing justice to all involved.

First of all, the writer is not an expert and not a scientist. He has mistakenly understood probability and predictability.

Perhaps a better way of writing an article on this topic might be to discuss ways of sharing the extremely marginalized remaining areas of wilderness from a perspective of stewardship and mutual preservation and safety for all concerned.

Travis Leanna
(T.L.) - MLife

Locale: Wisconsin
Respectfully not a responsible post on 09/20/2011 13:27:21 MDT Print View

In response to Mr. Shaw's post above...

Did you miss all of his disclaimers throughout the article? Did you miss his stressing of further education about bears? Did you miss this paragraph:

"It should be noted that I am not a wildlife biologist, and that given the seriousness of this subject any application of these ideas should only be undertaken after substantial consideration and cross-examination. I am a backpacker and wilderness enthusiast with an amateur's appreciation for grizzlies and a husband's enthusiasm for not dying especially soon. It should also be noted that this article deals exclusively with bears in the continental United States, and almost exclusively with grizzly bears. Black bears, especially those outside the northern Rockies, and grizzly bears outside the Lower 48 are different creatures with different behaviors and should be investigated and treated as such."

I don't see any claim that his knowledge of bears should be taken as gospel. In fact, quite the contrary. I believe you've misunderstood the purpose of his writing.

If David's article made just ONE person stop and rethink their attitude towards bears (i.e., further investigating and learning about bears), then the article was well worth it and has achieved its purpose.

Edited by T.L. on 09/20/2011 13:32:41 MDT.

spelt with a t
(spelt) - F

Locale: SW/C PA
Re: horses and bear on 09/20/2011 13:44:22 MDT Print View

Now that is an impressive feat, well-told.

The author needed to do a little more horse research, though. Yeah, the horse was technically a mutt, but Percherons (he's definitely a Percheron cross, the color for his age gives it away) were bred for mounted heavy combat. I realize they played up the "unusual horse, extraordinary rider" angle, but if you're going to play chicken with a grizzly, a mount with warhorse breeding is about the best you can ask for! Not a mongrel mount at all.

David Olsen

Locale: Steptoe Butte
Respectfully not a responsible Title on 09/20/2011 15:03:21 MDT Print View

"I don't see any claim that his knowledge of bears should be taken as gospel. In fact, quite the contrary. I believe you've misunderstood the purpose of his writing."

"Guidelines for Grizzly Country".

Sure sounds like a list of safety rules from an expert. I would expect to read the
10 commandments on living around bears, with a title like that.

Perhaps it should have been "Musings of a Backpacker in Grizzly Bear Country"

Providing potential safety information in exchange for money sorta sticks in the
craw too.

Travis Leanna
(T.L.) - MLife

Locale: Wisconsin
Re: Respectfully not a responsible Title on 09/20/2011 17:24:57 MDT Print View

Ah, but now we're talking semantics just to nitpick :)

A "commandment" is much different than "guideline." Moses didn't come down off the mountain with the 10 Guidlines.
1. Thou probably shouldn't kill, but thou are inclined to seek more information about the finer details of killing in case thou really are not supposed to kill.
2. Maybe thou shouldn't covet thy neighbors wife? Buehler?

Now if the title said "A list of safety rules from a bear expert," then by all means, flame away.

Richard Rini
(rarini) - MLife

Locale: Southeast
Grizz' on 09/21/2011 03:33:50 MDT Print View

Dave - Great article and thanks. I've been to GNP a few times and most recently had a pretty close enconter with a mother and two cubs. Luckily we were taking all the precautions (we felt) neccessary so any bears would know we were coming. I think that played a role in avoiding a mishap as the bears knew we were there way before we knew the bears were there!

We stopped to take some pictures of the wild flowers in a nice popping meadow as we scanned the meadow we saw the mother and her two cubs about 15/20 yards away. We got our bear spray ready and just backed out of the trail. They clearly recognized our presence and they paid no attention to us (group of five). I'm not sure what would have happend should we have surprised them (mom) without warning!

Eugene Smith
(Eugeneius) - MLife

Locale: Nuevo Mexico
Guidelines for dealing with the almighty Bearadactyl? on 09/21/2011 05:44:26 MDT Print View


On a serious note, great article Dave. I don't have to deal with Grizzlies this far south, but it's good to read about the subject.

David Chenault
(DaveC) - BPL Staff - F

Locale: Crown of the Continent
not a scientist on 09/21/2011 08:55:35 MDT Print View

Trust me, I thank the Fates at least once a week that I'm not a scientist. Wills latest stove SOTMR reminds me well: I'm glad folks with those brains are out there, and I'm glad I'm not one of them.

Eugene, my wife is already bearanoid enough. She'll appreciate that picture.

As mentioned, there's a fine case to be made that I have no business writing on this subject. I'm ok with agreeing to disagree on that issue. However Bernard, I don't think I follow too well on your last two points. If this is a subject of consequence for you I'd encourage you to expand them.

It's worth noting that the title as submitted was "Some Practical and Metaphysical Guidelines for Hiking in Grizzly Country." Addie edited my verbosity down. Has happened before, will happen again. Though to be honest the way in which we tend to approach a word like Guidelines when it's in print points to both the overprivileged position of the scientific method in our discourse and our (as a culture)s disturbing trend to not want to think for itself. If I've complicated either then I'm very pleased.

Hk Newman
(hknewman) - MLife

Locale: Western US
Hunter NOT dead by grizzly .. update on 09/23/2011 19:36:34 MDT Print View

FWIW, the hunter attacked by a wounded grizzly actually died from being shot by his fellow hunter, trying to get the bear off his buddy. So it was a gunshot wound to the chest and not the mauling, though it's tough to say what the wounded bear would have done.

via the AP (Associated Press)

(Tideplay) - F

Locale: Upper new York state
Re: Respectfully not a responsible post on 09/24/2011 10:00:44 MDT Print View

I think you show my point actually. Why does a person with NO expert knowledge write an article on a subject that is entitled Guidelines to Grizzly Country" He is not in a position to evaluate anything. At best it is an article that encourages the same level of thinking about this complex subject. OK we might want to realize we humans are lower on the food chain. There are no risks until we humans take ourselves into their world of survival. Then there are the posts on killing vs protecting. And those who say we have the right to get killed or kill them. End of story. Various posts about it is our right to backpack. Case closed.

All heat no light. This topic deserves a writer who knows more. I am sticking to this opinion. I expect more here. I love this site. I am not saying this personally about the author, but about the issue.

Yes you can disagree with me. I do not think the author knows enough to make those who read it rethink their attitude. His motives are fine. It is just one of those topics that is very difficult to raise any deeper awareness and respectful practice protocols for backcountry behavior.

Mark Ries
(mtmnmark) - M

Locale: IOWAHHHHHHHHH!!!!!!!!
Re: Re: Respectfully not a responsable post on 09/24/2011 12:02:00 MDT Print View

Bernard, so I take it that information even if it is sound should not be given if it is not from an expert. My first backpack trip to glacier I had very little knowledge of bears or any reason to believe that I needed any, I had two close encounters on that trip. That prompted me to buy and read a lot of books and I still am not an expert or ever will be. Anything David said was pretty sound even if not very detailed and he made a lot of admissions that he was no expert and gave reference to others who are and suggested reading the book. If you have done any research of this subject at all and have read posts on this subject on this site you find that not only do opinions vary, alot of people dont have any idea of what is fact or fiction or who to listen to. This was a very good start. I believe if someone writes something and its B.S. and is bad information that could maybe get someone hurt then yes by all meens attack it expose it, that is the right thing to do. But I feel David did a good job with the knowledge he has which is more than I have and more than most on this site have I'm sure. So I feel it was a great service to this community and much needed and nobody else has stepped forward. So Bernard do you have any issues with what was wrote by David on this subject? Do you feel any information was inaccurate? Can you get someone better to write an article for BPL? Can you? Even if you can or can get someone to write a better article I will still applaude David for his effort and getting the ball rolling. Again good job David.

Edited by mtmnmark on 09/24/2011 12:04:11 MDT.

Travis Leanna
(T.L.) - MLife

Locale: Wisconsin
Re: Re: Re: Respectfully not a responsable post on 09/24/2011 12:51:45 MDT Print View

It still sounds as if Bernard is missing the point of the article. Assuming he is correct in asserting that only diehard scholars and researchers should write on the subject, that would pretty much eliminate any mention of bears on this site. Is it better to have NO information instead of at the very least a starting point?

"It is just one of those topics that is very difficult to raise any deeper awareness and respectful practice protocols for backcountry behavior."

Sure, I can agree with this. But what would be more effective at reaching an audience on the lower levels of awareness? Plopping down hundreds or thousands of pages of research and literature in front of a bunch of people or a primer article that gets them to begin to understand the complexities of the subject? My money is on the shorter, easier read article.

Should we refrain from any mention of backcountry first aid, since the majority of us are not trained in medicine? Should I not comment on packrafting because I am not Roman Dial? Misinformation is one thing, but any positive participation in a subject is always helpful.

I just think its an odd placement of criticism.

Paul Davis
(pdavis) - M

Locale: Yukon, 60N 135W
Ok, so, Back to Bear Safety.... on 09/25/2011 12:45:44 MDT Print View

Thanks to David for an interesting article. is the non-profit website where a number of governments have pooled their bear safety resources. There is a super film 'Staying Safe in Bear Country' which was filmed in BC + Yukon available on DVD in both French and English, as well as 'Living Safely in Bear Country' and 'Working Safely in Bear Country', as well as a polar bear version.

I am lucky that I live and move over the land in the only jurisdiction in North America that has imposed electric fences around all garbage dumps, Canada's Yukon Territory. We dare to think that this may be reducing the garbage-bears-humans damage loop. It is important to see ourselves as outdoorspeople as part of the wider perspective of bears and humans as a whole---that includes how garbage and compost are handled...

I consider myself fortunate to live in pretty-much-intact bear habitat, where humans are the intrusion, and where, as Chenault's article suggests, we have to walk humbly, and sometimes, walk the other way or change our plans. Sometimes this might mean playing a battery radio with a speaker on our pack or on our bike handlebars, so that the bears know that we are coming....and carry bear spray in a holster, always in the same space on our belts, and practice drawing and using it...

With climate change bear encounters are now happening as late as late December and as early as mid-February in the Southern Yukon, so this is becoming a nearly year-round focus.

Our MEDEVAC system requires a 2 hour 45 minute King Air flight to the nearest trauma-capable hospital, either Vancouver or Edmonton, so, as others have raised here, it is important to realize what that delay places on people in bear country and their first aid skills.

The arrival of Iridium satellite telephones has cut down the notification time for such a MEDEVAC flight, but does not change the flight times, and the fact that things don't always happen next to an air strip....

Having said all this, the road trip in and out of the backcountry is statistically far more dangerous than Ms Bear and cubs...