Run-Ins With Yellowstone Grizzlies Reach New Highs. The Pandemic May Play A Part.

Jul 30, 2020

In 2019, there wasn't a single human injury caused by a grizzly bear throughout the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem. But the number of injuries has already reached eight in 2020 - a new record for the first half of the year, as the Jackson Hole News&Guide reported last week.

Dan Thompson, head of the large carnivore section of Wyoming Game and Fish Department, said the increase may be happening because of a combination of two things: "Increased density and distribution of grizzly bears in general, and that's exacerbated by increased human use of areas that are inhabited by grizzly bears - which just creates a higher potential for these types of conflicts."

With the ongoing pandemic, more people are heading to the parks and other public lands that make up much of the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem. Visitors may not know how to reduce the risk of a confrontation with a grizzly, Thompson said, and that usually means doing all you can to not surprise one.

"So travel in groups, make noise, and just do things so that you're not gonna stumble upon a bear," he said.

And carry bear spray and to know how to use it.

While not in the greater Yellowstone area, the latest attack occurred on Monday on private property near Choteau, Mont., within the Northern Continental Divide Ecosystem that includes Glacier National Park. It was "sudden, unexpected and violent," the Great Falls Tribune reports.

Have a question about this story? Contact the reporter, Maggie Mullen, at mmullen5@uwyo.edu.

This story was produced by the Mountain West News Bureau, a collaboration between Wyoming Public Media, Boise State Public Radio in Idaho, KUNR in Nevada, the O'Connor Center for the Rocky Mountain West in Montana, KUNC in Colorado, KUNM in New Mexico, with support from affiliate stations across the region. Funding for the Mountain West News Bureau is provided in part by the Corporation for Public Broadcasting.