DNA tests have confirmed the identities of two grizzly bears that attacked researchers in Idaho this summer.
One was bear 533, a 21-year old female, and the other was bear 556, an 11-year old male. The bears were known to wildlife biologists after previously being trapped and collared by the Interagency Grizzly Bear Study Team as part of its research.
This summer, two incidents occurred where humans were involved in surprise encounters with bears in Island Park, Idaho. DNA results from a lab in Canada made identification of the grizzlies possible.
Both incidents involved research technicians who surprised bears that were apparently resting in day beds. In each case the bears were surprised at close range and reacted by charging the humans, making contact and biting some, but not all the humans, and then running away. In both cases the victims were able to walk out and receive medical assistance.
The female that bit the wildlife technician who was doing grizzly habitat monitoring had last been involved in a situation above Island Park Reservoir four years ago in 2009 when a hound hunter released his dogs on what he thought was the scent of a black bear, but instead turned out to be the female grizzly, who had cubs at the time. The sow chased the dogs back to the hunters, overran part of the group and ended up biting one person before she ran away.
The male bear that was surprised by technicians doing a forest health survey this summer had been involved in a surprise encounter with an elk hunter in the fall of 2011 near Last Chance, Idaho. The bear in that case bit off one of the man’s fingers, then ran off.
The bears involved in these incidents had previously worn radio collars. Prior collar data indicated that they covered large distances in search of food and to den and do not limit themselves to just living in Idaho.
It is important that humans make their presence known, be observant about the presence of bears, and know what to do if they encounter a bear. Those living and recreating in bear country should consider what they can do to reduce the chances of creating attractions for bears. Information regarding all aspects of bears can be found at: http://igbconline.org.