A hunter who was attacked by a grizzly this weekend west of Cody shot and killed the bear, wildlife officials said. Her two cubs were later euthanized by authorities.
The attack occurred Saturday morning as the man was elk hunting. He and his hunting partner had a “sudden encounter” with the bears, according to a statement from state and federal wildlife agencies. The female grizzly had not been handled by officials in the past and was unmarked.
Saturday’s mauling was the first human injury from a grizzly encounter in Wyoming this year, said Dan Smith, Cody regional wildlife supervisor for Wyoming Game and Fish.
“It was an unprovoked attack,” Smith said. “There was nothing that indicates the hunters had done anything that would provoke an attack.”
Grizzly attacks are unusual — Game and Fish has recorded 30 injuries since 2010 — but can happen unexpectedly. The hunter may have accidentally startled the bear, come too close to her cubs or approached an important food source, Smith said.
“This time of year, bears are very hyperphagic, and they're trying to put on weight before they go in to hibernate in the winter. And so if they have a food source that they're protecting, that could instigate aggressive behavior,” he said.
The hunter’s injuries were not life-threatening. He rode five miles out to a trailhead on horseback before being flown by helicopter to a hospital in Billings.
Game and Fish responded to the scene to investigate. That inquiry is ongoing under the direction of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.
The agencies jointly decided to euthanize the grizzly’s cubs. At less than a year old, they were too small to survive on their own. The young bears became aggressive when officials tried to separate them from their mother’s body, Smith said.
“Due to the remote location, the condition of the cubs and their aggressiveness, there just wasn't any other alternative. It would be what I would consider inhumane for the bears there to starve to death,” he said.
Game and Fish has not provided an update on the hunter’s condition.
“The safety of outdoor recreationists is always at the forefront of our minds,” Smith said in a statement Monday. “Our thoughts are with the individual who was injured and we wish him a full and speedy recovery.”
Grizzlies in Wyoming are protected under the federal Endangered Species Act. Gov. Mark Gordon recently announced that Wyoming will petition the Fish and Wildlife Service to remove the species’ federal protections.
If grizzlies are removed from the endangered species list, management of the animal will return to the state.