Thursday, July 7, 2011

The Inevitable Grizzly Bear Post

I assume that everyone has heard of Wednesday's fatal attack here by a grizzly bear who apparently felt her cubs were threatened by two hikers. I can't very well ignore the first bear-caused death in the park for twenty-five years while I'm living in the park, but I don't have any inside information. When the name of the victim was released I immediately checked to see if I might have spoken with them. I did not make their reservation but I know the woman who did.

I've never been on the Wapiti Lake Trail, but I've been within a mile or two of where the attack took place. It's very close to the Canyon Village area where I was scheduled to work and live when I first came here last year, and even closer to some of the canyon's major viewing spots where I've taken photos and which are closed at this point.

Based on the news releases I've read, it certainly seems the park is making the right decision in not killing the bear. No one wants to blame the dead man or widow but based on what I've read to date, they certainly bear some responsibility for the attack, just as I would if I had been attacked on one of the many hikes I've taken alone or without bear spray. Two people is less than the recommended number for a hiking group here, they apparently did not leave the area the first time they saw the bears, they ran when the bear charged, and there has been no mention of them having bear spray with them.

It was their fourth visit to the park and they'd apparently never seen a bear before while hiking, just as I never had until last week. Quite possibly they had the sense of false security many visitors here have, not really understanding they've left the world where humans are (usually) in control. The trail they were on provides access from the northwest to the Pelican Valley, an area well known for its grizzly population. The area was closed to camping after a woman was killed there by a bear in 1984. I've never hiked in the valley but I'm scheduled to do a short hike there from the Lake area, twenty miles south of this fatality, in a couple weeks.

This event will provide some ammunition for those who think endangered species such as wolves and grizzlies should be extinct species, but although I've seen some stupid comments on newspaper websites and sensationalistic articles with lines such as "Killer bear roaming Yellowstone backcountry", I've seen far more comments which understand that the bear was simply doing what seemed necessary. These are very different circumstances than the fatal camp attack east of the park last year and most people seem to understand that. I do think this type of event will become more common with the increased grizzly population in the area. If humans choose not to educate themselves and take all possible precautions, it will probably be much less than twenty-five years until the next fatal bear attack in the park.

I'll be hiking to a couple waterfalls tomorrow. Saturday's hike to a high peak has been changed because of all the snow still up there. Instead we'll be climbing about 2000 fewer feet but should still get a nice view of the lake (Lake is still reserved for Superior).


Woodswalker said...

Thanks for this account. Although I'm sorry the man died, I'm glad to learn the bear will not be killed. Be careful now.

greentangle said...

Thanks, Ww. Made it through a couple more hikes today with no bears in sight.