Elk Hunters Shoot and Kill Charging Grizzly Bear in Self Defense

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Two archery elk hunters are alive and one grizzly bear is dead after a run-in in Island Park, Idaho on September 1. The men were stalking through thick brush west of the Island Park Reservoir when they ran into a large boar grizzly at close range. It took shots fired from sidearms carried by both men to kill the surprised bear as it charged them.

Neither hunter was harmed during the bear encounter, according to a press release issued yesterday by the Idaho Department of Fish & Game, and they alerted authorities as soon as the bear was down. When investigators arrived on the scene, they declared the incident a case of self defense.

Conflicts between grizzlies and humans have been occurring with some frequency this summer in the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem (GYE), which includes Yellowstone and Grand Teton National Parks plus portions of Idaho, Montana and Wyoming. Back in July, a woman was killed by a grizzly in West Yellowstone, Montana—just over the border from Island Park, Idaho—while she hiked on a popular trail without bear spray.

A surveyor in nearby Wyoming survived a grizzly mauling in August. And just last week, an angler shot and killed a bear in a self defense encounter north of Yellowstone National Park on private land in Montana’s Tom Miner Basin.

Earlier today, Montana Fish, Wildlife & Parks said in a press release that a sow grizzly bear with a history of conflict was euthanized after it broke into a West Yellowstone home with its cub in tow. It is now believed that that was the same bear that attacked and killed 48-year-old Amie Adamson on a West Yellowstone trail back in July.

Recent conflicts aside, historical data show the odds of being attacked by a grizzly are still slim for the general public. According to the Interagency Grizzly Bear Study Team, 85 percent of all documented bear mortalities in the GYE are human-caused. It is illegal to kill Greater Yellowstone grizzlies because they are federally protected by the Endangered Species Act. But exceptions are made when grizzlies attack people or pose bodily risk—as was the case in the recent incident in Island Park.

The potential for conflict between bears and humans increases when hunting season opens, especially for bowhunters who move quietly through thick cover and can easily surprise a bear. That’s why many bowhunters carry guns when they hunt. Carrying bear spray is also recommended.

Read Next: Watch a Grizzly Bear Maul a Black Bear in Canada

Of the 48 Greater Yellowstone grizzlies found dead in 2022, only one is known to have been killed by a hunter. That was a case of mistaken identity. Most of the other mortalities are caused by bears getting into trouble and prompting safety concerns around people.



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