As you know, I have a long standing interest in dogs and bears and in the topic of animals eating people.

(SEE UPDATE AT END OF POST)

And now, from Montana, we have a case of a brown bear with cubs invading a camp ground, killing one person and mauling several over several minutes time. The rangers say it was a predatory attack, but the m.o. does not seem that way to me. Yet, it is also not a case of a bear going after badly stored food or being territorially threatened by humans in any direct way (but perhaps indirectly?).

When he heard the first scream in a campground outside Yellowstone National Park, Don Wilhelm thought it was just teenagers … The wildlife biologist from Texas tried to go back to sleep, stifling thoughts that a beast might be lurking outside his family’s tent.

Minutes later, another scream — this one coming from the next campsite over, where a bear had torn through a tent and sunk its teeth into Freele’s arm.

“First she said, “No!’ Then we heard her say, ‘It’s a bear! I’ve been attacked by a bear!” said Wilhelm’s wife, Paige.

By that point, the bear already had ripped into another tent a few campsites away, chomping into the leg of a teenager who had been sleeping with his family …

After a quick parental back-and-forth over whether to shield their 9- and 12-year-old sons with their bodies or make a break for it, the Wilhelms darted to their SUV.

There is a lot more detail here.

Trapped grizzlies await death sentence

… officials say they will decide the bears’ fate only after seeing the results of DNA tests that are expected Friday.

“Everything points to it being the offending bear, but we are not going to do anything until we have DNA samples,” said MFWP spokesman, Ron Aasheim….

Read the entire story HERE.

Comments

  1. #1 NoAstronomer
    July 29, 2010

    Strangely enough TV host Jack Hanna used pepper spray to ward off a grizzly cub on Saturday. When I read about this attack I initially wondered if it was the same family group.

    Then my geography sense kicked in and realized the two events were hundreds of miles apart.

    I agree that the bear almost certainly was not hunting the campers. But I bet that she was looking for food. Even if the campers food was stored safely the site would have reeked of dinner, to a bear.

  2. #2 MadScientist
    July 29, 2010

    I agree with ‘em killing the mommy bear. Like all animals, some are just nasty. I get the impression that bears further north where food is more scarce tend to be more aggresive and attack humans without provocation, but you can expect that sort of behavior in any bear. The animals I’m most paranoid about when camping are bears and big cats; snakes are easy to keep away – just zip up the tent, but bears and cats go where they please. Moose and deer aren’t pleasant either but I don’t recall any stories about those animals mauling folks in their tents (it’s usually some silly person trying to get close to deer).

  3. #3 mandas
    July 29, 2010

    Ummm MadScientist, why do you go camping if you are paranoid about bears and cats, don’t like snakes, and aren’t keen on moose and dear?

    And no – they definitely should NOT kill the bear and they should all be returned to the wild. It’s their home.

  4. #4 Greg Laden
    July 30, 2010

    Cats generally don’t maul their way through the tent. But sometimes I wonder: http://tinyurl.com/2f8spxs

  5. #6 Greg Laden
    July 30, 2010

    CalderaGal, thanks for the update. You’ve been covering Griz politics for a while now… what do you think they should do or not do?

  6. #7 CalderaGal
    July 30, 2010

    The tents and campsites were clean BUT my theory: The sow smelled the victim’s stomach contents. This was one of the theories in a fatal mauling I covered many years ago. The man had eaten a steak in West Yellowstone, MT not long before going to sleep in his tent approx. 10 miles northwest of West Yellowstone. I saw the scene and it appeared that the bear had ripped into the man’s stomach. Estimates were that the bear ate 40 pounds of the poor dude.

  7. #8 UPDATED
    July 30, 2010

    ping

  8. #9 Greg Laden
    July 30, 2010

    I find it fascinating that a piece of chipped-off tooth was found at the scene. It is important. If a bear chipped off a bit of tooth every foraging expedition, they’d starve from lack of teeth soon enough. It may well just be a fluke, but it could also indicate something else. (Like something as simple as contact with hard human made object that was not acting like a rock, or like some kind of insane bear behavior.)

  9. #10 CalderaGal
    July 30, 2010

    Thanks for asking what I think they should do. It would be – move all the bears to Central Park in NYC.

    Or ship them to Afghanistan….

    Or…kill them, stuff them, and sell them on eBay or use them for educational exhibits.

    The claws should go to the Crow Nation.

    Since they have tasted human flesh, they will try for it again unless they thought it was awful but bears will eat anything. So far, no one has successfully trained a wild bear (train-wild-oxymoron) to stop eating anything.

  10. #11 CalderaGal
    July 30, 2010

    I also wonder about the chipped tooth. Bears gnaw on all kinds of hard things – bison skulls, for example. Their teeth DO wear down and maybe the sow had a bad toothache, and that was the trigger. The bear in the other mauling incident I mentioned above was 11 years old and his teeth were quite worn. He had also been drugged repeatedly. The sow in the current story has apparently never been trapped. BUT I think, and so does a photographer friend, that she is the one many people saw all spring with FOUR cubs – one was quite small. People pressured her way too much. She may have just lost it.

  11. #12 Galdera
    August 2, 2010

    This article great!

    For a long time I have done exactly what you warn against. This article was a slap in the face – but a needed one.

    That being said, what is the value of an intuitive explanation? Is it to give a lay person an “ah-ha” moment? Is it good to have SOME understanding, even if it is “vague and mush?”

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