Bear attacks are rare. But, they don’t always seem so because when an incident like what happened yesterday a few miles outside of Yellowstone’s east gate finds the airwaves, it tends to become pretty big news for a couple of days. And, more often than not, there are extenuating circumstances. In this particular case, there is a very good chance the bear’s recent interaction with researchers had something to do with an erratic mindset. And maybe that’s a stretch, but truthfully, most experts don’t know exactly why some bears run when they see people, others false charge or others make contact. Remember, Tim Treadwell lived with them for years before he was surprised in his tent by a bear he had interacted with countless times.
While terribly unfortunate, the gentleman in this particular absence should not have been hiking alone. Then again, he seemed to be close by to his cabin and most likely had walked that trail countless times without so much as coming across a pile of scat.
I’m in the midst of planning a Grand Teton/Yellowstone trip that will include a couple of days in the Teton backcountry. Bear precautions are not something to take lightly. “Oh, they can’t really smell my toothpaste, it’s fine in my bag.” Wrong. In the end though, a grizzly is a fierce, wild animal. So all the bear hangs, canisters, electric fences and cans of pepper spray in the world are not going to stop a grizzly intent on ransacking your rations or in the worst case, ransacking you.
My wife, naturally, is now a bit worried about my trip. She’s been out there with me before and has seen a number of bears. I can’t play the “Oh, hardly anyone sees a bear” card. I just have to be a smart hiker cognizant of what’s around me. And hopefully, lucky.