The first part of the year is usually a time where the paths of humans and grizzly bears don’t cross very often. 2020 is proving to be much different and much more dangerous.
According to the Associated Press, there have been seven human-grizzly incidents resulting in injuries. The previous high was three injuries in 2007 and the norm is one.
The latest encounter happened southwest of Cody, Wyoming, in the Shoshone National Forest where a hiker came across a grizzly in a day bed. The animal attacked him before he had the chance to deploy his bear spray. The man suffered injuries to his chest and arm but was able to hike out to safety.
“We don’t have the numbers yet, but we know that there have been a lot of recreationists out on public lands, especially during the time when the parks were closed,” Frank van Manen, Interagency Grizzly Bear Study Team supervisor, told the Associated Press while referencing COVID-19-related closures. “Future years will tell us whether this is indeed usually an outlier, but I think it’s certainly a reasonable hypothesis.”
The vast majority of human-grizzly encounters happen during the fall when hunting season takes place.
The Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation agrees with professional wildlife managers that the population, currently numbering more than 700, surpassed all recovery criteria and is recovered. Despite meeting delisting thresholds, Yellowstone area grizzly bears remain under federal protection as they undergo further scrutiny. RMEF maintains that grizzlies should be managed by state wildlife agencies just like they manage elk, wolves, deer, black bears and other species.
(Photo source: Wyoming Game and Fish Department)