Man injured by Grizzly at Grand Teton National Park
Surprises sow with three cubs feeding on an elk carcass
by Grand Teton National Park news release
June 14, 2007
Dennis VanDenbos, a 54-year-old resident of Lander, Wyoming, was injured by a grizzly bear at approximately 6:00 a.m. on Wednesday, June 13, while walking on the Wagon Road just below the corrals at Jackson Lake Lodge in Grand Teton National Park.
VanDenbos surprised grizzly bear #399 and her three cubs, who were feeding on a freshly-killed elk carcass. The attack likely resulted from a defensive response by a bear, while protecting its food source. At this time, no adverse action will be taken against the bear involved in this incident.
VanDenbos took an early morning walk at approximately 5:30 a.m., and was returning to his room at the lodge when the incident occurred. He was reported watching an elk off to his right, then noticing the sow and her cubs approaching to his left, within ten feet of him. VanDenbos yelled, but one of the bears continued toward him; he yelled again, then jumped off the trail and laid on his stomach in a submissive posture. At this point, the bear inflicted puncture wounds and lacerations to VanDenbos before it was frightened off by the shouting of a Lodge Company wrangler, who was nearby at the time.
The wrangler administered emergency medical assistance to VanDenbos until park rangers arrived on the scene. A park ambulance then transported VanDenbos to St. John’s Medical Center in Jackson for treatment of his injuries.
Park officials have posted closures for the Wagon Road and trails in the Willow Flats area below Jackson Lake Lodge. Signs state that the area is closed due to bears frequenting the vicinity. The Wagon Road and trail closures will likely be in effect until the end of June, during the remainder of the elk calving season.
The sow grizzly #399 and her three yearling cubs have been utilizing habitat in and around the Willow Flats area since emerging from hibernation this spring. This bear family has frequently been visible along park roadsides between Colter Bay and the Oxbow Bend turnout of the Snake River, one mile east of Jackson Lake Junction. These are not the only bears in the area; several other bears—black and grizzly—are also utilizing habitat in this location.
This is the first bear incident involving injuries in Grand Teton National Park this year. The last time a grizzly injured a person in the park was in October of 2001, when a hunter from Minnesota surprised a bear on “Schoolhouse Hill,” north of Moran Junction. That same year, a local resident was injured by a grizzly bear in March while backcountry skiing in the Upper Berry Creek area of the park. A previous grizzly-related injury in Grand Teton happened in August of 1994, when a jogger from Utah was attacked on the Emma Matilda Lake Trail.
Park officials remind visitors that encounters with bears—both black and grizzly bears—are a distinct possibility in Grand Teton. Black and grizzly bears both range throughout the park and have been observed in many locations, including both back-country and front-country areas. Visitors are advised to ensure their own safety, as well as that of bears, by being “bear aware” and taking precautions such as:
• be alert for signs of bears and bear activity
• avoid surprising bears or other wildlife by making noise while hiking
• carry pepper spray and have it easily accessible for use
• never approach a bear for any reason
• do not run from bears, and do not drop your pack if a bear charges
In addition, traveling alone in bear country is not recommended and extra caution should be used when traveling during dawn and dusk. Complete information on how to behave in bear country is available in the park’s newspaper, Teewinot, at park visitor centers and ranger stations, and online at www.nps.gov/grte.
Editor's Note: The Wind River Mountains, Wyoming Range and Gros Ventre Wilderness also are known grizzly bear habitat. The same precautions mentioned above for the national park are good precautions for anyone recreating in the backcountry of the mountains of our Upper Green River Valley near Pinedale and in Sublette County.