Female Black Bear Euthanized in Grand Teton National Park

July 8 , 2008
Superintendent Mary Gibson Scott announced today that park biologists euthanized a female black bear on Monday, July 7, out of concern for public safety. The bear’s increasingly bold behavior toward park visitors, and her repeated attempts to get human food, forced park officials to make the difficult decision to remove her from the population in order to reduce future threats to visitors and their safety.

The nine-year-old bear was easily identifiable because she wore a yellow eartag in her left ear. Bear #22044 was originally tagged in 2004 during a research project involving both grizzly and black bears. She had no history of nuisance behavior until 2007, when natural foods were in scant supply throughout the park.

During the past two years, the 175-pound female black bear gradually became human food-conditioned and unafraid of people. For several weeks during 2007, and especially during the last two weeks, she frequented the Colter Bay area, as well as Elk Island in the middle of Jackson Lake, roaming in search of food and getting multiple food rewards. Throughout August and early September of 2007, she actively sought and obtained human foods, and was consequently hazed several times. There were no additional incidents involving this bear until June 28 of this year, when she grabbed food from people cooking on Elk Island. After that situation, almost daily incidents occurred involving this bear and her attempts to acquire human foods. On July 1, she tore into bags of trash left at campsites in the Colter Bay campground.

Although quite habituated to people, bear #22044 had never acted aggressively toward humans until last week, when she flattened and damaged two tents in the Colter Bay campground. In each case, people were not in the tents at the time of the incident; however, food had been left unattended inside one of the tents. She also put her paws onto another tent as if she was going to crush it. Her recent behavior—combined with the potential for her to become a risk to human safety—contributed to the decision to permanently remove her from the population. This bear was not a good candidate for relocation because of her well-established habit of seeking out human food sources within developed areas.

Once again, park officials strongly remind visitors that proper disposal of garbage and storage of food items is extremely important. Thoughtless actions of people can literally lead to a life or death situation for bears that easily become corrupted by the availability of human food and garbage. Once a bear acquires human food, it often loses its fear of people and may become dangerous. Human carelessness doesn’t just endanger people; it can also result in a bear’s death.

Bears are active in areas of high visitor use, as well as in the backcountry. For the health and safety of all bears, as well as that of park visitors, please adhere to the following rules: Never leave food or backpacks unattended, even for a minute; use available storage facilities when camping, or secure food in your car; dispose of garbage in bear-proof garbage cans, provided at all campgrounds; when camping in the park’s backcountry, use the approved, portable bear-proof food canisters; never run from a bear, and do not drop your backpack if a bear charges you.

Detailed information about how to behave in bear country is available at park visitor centers and ranger stations. Please take the time to educate yourself about bear safety before enjoying the park. Through information and proper actions, you may help save the life of a bear.