Black Bear Cub Killed by Vehicle in Grand Teton

September 17, 2010
A female black bear cub was hit and killed by a motorist about
10 p.m. Wednesday, September 15, on Highway 26/89/191 just north of the junction for Meadow Road in Grand Teton National Park. The young cub of the year was following its mother and a sibling cub across the highway when it was hit by a resident of Moran, Wyoming.

The local driver reported the incident and waited on scene for the arrival of a park ranger. According to the Code of Federal Regulations, a motor vehicle operator is required to report an accident involving property damage, personal injury, or death—which includes the injury or death of wildlife. The driver told the ranger that he swerved to avoid the animals crossing the road, but hit the cub that was the last in line.

This is the second bear fatality caused by a vehicle on park roads this year. In early June, a 3 1/2-year-old male grizzly bear was hit and killed on Highway 89/191 just south of the Spread Creek Bridge. Three other incidents involving vehicles hitting bears have also been reported this summer. On August 13, a black bear cub was hit on Highway 89/191 near the Snake River Overlook, but it ran away and its welfare after the accident is unknown. Two other bears (unverified species) were hit by vehicles: one incident occurred on July 26 near Pilgrim Creek Road, and the other happened August 19 south of the Triangle X Ranch. In both cases, the bears ran away from the accident scene with unknown injuries.

Each year in Grand Teton, an average of one or more bears (grizzly and/or black bears) are involved in vehicle collisions that result in the injury or death of the animal. In the past five years, vehicle-related deaths of bears include: 2006, one black bear; 2007, two black bears and one grizzly bear cub; 2009, one black bear; and 2010, one grizzly bear, one black bear cub, and one black bear cub and two other bears (unverified species) that were injured but left the scene.

These encounters between vehicles and bears —among other wildlife accidents—serve as a reminder that animals actively cross and use park roads. Motorists are reminded to drive the posted speed limit and be prepared to stop suddenly for wildlife along or on park roadways. Driving slower than indicated speed limits—especially at night—can increase the margin of safety for people and animals. Collisions between motor vehicles and wildlife may result in severe damage to a vehicle, serious or fatal injuries to the occupants of that vehicle, and/or death for the animal involved.

In addition to bears, other wildlife such as wolves, elk, moose, bison, deer, pronghorn antelope, as well as smaller creatures such as beavers, marmots, and porcupines may also be encountered on or near park roads. Many of these animals have been killed by vehicle collisions during the past few months. As of the first week of August, a total of 107 animals have been hit and killed on park roads, compared to 71 animals killed during the same period in 2009.

More than 35 animals have been killed this year compared to last and the fall migration has yet to begin. Wildlife mortalities from vehicles generally increase during the fall and spring migration of large animals such as elk, bison, moose and deer.

Vehicles take a significant toll on park wildlife, resulting in the deaths of well over 100 animals per year.