Grand Teton National Park officials euthanized a male black bear on Friday, October 29, out of concern for public safety. The bear gained entry into the main lodge building at Triangle X Ranch on Tuesday evening, October 26, and tracks indicated that it also visited and “nosed around” several other cabins on the property. It returned to the ranch attempting to get inside the main lodge on Wednesday evening as well as Thursday night, when it was captured in a culvert trap. The bear damaged a portion of the lodge roof in its attempts to gain entry into the building, received food rewards, and appeared to have little concern for the presence of humans and their activities at the ranch. This human-food conditioned and habituated behavior forced park officials to make the difficult decision to remove the bear from the population in order to reduce future threats to people and their safety.
The eight to ten-year-old black bear weighed 177 pounds, but was slightly underweight. The bear’s history and previous habits are unknown; it did not have ear tags or other identification that would mark it as a previously captured bear. However, a bear with a similar description got into a dumpster at Dornan’s earlier this year. Park officials are following up with Triangle X Ranch representatives to determine why the bear received food rewards and to mitigate any identified problems.
After transporting the captured bear to park headquarters to gather information on its physical condition (weight, tooth wear, blood samples, etc.), park biologist discovered that both the trap and the bear were inexplicably coated with bear spray. Park rangers subsequently questioned ranch managers about this situation and learned that one of the ranch employees disobeyed an agreement to not approach the trap, and also discharged a canister of bear spray at the animal early Thursday morning while it was confined in the trap. An investigation into this incident is ongoing; however, the individual ranch employee was issued a mandatory court appearance for cruelty to animals and will appear before the federal magistrate on these charges.
This is the only bear euthanized in Grand Teton National Park this year. In fact, park rangers and biologists did not capture or taken any management actions on bears—black or grizzly—during the past year. The availability and relative abundance of naturally occurring berries may have helped to keep bears in undeveloped portions of the park and away from developed areas and human food sources.
Once a bear acquires human food, it often loses its fear of people and may become dangerous. Park officials strongly remind local residents and visitors that proper storage of food items and disposal of garbage 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. Human carelessness doesn’t just endanger people; it can also result in a bear’s death.
Bears roam near park developments and throughout the backcountry. Consequently, for the health and safety of bears and people, park visitors and local residents must adhere to food storage rules. Detailed information about how to behave in bear country is available at park visitor centers or online at www.nps.gov/grte. With information and proper actions, people can help keep a bear from becoming human-food conditioned and possibly save its life.