griz shooters won’t face charges

The shooting was the first ever of a grizzly inside the park, but the third conflict in little over a year between hunters and grizzlies near the Snake.

Following a three-month investigation by Grand Teton National Park, the U.S. Attorney’s Office has decided not to press charges against three hunters who shot and killed a grizzly bear on Thanksgiving morning.

The investigation found that the hunters — David Trembly, 48, of Dubois, and his two sons, ages 20 and 17 — hit the bear with bullets and pepper spray “at nearly the same instant,” according to a park release. The report, made in consultation with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, concludes the three acted in self-defense, and the encounter lasted fewer than 10 seconds.

The bear was a male, estimated to be 18 to 20 years old, and weighed 534 pounds. It had been feeding on an elk carcass nearby and likely was defending its food, biologists said.

From the park release (full text below):

According to interviews, the hunting party left the parking area at Schwabacher Landing at first light and had just entered into a timbered area in the Snake River bottom, slightly north of Schwabacher Landing and west of Teton Point Overlook, when the oldest of the group first noticed the bear. Although he tried to scare the bear off, it began to charge the group from 42 yards away. One member of the group described the grizzly bear as moving “like a cat,” incredibly fast, snapping tree branches, and moving very low to the ground.

All three hunters had bear spray readily accessible. The oldest member of the group immediately began deploying his bear spray while the two younger hunters raised their rifles. When the grizzly bear came within 10 feet of the young men, they both fired shots. Three bullets impacted the grizzly — one on the back and two in the head — and immediately dropped the animal to the ground.

Terrifying, no doubt. Even if the park doesn’t cave to critics and end the “elk reduction program,” hunters ought to think long and hard before entering the river bottom next fall. Wounded elk who escape the flats often run down there to die, providing ample food for grizzlies and other predators. The bruins also follow a trail of gut piles left behind by hunters, putting those tiptoeing through the woods in danger of a close encounter.

The park said wildlife managers are “reviewing steps that might be taken to reduce such incidents in the future.”

(Give credit to the park: It only took 15 weeks for the results of this investigation to be made public, in contrast to the roughly 168 days it took the Forest Service to release details about the cause of the Little Horsethief Fire, only after the News&Guide filed a Freedom of Information Act request.)

The full park release:

Investigation Results Made Public in 2012 Grizzly Bear Shooting at Grand Teton National Park

MOOSE, WY — In consultation with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Grand Teton National Park law enforcement rangers completed their comprehensive investigation into the fatal shooting of a grizzly bear on Thanksgiving morning, 2012 by three hunters participating in the park’s elk reduction program. As the final step in the process, the United States Attorney’s Office has determined that no criminal charges will be filed against the hunters involved in this incident.

Although Grand Teton National Park managers regret the loss of an adult male grizzly bear due to human activities, it is important to note that the hunters involved in the incident made sound decisions after their bear encounter ended. They immediately reported the situation to park authorities and fully cooperated with the ensuing investigation, which concluded that the overall encounter lasted less than 10 seconds. During that brief time, the hunters deployed bear spray and discharged firearms against the charging grizzly. Park rangers and science and resource management personnel believe that both the bear spray and bullets contacted the grizzly bear at nearly the same instant. The totality of circumstances indicated that the hunters were forced to make rapid decisions in close proximity to the bear, and they acted in self-defense. Based on the facts of the case and this determination, no criminal charges will be filed for using a firearm [36 CFR 2.4 (a)(1)(iii)], or taking of wildlife [36 CFR 2.2 (a)(1)].

At 7:25 a.m. on November 22, 2012, two Grand Teton National Park rangers on routine patrol, and making hunter contacts at Teton Point Overlook, reported hearing five gun shots in less than 5 seconds; the first two shots were followed in rapid succession by three more. At 7:32 a.m., a woman called the Teton Interagency Dispatch Center to report that her husband and sons had been charged by a grizzly bear and they shot at the animal. She also reported that they were in the process of hiking out from the location where the shooting occurred, and she informed the dispatcher that no people were injured.

Park law enforcement rangers and wildlife biologists responded and began a systematic investigation into the incident. Rangers met with the hunting party and all three men fully cooperated with the investigation. The three hunters (ages 48, 20 and 17), all from Wyoming, had permits to participate in the elk reduction program at Grand Teton National Park. All three carried bear spray as required for this wildlife management program.

According to interviews, the hunting party left the parking area at Schwabacher Landing at first light and had just entered into a timbered area in the Snake River bottom, slightly north of Schwabacher Landing and west of Teton Point Overlook, when the oldest of the group first noticed the bear. Although he tried to scare the bear off, it began to charge the group from 42 yards away. One member of the group described the grizzly bear as moving “like a cat,” incredibly fast, snapping tree branches, and moving very low to the ground.

All three hunters had bear spray readily accessible. The oldest member of the group immediately began deploying his bear spray while the two younger hunters raised their rifles. When the grizzly bear came within 10 feet of the young men, they both fired shots. Three bullets impacted the grizzly—one on the back and two in the head—and immediately dropped the animal to the ground. During the investigation, a partially consumed and cached elk carcass was discovered 50 yards away, leading park biologists to conclude that the bear was defending its food source. The fatally injured male bear weighed 534 pounds and was estimated to be 18 to 20 years old.

Since the elk reduction program began in 1950, this is the first grizzly bear killed by hunters in Grand Teton National Park. The largest source of known grizzly bear mortalities in Grand Teton have actually resulted from vehicle collisions, with a total of five grizzlies killed on park roads during 2005-2012 alone. To date, encounters between humans and grizzly bears that resulted in injuries to people are relatively uncommon. However, during the last 20 years as the Yellowstone ecosystem grizzly bear population has recovered and regained formerly occupied habitat (including in Grand Teton National Park) bear maulings have increased. Grand Teton has documented six attacks since 1994 when a jogger was mauled on the Emma Matilda Lake trail. Other maulings occurred in 2001, 2007 and 2011. A mauling also occurred in the John D. Rockefeller, Jr. Memorial Parkway in 1997. None of these bear attacks resulted in fatal injuries to humans.

A final note: All hunters participating in the elk reduction program in Grand Teton National Park are provided a safety packet with bear information. The following guidelines are suggested for participating hunters:

    • Hunt with a partner.
    • Carry bear spray (required).
    • Avoid “dark” timber during mid-day when bears may be using a day-bed.
    • Have a predetermined plan of action for retrieving harvested game from the field.
    • Be extra cautious after making a kill and when hunting in areas where animals have recently been harvested.
    • Avoid hunting in areas where fresh bear sign is repeatedly observed.
    • Avoid gut piles.

Although possessing and carrying firearms in national parks is legal, the “use” of firearms is still prohibited under 36 CFR 2.4 (a)(1)(iii), unless permitted for specific purposes such as the elk reduction program. As a condition of their participation in the elk reduction program, hunters are only permitted to shoot an elk.

In light of this incident involving the fatal shooting of a grizzly bear — the first ever recorded in Grand Teton National Park — managers are reviewing steps that might be taken to reduce such incidents in the future.

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Posted under Crime, Environment, Politics, Sports

13 Comments so far

  1. Jon March 7, 2013 10:32 pm

    Pressure under fire.Damn good shooting

  2. dave March 8, 2013 6:15 am

    kudos to the male protecting his offspring.

  3. D March 8, 2013 8:47 am

    Thank God! I can’t believe the possibility was even on the table. NO one in their right mind wants to shot a Griz. It’s a huge headache / complete circus, but you have to defend yourself.

  4. Steve March 8, 2013 9:29 am

    Sounds like they did everything right. I’d say 10 feet is a little too close for comfort. Unless you’re sitting on top of of your SUV taking pictures and blocking traffic that is.

  5. whakka whakka March 11, 2013 10:05 am

    Every trail runner and hiker should carry a gun.

    Yes I’m kidding.

  6. eilish palmer March 11, 2013 7:43 pm

    I had considered a photography trip to Grand Teton National Park to photograph at Schwabacher Landing. I’m afraid to venture into the area if bears are being attracted to the area by hunters gut piles. I’ll be going elsewhere now.

  7. D March 12, 2013 1:10 pm

    Eilish

    If you do a little research you will find that this hunt is only in the fall, maybe one or two months a year. That leaves you 10 out of 12 months to take your trip. You do understand that bears and other predators kill prey year round, and that also involves “gut piles” right? Bears are spread throughout the region year round, and that’s what many Photographers come to take pictures of. I suggest not taking a trip a National Park if you’re that terrified of the wildlife.

  8. joe March 12, 2013 2:39 pm

    one wonders how many potential visitors that blogs like these scare away. guess the only place to take pictures or recreate during the Park hunting season must be Schwabachers

  9. Jim Stanford March 13, 2013 10:10 am

    Update: The park just announced a series of changes for the elk hunt. Most notably, the river bottom between Deadman’s Bar and Ditch Creek (including Schwabacher area) will be closed to hunting, which makes a lot of sense. Instead, the Gros Ventre River bottom will be opened. Also, there will be a limit on ammunition, to reduce machine gunning of running herds in the flats. Here’s the park press release:

    Changes in Store for Grand Teton National Park Elk Reduction Program

    MOOSE, WY — Grand Teton National Park officials plan to implement changes in the 2013 elk reduction program (ERP)—a National Park Service (NPS) wildlife management program conducted in collaboration with the Wyoming Game and Fish Department (WGFD) and designed to help regulate the Jackson elk herd. These changes will be made in part to reduce the chance of grizzly bear-hunter encounters.

    On Thanksgiving Day, 2012, an adult grizzly bear was shot and killed by hunters participating in Grand Teton National Park’s ERP. This incident followed a 2011 mauling of a hunter by a grizzly bear in the same area. Grizzly bear-hunter conflicts in Grand Teton have escalated as the distribution and density of grizzly bears has increased.

    Grand Teton National Park’s establishing 1950 legislation provides for the controlled reduction of elk in the park, when necessary, for the conservation of the Jackson elk herd. Conditions that resulted in this legislation, as it pertains to elk management, persist today. These conditions include large numbers of elk from several herd segments that migrate through the park during the fall, and a continuing need for regulation of the Jackson elk herd to reach the objective of 11,000 animals established by the WGFD and the 2007 Bison and Elk Management Plan. Furthermore, park harvests have contributed about one-quarter of the annual Jackson elk herd harvest in recent years.

    Actions to be executed for the 2013 ERP include:

    1. Limiting possession of ammunition to seven cartridges daily to decrease the potential for elk “wounding loss,” as the adjacent National Elk Refuge (NER) has required for several years.

    2. Limiting the number of shots fired by a hunter at a group of running elk, also to decrease the potential for elk “wounding loss.”

    3. Requiring the use of non-lead ammunition by hunters—who are deputized rangers while they participate in the ERP. Beginning in 2009, the NPS required the use of non-lead ammunition by park rangers for all culling operations and for the dispatching of sick or wounded animals. Requiring non-lead ammunition will help reduce lead contamination throughout the park environment, where researchers have documented ingestion of lead from bullets by eagles and other scavengers.

    4. Closing the portion of the Snake River bottom between the Deadman’s Bar river access road and Ditch Creek to decrease the probability of grizzly bear-hunter conflicts in an area of thick timber and poor visibility.

    5. Opening to hunting the area between the Gros Ventre River and the road to Kelly, immediately adjacent to the NER and between Gros Ventre Junction and a point just west of the Gros Ventre campground. This measure is designed to increase elk harvest and replace the loss of hunt areas due to closure of the river bottom.

    6. Opening Hunt Area 79 to Type IV Hunt Area 75 license holders for two weeks at the beginning of the ERP season to focus on Grand Teton summer-resident elk and to spread out the hunters.

  10. D March 13, 2013 11:45 am

    All sound fine to me. Plus I never plan on hunting the park anyways.

  11. joe March 14, 2013 1:17 pm

    nice to see the GTNP rise above the editorial hysteria. good job.

  12. Bits March 15, 2013 6:43 pm

    As a friend of the shooters, I want to correct an error in the narrative: the bear was 42 FEET from the hunters when he discovered them, NOT 42 YARDS from them. This is what they told me and can be verified with the Park Service unless I somehow misunderstood them.

    Also, Dad had no gun because he had already gotten his elk, so all he had for protection was the bear spray.

    It appears to me that his sons did only what they had to do and did it extremely well in a truly terrifying situation.

  13. Russ April 5, 2013 11:27 am

    Having come face to face with a griz in the wild befor, sometimes you can just back away slowly & sometimes you can’t, it’s to bad all could not have walked away.

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