May 29, 2007 in City

Grizzly surprised photographer

Associated Press The Spokesman-Review

LIVINGSTON, Mont. – A nature photographer mauled last week by a sow grizzly bear in Yellowstone National Park had no time to use pepper spray against the animal, a friend said Sunday.

Jim Cole “does remember trying to grab his bear spray,” Michael Sanders said. “He said that he assumed that he startled the bear and the bear startled him.”

Sanders’ remarks about Cole’s experience came in a telephone interview shortly after he met with reporters here as Cole remained in Eastern Idaho Regional Medical Center in Idaho Falls. He was flown there after the attack, underwent surgery Thursday and was in serious condition Sunday. Work included reinserting his left eye, Sanders said.

Park officials have said Cole, 57, of Bozeman, was photographing bears Wednesday in prime grizzly habitat within Yellowstone’s Hayden Valley. He was hiking alone, off a trail, and was two or three miles from a road when the female bear with a single cub attacked, the officials said.

Cole began talking on Saturday, Sanders said.

“He does remember topping a ridge in Hayden Valley, near the Trout Creek area,” Sanders said. He said Cole reported that the bear “came out of nowhere.”

The bear struck Cole in the face and besides knocking out the left eye, the animal seriously damaged facial bones and skin, Sanders said.

“His recollection was that the bear hit him like putty,” he said.

Sanders said Cole reported that he was not photographing the bear before the attack.

The mauling Wednesday was the second time Cole has been attacked by a grizzly.

In 1993, he surprised a young bear in Montana’s Glacier National Park. That bear tore a hole in Cole’s scalp and broke his wrist before a friend used pepper spray.

Cole wrote about the experience in his 2004 book, “Lives of Grizzlies: Montana and Wyoming.”

“I figured this was as traumatic an experience for the young bruin as it was for me,” he wrote.

Cole has written and taken photos for two books about grizzly bears.

“I want to document natural grizzly behavior, not bears reacting to humans,” Cole wrote in 2004.

“All the same, as careful as I try to be, I certainly have made my share of mistakes.”

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