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Sports >  Outdoors

Expect grizzly encounters from spring to fall, bear specialist warns

Grizzly bear 399 and her four cubs feed on a deer carcass in southern Jackson Hole, Wyo., on Nov. 17.  (RYAN DORGAN)
Grizzly bear 399 and her four cubs feed on a deer carcass in southern Jackson Hole, Wyo., on Nov. 17. (RYAN DORGAN)
By Brett French The Billings Gazette

BILLINGS – The mauling of a West Yellowstone man by a grizzly bear on April 15 drives home the message that recreationists need to be on the lookout for bears no matter the season.

“With the onslaught of humans going outdoors and bear numbers up and geographically expanding, awareness has to be from spring to fall,” said Kevin Frey, a bear management specialist for the Montana Department of Fish, Wildlife & Parks in Bozeman.

“By April, you have got to put grizzly bears back in the forefront of your thoughts when you go outdoors,” he added.

Male bears can leave hibernation in March. Female bears and females with cubs leave later in the spring. The area where the attack occurred is just north of Yellowstone National Park, a stronghold for an estimated 1,000 grizzly bears.

Charles “Carl” W. Mock IV, age 40, died last week following surgery at the Eastern Idaho Regional Medical Center for the injuries he sustained in the Thursday attack, according to the Gallatin County Sheriff’s Office.

The day after the mauling, Frey, a group of FWP wardens, Forest Service officials, a dog and a bear management technician were charged by the bear while investigating the site. The bear was shot and killed.

Frey noted he’s been charged by a bear many times over the years, but never with a group that large. In past incidents, the bears often pulled up or turned away in what’s known as a bluff charge. After a mauling, bears usually tend to leave the area.

As with many things involving the outdoors and recreation these days, Frey said he is concerned that with more people playing in the outdoors who are unfamiliar with taking precautions in bear country, there is a heightened chance that more human-bear encounters could occur.

“If there are enough people out there, it’s hard for a bear to avoid people all day long,” he said.

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