Death of Mark Uptain by grizzly: What we now know

JACKSON HOLE, WYO – Details about the bear attack that left a local guide dead over the weekend are beginning to trickle in but questions remain as authorities stress the investigation is still ongoing.

As initially reported, a grizzly bear attack on an elk hunter and his guide wounded the client hunter Corey Chubon, from Florida, and left the guide, Mark Uptain, dead. His body was recovered yesterday from the scene in Turpin Meadows at approximately 1:15pm.

Undersheriff Matt Carr

After interviews and visiting the scene, Undersheriff Matt Carr said Uptain was rushed by a grizzly bear in “a very aggressive manner.”

“They were field dressing this elk. They were in thick timber and this bear was on them very quickly,” Carr said. “There was apparently no time to react.”

Carr said bear spray was found onscene but declined to comment on whether it was deployed. A Glock handgun belonging to Uptain was also recovered at the scene. Carr would not divulge whether that weapon had been fired, citing the ongoing investigation, but added initial indications pointed to it not ever being used.

Carr would not detail the extent of Uptain’s injuries, only indicating external evidence was consistent with a bear mauling. Teton County Coroner Brent Blue said it is listing the preliminary cause of death as “head and chest trauma.”

After the attack, Chubon was able to climb up to a ridgeline in order to make a 911 call. Carr said the call came in clear from an area he was surprised a signal could even be obtained.

Brad Hovinga

Game and Fish officials confirmed the capture and killing of two grizzly bears in the area. Jackson Region Wildlife Supervisor Brad Hovinga said a sow and grown cub were caught and killed early this morning. It is not known whether they were the bears involved but given the proximity it appears likely.

“Game and Fish officials have every reason to believe they were the two bears involved in the incident, and they were killed,” Game and Fish spokesman Mark Gocke told Buckrail.

Speculation on whether the bears had been involved in recent relocation from Cody or other parts of the state was quickly addressed by Gocke.

“There was nothing indicating either of these bears had been previously handled by the Game and Fish Department,” Gocke said.

Bear attacks rare, fatality rarer

It is the first fatality by bear in Wyoming in almost three years. Lance Crosby, 63, was found by Yellowstone Park Rangers on August 7, 2015, after he did not show up for work.

Crosby’s partially eaten body was found off-trail area less than a mile from Elephant Back Loop Trail, an area he was known to frequent. Puncture wounds on his arms indicated he had tried to defend himself.

Based on the presence of a sow grizzly and a cub in the area, the sow was deemed responsible for the attack. The sow was captured and euthanized after it was found to be the bear that killed Crosby.

The last grizzly bear attack resulting in a fatality in Bridger-Teton National Forest was recorded on September 4, 2014 when Adam Stewart, 31, was found dead in Cub Creek.

Stewart was conducting research alone in the Bridger-Teton in northwest Wyoming near the SE corner of Yellowstone National Park. After he failed to return, a search found his body. A coroner suspected it was a grizzly bear, but the species was never officially determined. The pathologist noted premortem punctures to Stewart’s skull, indicating the cause of death was from a bear attack. Stewart was not carrying bear spray or a firearm.

How you can help the Uptain family

Mark Uptain

Undersheriff Carr said his department’s hearts go out to the Uptain family and he is not alone in that sentiment. Carr praised the professionalism of all involved in the search and recovery mission including Teton County Sheriff’s Office, Search and Rescue, Game and Fish, and Bridger-Teton NF.

A GoFundMe account has been set up for the Uptain family. In 20 hours it has already reached nearly $30,000 of its target goal of $50,000.

Mark leaves behind wife, Sarah, and five kids.

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