Game & Fish: Tough call, bear had to go, too close to schools for comfort

JACKSON HOLE, WYO – Game and Fish officials said they felt no other option available when they trapped and killed a healthy 420-lb male black bear this week after it had made a habit of showing up near several schools.

Department spokesperson Mark Gocke said it is not something Game and Fish takes lightly and it is always a last resort to remove a bear from the population.

“It’s a tough decision and not one we take lightly. It is certainly an ugly part of the job,” Gocke said. “We would love for bears to stay wild and live out their life. It’s always a last resort: killing and removing.”

This particular bear, however, was acting less and less wild.

“It was becoming pretty bold and comfortable around people and activity. Being right next to all those schools with kids moving about dusk and dawn was definitely a factor.”

Trap was set for bear at the base of High School Butte.

Another strike against the bear, which Gocke called very large for Wyoming, was its track record.

“This was a repeat offender. We had trapped this bear in October 2015 in Teton Shadows after it was spotted standing on someone’s roof. It had received food reward by getting into garbage,” Gocke said.

Game and Fish relocated the bear to the south end of the Wyoming range, some 60 miles away as the crow flies. But it came back.

For about nine days the department had received reports about the bear spotted at the base of High School Butte or in Cottonwood subdivision. They set out a trap but were unable to catch it even as residents continued to take photos and videos of the bear.

“It had become a bit trap savvy,” Gocke admitted.

The bear continued to feast on crab apples and garbage until it was caught in the trap Thursday night. And the decision was made to put it down Friday morning.

“Look, we’ve had bears that feed on berries and crab apples in people’s yards and they push on once they’ve cleaned out the supply. That’s more the behavior we like to see and there are no conflicts, so we let them go. No one ever hears about that,” Gocke said. “But this bear had become localized and that starts to present a problem because sooner or later they begin to challenge people for food.”

Gocke stressed the public’s responsibility in keeping a clean property free of attractants. Wildlife activity picks up every fall around this time of year as bears, in particular, are looking to pack on calories before headed to the den for hibernation beginning in late November, early December.

“Bears are feeding 24/7,” Gocke said. “We can’t stress enough how important it is to not leave garbage out all night. You are not doing wildlife any favors.”

If you live on the outskirts of town in wildlife interface areas—even if you think you don’t—please bear-proof your property. Bird feeders, garbage, dog food. Nothing edible should be left outside. A bear’s sense of smell is legendary.

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