JACKSON, Wyo. — Wyoming wildlife officials captured and killed a grizzly bear in northern Grand Teton National Park last week. The bear had a record of habituating to food accessible in human-populated areas which might have lead to dangerous human contact if continued.
Mark Gocke, Public Information Specialist for Wyoming Game and Fish, said the bear first started causing mischief years ago.
“It had started getting into garbage and other bird feeders way back in 2015,” Gocke said.
That’s when officials first chose to relocate the bear.
“We captured it then as a four-year-old male grizzly bear in a subdivision north of town, by the airport.”
The bear was relocated to the Pilgrim Creek drainage in Grand Teton National Park. Within a month, it had returned to human-populated areas. Having recognized the bear by its ear tags, 802, officials decided to relocate the bear again.
This time bear 802 was relocated a little west of an area between GTNP and Yellowstone. A GPS collar was put on the bear for tracking purposes. Lo and behold, the GPS collar had fallen off 802 after only around two months.
By 2017, the bear was back to where it had been before.
“It came back to the same place we tracked it originally because it didn’t forget food rewards,” Gocke said.
Bear 802 expanded its range outwards to Kelly and ended up near Dubois where it was captured and relocated a third time.
The bear had continued wandering into human-populated areas but started recognizing and avoiding traps.
After trying to capture it for three years, officials finally trapped bear 802 for the last time. This time, after repeated incidents, they decided to euthanize it. Gocke said that the bear’s reoccurrences of seeking out human food sources were not going to stop.
“We gave the bear ample opportunity to live its life as a wild bear and it kept coming back to human foods and people.”
Although the bear was acting up, there are still things humans can do to help prevent bears habituating to human food sources.
“It’s a good reminder of a few things. We really need to make sure things like bird feeders and garbage is unavailable to them,” Gocke said.
Bears are more dangerous when they become habituated to human food sources. They tend to be less afraid of humans and the chances of attacks are greatly increased. Gocke recommends that people be mindful of the food that may attract bears like birdfeeders, garbage, and livestock or pet food.
“Make sure your garbage isn’t overflowing and that you do not set garbage bags outside of the container. Waiting until the morning to put out the garbage instead of at night can be helpful.”
Bears are also known to be in regions closer to human-populated areas this time of year.
“It’s also a good reminder that bears are out of their dens and active. This time of year there is still snow high up so bears are low,” Gocke said.
If you or someone you know happens to see a bear near town, please contact Wyoming Game and Fish immediately.
“The sooner we hear about a bear in a developed area, the quicker we can address the situation and have more manageable options,” Gocke said. “This bear’s behavior led to an option that’s the last resort, we would like to be able to move these bears and give them a chance to live out in the wild before they become more habituated to human food.”