By Sarah Elmquist Squires
He didn’t even have time to deploy his bear spray.
While conducting survey work in the Shoshone National Forest northwest of Dubois, the victim encountered a lone grizzly bear at close range on August 5. Once the bear made contact, the man followed expert ursine advice to a T for such an encounter: He laid face-down on the ground and covered his head.
After the grizzly left the area, the victim, who suffered what officials called “minor” injuries, was able to walk back to his truck and called 911 at just before noon. The Fremont County Sheriff’s Office and an ambulance responded to the call and notified Wyoming Game and Fish. The victim was flown from the area by air ambulance.
Game and Fish workers conducted a brief interview with the victim before he was transported, and based on that initial information, said it appeared to be a “sudden, surprise encounter” at close range. Officials deployed a drone to search the area, in the Sheridan Creek drainage, but were unable to locate the lone grizzly.
“The wounds sustained by the victim and behavior of the bear are indicative of an ‘aggressive defensive’ encounter at close range,” Game and Fish said in a statement. “Due to the surprise nature of the encounter, there are currently no further management actions planned.”
According to the book “Bear Encounters: Hiking and Fishing in Bear Country,” in most such surprise encounters, victims who play dead are rarely seriously injured or killed. “The bear generally bites and swats the victim a few times and then runs away, all within a few seconds,” the manual asserts.
“First and foremost, we want to wish the individual a quick and successful recovery,” said Lander Regional Wildlife Supervisor Jason Hunter. “We also want to thank the Fremont County Sheriff’s Office and Dubois Police Department for their on-the-ground support into the investigation.”