Bitten hunter in good condition after attack
By Cory Hatch, Jackson Hole Daily
November 1, 2011
A Jackson man who was attacked by a bear while elk hunting in Grand Teton National Park on Sunday is in good condition, hospital officials say.
Hospital staff expected to discharge Timothy Hix, 32, from St. John’s Medical Center on Monday afternoon, hospital spokeswoman Karen Connelly said. Park officials identified Hix as the injured hunter Monday.
Hix was hunting in the trees in the Snake River bottom between the Blacktail Ponds and Glacier View overlooks when a bear charged him. Hix rolled up in a ball and the bear bit him, then left. Hix was carrying bear spray, but did not have a chance to use it, officials said. Hix used his cellphone to call for assistance. An estimated 15 park rangers, including biologists and resource managers, responded to the incident.
Park staff found an elk carcass close to where Hix was attacked, Grand Teton spokeswoman Jenny Anzelmo-Sarles said.
“When our rangers went in to assist Mr. Hix and investigate the incident, they did see a bull elk carcass nearby,” she said. “The carcass had clearly been cached and buried by a bear. There were antlers sticking out of the ground.”
A second carcass was reported in the Blacktail Butte area a week ago, but park staff have not determined its location, Anzelmo-Sarles said.
Park officials have since instituted a quarter-mile closure around the area where the attack on Hix occurred, Anzelmo-Sarles said.
“At this point, rangers believe this to be a surprise encounter with a single grizzly bear,” Anzelmo-Sarles said. “Several factors, including the hunter’s account of the incident and known grizzly behavior, are what have led rangers to this preliminary determination.”
Rangers collected hair samples and other evidence at the scene that will “hopefully contribute to a more definitive determination,” Anzelmo-Sarles said.
Park officials have thus far made no effort to find the bear, she said.
Hix was “following the recommended protocols for hunting in bear country” at 11:30 a.m. Sunday when he surprised the bear at a distance of five to 10 yards, park officials said. Hix had not killed a elk and did not fire his weapon at the animal.
After Hix dropped to the ground, the bear bit him at least twice. The nature of Hix’s injuries was not available Monday evening.
The attack comes as some Jackson Hole residents have begun to question the park’s elk reduction program. Each hunter participating in the program is deputized as a park ranger. Critics say the combination of gut piles left behind by hunters and the park’s burgeoning grizzly bear population is a combustible mix that puts both humans and bears at risk.