The grizzly bears suspected of fatally mauling outfitter Mark Uptain were trapped and killed early Sunday near the elk carcass that caused conflict on Terrace Mountain.
“We killed two grizzly bears up there a little bit ago, and we have every reason to believe they are the offending bears,” Wyoming Game and Fish Department Jackson Regional Supervisor Brad Hovinga said around 10:45 a.m. Sunday. “They fit the description.”
Forensic tests will provide certainty that the killer grizzlies are now dead, he said.
The successful overnight capture was unexpected.
Before boarding a helicopter hours before, Game and Fish carnivore supervisor Dan Thompson remarked that it was a “low probability” that the bears would have remained in the area because of the bustling activity the day before. Twenty searchers had swept through the broken-timbered slopes of the Teton Wilderness peak that day before coming upon Uptain’s remains around 1:15 p.m. Saturday.
After Uptain’s body was retrieved, Teton County Coroner Brent Blue performed an autopsy, concluding Sunday that head and chest trauma were the cause of death.
Pending completion of an investigation, wildlife managers are not releasing all the details about what they believe occurred when Uptain and his bow-hunting client, Corey Chubon, were aggressively attacked by the pair of bruins Friday afternoon.
Hovinga surmised that the bears involved were a sow and its grown cub.
“The behavior exhibited by these bears is abnormal behavior for a family group,” he said. “It’s not typically how we would see family groups behave.”
Chubon, who was airlifted out of the Teton Wildness with leg, chest and arm injuries, reported to investigators that of the two grizzlies involved, only one was the aggressor. The Florida resident, who flew back home Saturday, told authorities that he was unable to fire a shot from a handgun he retrieved during the attack, but he threw the firearm to Uptain before departing the scene.
Late Saturday, Hovinga declined to discuss evidence collected at the scene, but he did say that bear-deterrent pepper spray was among the things the guide and client possessed. He said he “didn’t know” if the handgun was with Uptain’s remains. The gun was not recovered immediately around where the attack took place, at the site of an elk Chubon had struck with an arrow Thursday. The guide and client did not locate and start to retrieve the elk until early the next afternoon.
The elk carcass was “undisturbed” when it was located by Uptain and Chubon, which suggests that the bear was not necessarily food guarding — a common behavior that often leads to conflicts with humans, especially hunters.
What’s uncommon is for hunter-grizzly conflicts to turn fatal for the people.
Uptain, a father of five and small-business owner, was guiding for Martin Outfitters.
In a recent interview with the Jackson Hole News&Guide about his business, Blue Sky Services and Restoration, he said he spent his free time with his wife, Sarah, and their kids, serving on the board of elders at First Baptist Church, riding horses, hunting, fishing, biking and playing chess.
Shortly after Uptain’s death was confirmed, Rauli Perry, a family friend, created a GoFundMe page in his name. Launched Saturday evening, as of Sunday afternoon it had raised nearly $25,000 of its $50,000 goal.
“Even more than the outdoors Mark loved his beautiful wife Sarah and their five amazing kids,” wrote Perry, who has been friends with Sarah Uptain since they were in second grade. “Please give what you can or share to help this family in their time of need. I know I can’t take away the pain, but if we can help support Sarah to be able to focus on the kids and not worry about finances.”