The grizzly bear that caused tragedy high in the Teton Wilderness never let up from a full-bore charge before hitting the Jackson Hole outfitter she fatally mauled.

When the approximately 250-pound sow bruin first came into view, pounding downhill out of a clearing, Mark Uptain was removing the head of a four-by-four bull elk for his client, Corey Chubon.

It was Friday afternoon, and the elk’s four quarters had been removed without any sign of bears. Chubon had killed the elk with an arrow the day before, but the hunters didn’t find the carcass until Friday. Even so, the hunters saw no sign grizzlies had touched it.

The sow grizzly, in other words, was not coming back to claim her meal. Her 1 1/2-year-old male cub was nearby, but ultimately he was watching from the outskirts and wasn’t being threatened. Nevertheless, she was not bluffing.

“It just came on a full run,” said Brad Hovinga, who supervises the Wyoming Game and Fish Department’s Jackson Region. “There was no hesitation.”

Even for grizzlies, which are inherently protective and aggressive animals, this is unusual behavior.

“A female with a yearling attacking in this manner, I’ve never dealt with that,” said Dan Thompson, Game and Fish’s large carnivore chief.

The now-dead grizzly, around 10 years old, was in good shape, with plenty of fat and nothing outwardly wrong.

Chubon, who did not respond to repeated requests for interviews, provided the above account to Wyoming Game and Fish investigators. The Florida man, who was on a guided Martin Outfitters bow hunt with his father, relayed his recollection to Game and Fish at length on several occasions.

As the bear first hit Uptain, who carried bear spray in a hip-slung holster, Chubon went for a Glock that his guide had left with their gear a few yards uphill. For some reason, he could not get the handgun to fire. When the female grizzly diverted her attention away from Uptain and toward the Floridian, he tossed the pistol to his guide. Evidently, it didn’t make it to Uptain, who was a lifelong elk hunter, small-business owner and family man.

Within moments, the bear turned back toward Uptain. Chubon, whose leg, chest and arms were lacerated by the bruin, ran for his life. His last view of Uptain, which he relayed to investigators, was of the guide on his feet trying to fight off the sow.

In an interview with the Orlando, Florida TV station WKMG, he described Uptain as his hero.

“I’m just extremely blessed and fortunate to have made it out of this situation alive,” Chubon told WKMG.

Bolting from the chaos, Chubon huffed it uphill to the duo’s horses, mounted one and rode uphill to a ridgeline near the crest of 10,258-foot-high Terrace Mountain in the Bridger-Teton National Forest. Amazingly, he caught a signal to phone authorities, who flew in to rescue him. Teton County Undersheriff Matt Carr, who was among the first responders, said the call out was a feat in itself.

“I’m not quite sure how he did that, because there’s no cell service out there at all,” Carr said. “That’s something we could not duplicate when we were there on the scene.”

Using the description from Chubon, searchers in a helicopter were able to locate the elk carcass that caused conflict around 7 p.m. Friday. There was less than an hour of daylight left, and the call was made to suspend the search until sunup Saturday.

“We ran out of flight time,” Carr said. “Helicopter restrictions don’t allow us to fly past a hard-and-fast time. And by that point, we couldn’t get ground teams in. The risk to the rescuers was far too great at that moment.”

It will never be known exactly what unfolded between the grizzlies and Uptain after Chubon left the scene.

When Carr and Game and Fish wardens Jon Stephens and Kyle Lash arrived at the quartered elk early Saturday morning to continue the search, they initially assumed that a drag mark heading downhill was from Uptain. Later, investigators discovered this was the slick left from the elk’s gut pile.

“It was confusing, because there was blood and struggle and debris from the elk dying,” Hovinga said. “There was a blood trail from the wounded elk coming in. On the scene, it was difficult to determine whose blood was whose.”

The gut pile drag mark heading downhill drew searchers attention away from where Uptain had died 50 yards uphill from the elk carcass, in a grove of timber. The nature of the 37-year-old’s fatal injuries and lack of a drag trail uphill suggest that he was able to walk after the initial attack, about 50 yards, but ultimately was killed by the grizzlies near where he was found.

“From the nature of his injuries, his death was pretty instantaneous,” Teton County Coroner Brent Blue said. “His fatal injuries were fatal instantly. He wasn’t going to be walking after the fatal injury.”

Bites to Uptain’s head likely ended his life, Blue said. Although there was massive trauma, his body was intact and showed no signs of having been fed upon.

At some point during the struggle, Uptain was able to douse the adult sow with bear spray, which has a high probability of thwarting an attack.

“When we were looking at the [adult female bear’s] head,” Hovinga said, “we could smell it, and we could feel it.”

Hovinga was quick to point out that bear spray was not put to use at the time of the initial attack — perhaps because there wasn’t time.

“We feel that he deployed that bear spray sometime after the initial attack, but before he succumbed to his injuries,” he said. “A lot of people have said, ‘Well, he sprayed the bear, and it didn’t do any good.’ We can’t say that. We can’t say that bear spray wasn’t completely effective.”

The discharged canister was near where he died, not at the elk carcass downhill. The thrown firearm was found uphill of the bull elk’s scattered remains, but downhill and distanced from Uptain’s body.

After locating Uptain around 1:15 p.m. Saturday, Teton County Search and Rescue, Game and Fish and citizen search teams that grew to about 30 people flew out and rode out on horseback.

Game and Fish large carnivore biologists set out three leghold snares concealed in cubbies in an attempt to livetrap one or both of the grizzlies in the overnight hours. Aboard an airship that clattered overhead Sunday morning, they could not see if it worked. But after unloading from the chopper late Sunday morning, Thompson, Lash, Stephens and Game and Fish colleagues Brian Baker and Mike Boyce could make out bawls that told them they had captured the cub.

“Based on the vocalizations and the different tones, we knew we had a younger bear,” Thompson said.

The worst-case scenario was trapping the cub, with mom running free. That’s what happened. The quintet of biologists and wardens, four of whom were armed, chose a path in the relative open in the effort to gain a vantage point of the trap. The sow heard them coming.

“She appeared on a full charge,” Thompson said. “When she visualized five of us standing there, she paused for a second. We had guns up. There was a question, ‘Do we take her?’ I said take her.”

A barrage of gunfire ended the life of the grizzly that killed Mark Uptain. Her stomach was “full of elk meat,” one indication that told the Game and Fish folks that they had killed the right bear. Paws with pads and claws that matched tracks left at the scene the day before further corroborated the connection, and DNA evidence has been sent to a Laramie lab to cement that the right bears were killed.

The cub, about a 150-pound animal, was sedated before Thompson made the call to kill the sow’s dependent as well. His primary reasoning was that Uptain’s injuries suggested the cub was not a passive bystander.

“That yearling was involved in the attack,” Thompson said, “and was a contributing factor to his fatality.”

Asked if there were lessons to be learned from the fatal attack, Thompson said there was no “overt” wrongdoing or decisions made that belie best practices for hunting in grizzly country. Game and Fish’s large carnivore chief also stood behind his decision-making.

“I’m 100 percent confident that we removed the target individuals, and I’m also 100 percent confident that was the right thing to do,” Thompson said. “She was teaching an offspring that killing humans is a potential way to get food. We’ve had 10 other human injuries [from grizzlies] in the past couple years, and we haven’t attempted captures in those situations because of our investigations and the behavior of the bear.

“This was completely different, dangerous behavior,” he said. “It’s not something we want out there on the landscape.”

Contact Mike Koshmrl at 732-7067, env@jhnewsandguide.com or @JHNGenviro.

Mike has reported on the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem's wildlife, wildlands and the agencies that manage them for 7 years. A native Minnesotan, he arrived in the West to study environmental journalism at the University of Colorado.

(32) comments

Pat Sides

is this what "hunter's" do? use a weapon that looks like some war instrument - shooting an animal w/ arrow and off it goes for a day and half to die - leaving a blood trail and, I would imagine, in a great deal of pain - did it finally just die? than the guide cuts off the head?????for the great white hunter from florida to take home? absolutely disgusting and the whole story stinks

Ken Chison

Yeah Pat. It's called hunting. And sometimes it does not go as planned. And yes, you do remove the head and quarter the animal to pack it out. I know it doesn't sound as humane as marching cattle thru a squeeze chute and thrusting a spike thru their head so you can go to the local market to get dinner. Sure like to know a little about your background. Total vegetarian and no leather purses or seats in your SUV?

Pat Sides

correct - total vegetarian & have been for over 30years when I 1st found out from my vet what went on a slaughter house - AND no leather anything - Honda is using some kind of material in their new HRV's AND why can't the "hunters" just kill w/o the day or longer torture of the animal "dying & leaving a gut trail"?

Gregory Taylor

Do you realize all the naugas that are slaughtered for your "Fake" naugahyde seats in your HRV that better be electric powered from a wind turbine or solar cells!! the gut trail was made by the bears !!

MARK SOOY

Kind of interesting you never mentioned one thing about a human being killed. Also, a lot of second guessing and Monday morning quarterbacking about "proactive" use of bear spray by someone who admittedly hasn't elk hunted in grizzly country. You're not spraying for mosquitos. Unfortunately, Mr. Uptain was the victim of an Apex predator. A risk we all take when we hunt in grizzly or wolf country.

Tony Rutherford

Mark Sooy thanks for the kindly worded rebuttal!


Gregory Taylor

Just makes you wanna slap someone doesn't it Mark???

Gregory Taylor

Pat, Pat, Pat you are speaking on a issue that you have truly no informed idea of the Archers equipment and the reality of how it works !!! Yes!, archery is more "scary" looking than a rubber band gun that you probably are more familiar with as a War Instrument" ! In truth the hunters did not immediately retrieve it for a day off not that the elk was alive for all that time but had died within less than an hour but travelled a good distance in that hour!! Being shot closer to evening made it necessary, I bet for safety rather than stumbling around in the dark into a bear and letting the elk bed down and die in peace.

The guide it says was removing the head "AFTER" cutting up the quarters and as REQUIRED" by Wyoming laws all edible portions must be packed out with the head with or before the head is!!!

An elk shot with the sharp broadheads we use probably feels no pain but just jumps at the sound or movements made by the hunter when the arrow is released. How can I describe that little pain is felt by being cut by a sharp blade on a broad head causes little pain?? I have accidently cut my hands and fingers on many occasions and not known about getting cut until I see all my blood leaking all over me!!!
I know you are probably thing that an arrow to the body I oughta try but be civil and I reply hands and fingers have more nerves per square inch than other parts have! Archery hunting is considerably more humane and challenging plus evens the field requiring patience, skill.stealth,to get so much closer to your quarry!

John Rimmer

You know time and time again. No matter how ready you can be in bear country. It still is bear country and it is there living room. Game on! when you walk into there space. It can happen so fast and so unexpectedly. I am sure Mark had done everything possible to be safe, and do things right. I man like him does not enter bear country unexpectedly. God bless Marks family and the man that made it out alive. He can thank God he made it out alive. If someone enters your living room you hope you know what the outcome is? But you don’t know 💯% the outcome will be in your favor?

Tony Rutherford

Nothing will change the fact that Mr. Uptain is no longer with us. I hope all of us have him and his loved ones in our thoughts and prayers, regardless of where we stand on the grizzly bear debate?


But he really wasn't prepared, based on everything I've been able to read. Why would a decision be made to attempt the recovery with only a guest client? Why wouldn't the outfitter insist on at least one other experienced person be involved in the recovery? Why was the animal "gutted". Gutting the carcass just placed more concentrated scent in the air, but really didn't bring any benefit. Any meat recovered from the cavity probably wasn't fit to eat? The elk died, from what I read, in heavy timber...…..and placed the guide and client in a worst environment to defend themselves during a bear encounter. I sounds like guards were let down during a very critical time...….based on reports that the firearm was some distance away from the guide and client, and bear spray wasn't used at the attack sight?


None of us can speak for Mr. Uptain, but it seems like he was a leader and a teacher to many......a very well respected throughout the community. I suspect he would hope that, from his loss, others would learn that you can never let your guard down in the wilderness.


Gregory Taylor

Tony!! Exactly!!! He should have everything ready and prepared an bear smart helper should have been called in to help with the extra day that was taken to get back in!!!

Dharma Bum

The sow's behavior is odd in this case, but one thing in the article may shed some light on the attack. This was a ten year old sow grizzly that weighed only 250 pounds, just 100 pounds more than her yearling cub. Seems to me this bear was starving or sick, which could have affected her behavior. A healthy adult female grizzly in this area should have around 400 pounds on her. It may not be relevant, but it's something to think about. It was an unfortunate incident and speculation on who should have done what does no good. Wyoming is a place where these magnificent predators still roam wild and that's one of the things that make this state the special place that it is.
My condolences to the family of the deceased.

Chad guenter

Dharma Bum is correct 250 pounds is NOT a healthy weight for an adult grizzly sow. A whole lot of reasons could explain her condition, 1 being lack of food due to competition from too many bears in the same local.

Tony Rutherford

250 was an estimation? But the game officials stated that she was fat? How many starving bears are fat? What will her weight be when she hibernates.....30% higher......40% higher.......50% higher? The carcass was left out for almost a day......and there was no bear activity near it? If there were too many bears.......wouldn't it make sense that the carcass would have been fed on when it was discovered? Wouldn't it make sense that more than these two bears would have been present? I'm not convinced there was anything unusual about the bear, or it's actions. It found food and was willing to fight for it. This is how grizzly bears operate. This has happened in the past, and it'll happen again.

Gregory Taylor

Tony I really wish that they had actually weighed and measured both bears rather than estimated leaving room for our speculation about this. Being the states Large Carnivore biologist you would expect having the correct job of collecting biological data in the field would and should be in his vehicle and field tools box!! Tooth collection would give age and wear of teeth and good info as to diet and decay or loss of teeth too. So far this has been very loose handling for either a live or dead bear! Blood samples would indicate diseases or parasite problems. I think better information may not have been taken but the reporting or release of what may been found may also play into our quandary about knowing the full picture!!!

Gregory Taylor

Dharma very good insight you have and I might be wrong but that sow at her prime should be well over 60 Lbs. I bet and at least 7 + feet tall upright!!! She indeed was declining in condition .

Gregory Taylor

Correction I meant 600 lbs. not 60 in my previous comment.............

Ed Loosli

Here is a rule change that should be made by the Wyoming Game & Fish Dept....The meat or trophy of an animal that is shot by hunters MUST be taken out the same day as it was killed... If the meat of the animal cannot be carried out on the same day as the hunt, the hunter is NOT allowed to try and recover the meat or trophy the next day or any other day. If this rule had been in place in this latest tragic incident, both the guide and the grizzlies would still be alive today.

chad guenter

Mr. Loosli: Do you hunt? If you did, I assume you would realize your suggestion is impossible for all hunters to comply with. Many times even with rifle hunters an animal taken late in the day cannot be retrieved until morning.

William Addeo

You can't change the rules every time there's an accident. The bears weren't feeding on the carcass, as the story goes. When all is said and done, this is a hunting tragedy. That's the risk in hunting. Your rule change would supply the bears with food not meant for them. The gun is often the dinner bell with the gut pile. That's the risk in hunting. We don't need more rules. When you hunt, you enter the food chain. Accidents happen. God Bless the entire family and let's donate some real money!

Tony Rutherford

Ed Loosli the rule you're suggesting actually increases the odds that more bears would be removed as a result of bear/human encounters......since bears become more active at night.

I'm convinced that the one of the primary reasons the guide and hunter called off the recovery was due to bear encounter risks.

By adopting your suggested rule, a state would influence game recover during darkness, which not only would increase odds of bear encounters, but also risks of injury associated with travel on foot or horseback during darkness. I doubt the attorney general in any state would allow it's state to be exposed to that kind of liability?

Also, there'd be an increase in unrecovered carcasses which would increase bear encounter odds for hunters and hikers, as bears hunted for, located and guarded these food resources. We'd likely see a sharp spike in the number of bears killed by hunters in self-defense?

I do believe states with grizzly bears populations should consider making it mandatory that no less than three people are involved in a next day game animal kill recovery?

Respectfully, your rule, would probably caused more people and bears to lose their lives?

Roger Selover

Ed Loosli. Ridiculous...obviously you have never hunted large game animals... particularly with a bow.

Michael Grasseschi

Ed..
It's funny cuz that was literally my first thought once I heard about this-.. And, also...
When you go back in, it's a mandatory 3 person fully armed with bear spray and at least one gun ( that works-!) retrieval...

Gregory Taylor

Ed it was not found after looking that day!! You have no idea or experience that would lead you to an informed opinion in this issue..... Learn before you write!!!!

Tony Rutherford

My thoughts and prayers go out to the Uptain family, friends and associates. What a tragic event.

A western elk hunt is at the top of my bucket list which is likely why this story has captivated me since it broke? One of my greatest considerations are the risks associated with a western elk hunt, and how well the guide and outfitter are prepared.

I'm not quite sure which account is accurate though? Mr. Chubon states that he was attacked while on horseback in one article. Other articles state that Mr Uptain was found a quarter of a mile from where the initial attack took place?

Not one of us has the ability to change history, but each of us may have the ability to influence the future?

I find it odd that the outfitter would have allowed just Uptain, and Chubon to attempt the recovery by themselves? Assuming that the recovery was discussed by the guide and outfitter.....they would have known that a dead elk carcass being left in the wildness would have raised the potential of a bear encounter substantially, especially in the months just prior to hibernation? If the guide and outfitter discussed the recovery and it was approved that Uptain and Chubon would conduct the recovery alone......essentially the outfitter sent the guide into the bear's den alone?

I've read tons about the effectiveness of bear spray, and I believe in it's effectiveness. I have to wonder do outfitters, guides, hunters, hikers, etc. use bear spray to prevent encounters from taking place in the first place? In other words, could spraying the ground and surrounding vegetation to set up a protective perimeter have prevented the attack? Could doing so have slowed the attack and given the guide and hunter more time to prepare for the attack? Could have spraying the perimeter saved Uptain's life?

Hopefully, we'll learn, and perhaps we already know, that proactive use of bear spray can lower the risk of a bear encounter/attack?

Richard Jones

Bear spray is not used "proactively". It's not insect repellent. It only works as an irritant to mucus tissue such as eyes and breathing when a mist of spray is encountered at relatively close range. This would usually distract, confuse or cause the bear to retreat but not always.

Tony Rutherford

Thank you for the reply. Have any bear spray manufacturers tested the effects of bear spray in a proactive manner to your knowledge? What are those results?

Gregory Taylor

HUGE FAT NO on spraying a perimeter working to deter an attack directly at the bear is the method that researchs found in their testing in a controlled environment and nothing else is indicated in the directions on the canister!! Buy one and read it!!

Gregory Taylor

Tony I can't even guess the anguish and terror Guide Uptains family and friends have been going through with this ordeal. May they find what little solace in knowing the injuries resulted in a quick end of his short life. The offending bears have been dealt with and their unusually aggressive behavior needed to be dealt with a fatal end!! Rest in peace and I look to meeting you in the afterlife someday and sit swapping our stories by a campfire.

William Addeo

This article tells it all. We weren't there. Nobody can say what is right or wrong. Hunting is dangerous and so are a lot of outdoor activities that result in tragedy. Game and Fish did their job and they are the pros and made the professional decisions. They also put their lives at risk as is evident by the story. All the Monday morning quarterbacks should know that when danger strikes, all the plans go up in smoke. Let us a community, pray for the family and donate to the family that is left without their Husband and Dad and loving relative. God Bless all of you.

Deborah Fuchs

To surmise the sow was teaching her cub to kill humans for food, particularly when the human was not fed upon, is just an assumption....a guess.
The elk carcass may have been undisturbed upon the arrival of the guide and his client.....but the overwhelming, frenzied scent of the elks death had to be powerfully prevalent.
The scene prior to the arrival of the guide and his client had to be one of a frenzied nature for the Sow and her cub.
How can anyone make a determination of what normal Grizzly behavior should be?
The “wildness” of the wilderness has no “normalcy”.

My heart goes out to the guides family.
Please consider donating to the GoFundme page which has been set up for his family.

Robert McKay

It is reasoned that the griz was not coming back to feed on the elk but was showing up on the scene for its first visit, having not previously fed according to the surviving client's account. This appears to be likely if the guide had told this to the client upon the guides inspection of the elk carcass - the client might not have been capable of correctly surmising this information from looking at the carcass. The client also reports that the griz first appeared to both client and guide in a full-on charge. If the client and the guide had been another type of larger mammal they would have sensed the griz and run away in reaction to this griz challenge. But humans cannot run fast enough and they have been instructed, through safety literature, to not run from griz. The humans had to make choices: retrieve or not retrieve elk from griz country; run or not run; stand your ground or not; successfully or unsuccessfully defend oneself from the largest predator out there. The guide most likely would have shot the griz had he been more prepared, i.e. had his weapon on his person as he apparently had pepper spray on his person. The client, having put his trust in his guide to help him bag an elk and to take care of said client, was definitely not prepared, since he had the weapon in hand but could not successfully fire said weapon. So mistakes were made that most likely lead to death. Griz are opportunists and may exhibit unpredictable behavior. This is a lesson for all, but especially for those who stand between an easy meal an a griz.

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