Black bear in Melody Ranch

A black bear saunters through a Melody Ranch neighborhood Thursday afternoon south of Jackson. Residents should secure trash bins and remove bird feeders in order to avoid conflicts and food rewards that could lead to the bruins’ demise. Bears are on the move throughout the valley. See story on page 2.

The super-habituated male offspring of well-known Grizzly 610 was darted out of a dumpster and killed this week after a summer of getting into improperly secured human food. That bear’s sibling met the same fate in June, as did another of Jackson Hole’s grizzly bears this summer.

Another grizzly, believed to be unmarked, has been actively working neighborhoods along the Snake River’s west bank, raiding a chicken coop and accessing an array of other human-provided foods.

A black bear with cubs has been raiding birdfeeders at 3 Creek Ranch, a place where Teton County regulations allow homeowners to hang them in reach of bears even though that often dooms them. The county’s bear conflict regulations haven’t been updated since 2008. Although a group assembled and provided the county with recommended changes to enhance the regulations, they were never acted on.

The aforementioned rundown of bear conflicts are just the highlights at this time.

“Right now, we have both grizzlies and black bears scattered all through the valley,” Wyoming Game and Fish Department spokesman Mark Gocke said.

Bears around the area now are in hyperphagia, a time when they are trying to fatten up before hibernation. They are on the hunt for food and tend to be very active.

Calls about bears — sometimes just reports of them eating berries in yards — have also come in from the Moran area this past week, as well as from Teton Village. World-famous Grizzly 399 and her four cubs, meanwhile, continue to go on walkabouts through the southern, developed portion of Jackson Hole, though they’ve generally managed to stay out of trouble in recent weeks.

But those are the happy exceptions. Conflict, spurred by peoples’ lifestyles and decisions, is killing bears.

The Grizzly 610 cub, a 3 1/2-year-old male known as 1028, racked up a log of 22 incidents over the summer while the bear was on National Park Service property. Many of those are clear conflicts, according to a park-provided log, and they ranged from “obtained food reward in Headwaters Campground” to “potentially fed by park visitors.”

“Illegal and irresponsible human actions had a direct impact on this bear’s behavior,” Teton Park Chief of Staff Jeremy Barnum said. “The food rewards the bear received from humans set it on a dangerous path that caused it to seek out humans and human developed areas as an easy source of food and ultimately led to its demise.”

To stem the male bear’s behavior, Teton Park officials captured and boated the bruin across to the remote, west shore of Jackson Lake in June. But the young grizzly returned and conflicts promptly continued. Over a two-week period in July, the bear was hazed out of Lizard Creek Campground and other developed areas seven times.

That learned behavior became especially perilous once Grizzly 1028 left the national park. Game and Fish large carnivore biologist Mike Boyce documented the young male bruin feeding on garbage consistently.

“He ended up free-darting it out of a dumpster at 10 a.m. [Tuesday] morning,” Gocke said. “That’s pretty bold behavior for a bear to allow a person to approach it that close in broad daylight. It tells you the level of habituation is pretty high.”

State and federal agencies — Game and Fish, the Park Service and U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service — unanimously agreed it was for the best to end Grizzly 1028’s embattled life.

The fates of other bears that are currently taking advantage of residents’ apathy and ignorance aren’t yet sealed. That’s true for the unidentified grizzly that hit the chicken coop and has been raiding unsecured food on the west bank.

“We’re still following that, and we were attempting to trap that bear last night,” Game and Fish Carnivore Supervisor Dan Thompson said on Friday. “It’s that time of year.”

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

Mike has reported on the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem's wildlife, wildlands and the agencies that manage them since 2012. A native Minnesotan, he arrived in the West to study environmental journalism at the University of Colorado.

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(2) comments

Tom Henry

maybe stop feeding birds?

Judith Buttala

Both 1022 and 1028 were born in 2019. that would make them about 2 1/2, not 3 1/2. They were just kicked out this spring. They were just trying to figure out life without their mother when the hazing started and separated the cubs. Most of th ecubs that have siblings stay together that first season without Mom and help keep each other out of trouble. Thinking things may have been different if they had not been separated prematurely by the wildlife management in the park.

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