An especially conflict-prone Jackson Hole grizzly was captured and killed last week after falling for a culvert-style trap that the boar bear had been adeptly avoiding for years.
Nine-year-old grizzly 802, an adult male, first got caught in subdivisions north of Jackson in 2015, and subsequently had to be relocated at least three times. After years of effort, Wyoming Game and Fish Department bear biologist Mike Boyce outmaneuvered the wary grizzly on April 29, when the bruin took the bait at a private inholding in northern Grand Teton National Park.
“He said this is by far the most difficult bear he’s ever dealt with,” Game and Fish spokesman Mark Gocke said. “He caught it in a culvert trap. And he had other instances where the bear had visited his trap and passed on by.”
Boyce reported investing more than 100 days trying to capture trap-wise grizzly 802 over the past three years, with no success until last week.
“Why it went into the culvert this time,” Gocke said, “I don’t know.”
Boyce and his federal bear biologist counterparts in Teton park had responded to a spate of conflicts likely related to grizzly 802 over the last month. A grizzly had been breaking into sheds and frequenting yards in Moose, Kelly, Craighead Hill and points south of the park, reaping rewards of pet food, livestock and chicken feed, and garbage in the process. That was the continuation of a years-long habit.
“The number of conflicts is long, particularly starting in 2017,” Gocke said. “The past three years the bear got increasingly more bold and destructive, breaking into outbuildings and being on people’s porches.”
The bear’s behavior has been bold enough that it’s believed to have broken out the window to a door on a Moose-area home that was occupied during the early morning hours of April 20.
Grizzly 802 wasn’t always so adept at evading capture. The bear also earned ink before in the News&Guide’s sister publication, the Jackson Hole Daily. In April 2015 wildlife videographer Jim Laybourn reported capturing footage of two young radio-collared male grizzlies near Jackson Lake Dam, one of which was 802, he said.
“I saw them playing together near the dam,” Laybourn said at the time. “They were wrestling — it was really cool. It kind of seemed like they knew each other, but maybe bears of that age just play.”
Two weeks before the then-subadult bear had been captured in a trap meant for another grizzly south of Grand Teton, but was hauled back to Pilgrim Creek. The animal was fitted with ear tags and a GPS collar, but it didn’t linger for long.
A month later grizzly 802 was again captured in a subdivision north of Jackson, moved this time down Grassy Lake Road to the Squirrel Meadows area near the Idaho border.
On another occasion — Gocke wasn’t sure when — grizzly 802 was captured near Dubois and again relocated.
“It had been given ample time to live out its life as a wild bear, but it was clear that it wasn’t going to break its habits of wanting to go for human foods,” Gocke said. “This behavior in this bear had gone on for so long that it left us with no options.”
Game and Fish asks residents dealing with bear conflict to call it in as soon as possible so that steps can be taken to curb habituated behavior before bruins are too far gone.
For bear conflict reasons, Teton County requires residents in almost all of the unincorporated county to use special trashcans that latch and to keep bird feeders out of reach. Compliance, however, is spotty, and the regulations have been scantly enforced. Grizzly 802 recently was getting into some food stocks that were simply left out in people’s yards.
Jackson Hole resident and wildlife lover Ann Smith is one person who thinks the community should be doing more to prevent situations like that of grizzly 802.
“It just breaks my heart,” Smith said. “It’s our fault — people’s fault. If people would lock this stuff up, how could he get it?
“I just wish there were tougher rules, when it comes to storing animal food,” she said. “As we all know, a fed bear is a dead bear.”