Grizzly 802

The adult boar grizzly bear pictured, likely by a surveillance camera, was recently captured and killed by the Wyoming Game and Fish Department after years of evading baited traps.

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.”

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.

(11) comments

TERRENCE MILAN

Sort of an interesting paradox here. On the one hand, Jackson feels that hunting bears and even the road kill is wrong. Then on the other hand they whack this bear for the crime of rummaging through someone's trash. If you've ever lived in a city, you have homeless rummaging through your trash every trash day. Not that I never had the impulse, but they don't shoot homeless for rummaging through the trash.

Jim Olson

Noah, the commenter was speaking figuratively, not literally. In effect, the residents killed the bear by not using proper waste storage and corrupting the bear. I'm gonna have to go along with that logic. Perhaps we could strengthen the laws so that thing don't happen again. I also believe this killing should count toward the number of allowed killings as a previous commenter proposed.

Ken Chison

Jim. There is currently no season on grizzlies, so there is no quota. The G and F, however, does count mortalities, not hunting related, to its quota in lion and wolf areas.

Noah Osnos

Jim, you are correct, and I did not perceive the irony (which is my demerit). And, as was elsewhere noted, the hunt is not currently legal, but very serious legal challenges are afoot to make it so. My point to the larger community is that we have a responsibility to maintain the wildlife, which is really being threatened daily. It is the human footprint that is so invasive on the landscape.

Jay Westemeier

Ahh, the blame game is in full force here. Why not blame your lame local and state officials for not enacting and enforcing stricter rules for feed and garbage storage? Are these officials even from Wyoming? Stop electing the latest transplants from the west coast and local ranchers who show their faces in town once a month.

TERRENCE MILAN

With food put out aplenty, there will be another one moving in soon.

Noah Osnos

Let's have this bear count towards the Wyoming Fish & Game annual 'hunt' count. It shouldn't matter who kills it.

Ken Chison

And the residents, a large part who oppose a hunt, kill the first one of the year.

Tim Rieser

The residents killed the bear. Did you even bother to read the article?

Ken Chison

Yep. Reading comprehension is pretty high on my list. A fed bear has a pretty bleak future. So yes. The homeowners, local photographers and looky seers, who intentionally or unintentionally leave out or use food treats to get just the right pic, are responsible for the death of the bear. Just head to Togwotee, or any other place a grizzly is spotted. You can see a real clown show going on. This behavior by humans is exactly what teaches these animals to have no fear, which, ultimately leads to their demise.

Noah Osnos

Tim, the article implies that a G&F employee set the trap and captured the bear. Presumably he killed it, and not a resident (who would not have permission to do so).

Welcome to the discussion.

Please note: Online comments may also run in our print publications.
Keep it clean. Please avoid obscene, vulgar, lewd, racist or sexually-oriented language.
Please turn off your CAPS LOCK.
No personal attacks. Discuss issues & opinions rather than denigrating someone with an opposing view.
No political attacks. Refrain from using negative slang when identifying political parties.
Be truthful. Don’t knowingly lie about anyone or anything.
Be proactive. Use the “Report” link on each comment to let us know of abusive posts.
Share with us. We’d love to hear eyewitness accounts or history behind an article.
Use your real name: Anonymous commenting is not allowed.