Photographer Mauled By Grizzly--Again

Jim Cole Can't Get Enough Of The Bears He Loves

Bear Hunting Magazine
05/25/2007

The man mauled by a grizzly bear in Yellowstone National Park Wednesday was Jim Cole, a Bozeman photographer, author and musician, the National Park Service announced Thursday.

After seven hours of emergency surgery on his badly wounded face, Cole, 57, remained in intensive care Thursday, according to Rich Berman, a friend at his bedside at the hospital in Idaho Falls, Idaho.

Cole, well known in the Bozeman area for his advocacy for protecting grizzly bears and their habitat, was unable to speak and was breathing through a ventilator and being fed through a tube, Berman said. Cole can understand questions and answer them with a thumbs up or thumbs down hand signal.

"He's lucky to be alive," Berman said. "The trauma center here is just phenomenal."

He said he had no details of the attack, other than that the bear hit Cole twice in the head and face with its claws, wreaking terrible damage.

"I don't know how long he's going to be in here, but it's going to be awhile" Berman said, adding that Cole will need reconstructive surgery.

Cole's surgeon told Berman that the wounds did not appear to be predatory because there were no bite marks on his head or chest. Berman said he believed his friend probably came too close to a protective mother bear.

Most grizzly attacks occur when someone surprises a bear or comes too close to one protecting cubs or a food source.

Cole had recently purchased a new digital camera and had called Berman Wednesday morning to say he was looking forward to using it that day.

He was photographing bears in the Hayden Valley's Trout Creek drainage, prime grizzly habitat, Wednesday when the encounter happened, the Park Service said. He was hiking alone, off trail, about two or three miles from the road when a female with a single cub attacked.

He had bear pepper spray with him, but it is unknown if he used it.

Berman, a close friend for 37 years, said he knows Cole would want the Park Service to leave the bear alone.

"If anything good comes from this, it would be that people learn from his mistake," Berman said. "Jim would want people to still go to the park, enjoy the park, respect the wildlife and be careful. And please don't try to get too close to get the perfect picture."

"We are not at this time planning any management action against the bear," Yellowstone spokesman Al Nash said Thursday. "From the little bit of information that we have, it appears he surprised the bear and was attacked."

Grizzly attacks are rarer than lightning strikes on people and yet this is the second time that Cole has suffered a grizzly mauling.

The first incident took place in Glacier National Park in 1993, but was a comparatively minor incident, according to Cole's 2004 book "Lives of Grizzlies: Montana and Wyoming."

In that incident, he was hiking with his friend, Tim Rubbert, when he surprised a young grizzly. The bear tore a hole in his scalp and broke his wrist before Rubbert was able to chase the bear away with bear pepper spray.

"I figured this was as traumatic an experience for the young bruin as it was for me," Cole wrote later.

He has written and photographed two books about grizzly bears in which he advocated photographing Yellowstone bears from the safety of the road. But he also said he has hiked thousands of miles in occupied grizzly country.

"I want to document natural grizzly behavior, not bears reacting to humans," Cole wrote in 2004. "All the same, as careful as I try to be, I certainly have made my share of mistakes."

In 2004, Cole was ticketed by park rangers who accused him of willfully getting within 100 yards of a grizzly female and two cubs.

Cole strongly denied that charge and was acquitted in a 2005 judge trial in Yellowstone, in which his defense lawyer presented no witnesses, but pointed out there was no proof Cole had approached the bears intentionally.

In that case, Cole maintained, he had inadvertently come too close to the bears, snapped a few pictures and left.



Go Back