Grizzly Bear Attacks Man In Wyoming

Cory Hatch/Jackson Hole Daily, Bear Hunting Magazine

A grizzly bear mauled a Lander man Wednesday morning near Jackson Lake Lodge.

Dennis VanDenbos, 54, was in good condition at St. John's Medical Center on Wednesday afternoon. He was jogging along Wagon Road about 6 a.m. and had stopped to watch an elk when a sow grizzly bear dubbed No. 399 and her three yearling cubs approached him. The bears had been feeding on a freshly killed elk carcass.

Park officials said VanDenbos tried yelling to frighten the bears away, then lay down on his stomach in a submissive posture. One of the bears then attacked, inflicting lacerations and puncture wounds. Park officials aren't sure if the bear that attacked was 399 or one of the cubs. A nearby Grand Teton Lodge Co. employee frightened the bear away.

The 350-pound bear and her cubs have become minor celebrities since they first appeared last summer, entertaining park visitors by digging for roots and rodents along Willow Flats, Oxbow Bend and Lozier Hill. The cubs are roughly two-thirds the size of their mother.

Until last year, 399 had a radio collar that allowed scientists to track her. Until Wednesday she had not been involved in any incidents with park visitors.

Grand Teton spokeswoman Jackie Skaggs said biologists will not try to kill or remove 399 and her cubs because the animal that attacked was displaying normal behavior for a bear feeding on a carcass.

"It was a case of a person being at the wrong place at the wrong time," Skaggs said.

Skaggs said rangers closed the area June 8 after a bear made a kill near the lodge. Park officials removed the carcass and monitored the area for three days before reopening Wagon Road again on Monday. Skaggs said rangers left signs warning of bear activity in the area.

Further, VanDenbos was part of a conference at the lodge, and the conference coordinator had advised the attendees at the conference that bears were frequenting the area.

Skaggs said rangers now will close Wagon Road for the next two to three weeks until elk calving season is finished and will step up educational programs to keep park visitors informed of the danger. As guests check in, Grand Teton Lodge Co. officials will hand out fliers warning of the bear activity.

Skaggs said it was lucky VanDenbos had the presence of mind to lie down on his stomach when he realized the bear would continue approaching him.

Visitors to Grand Teton National Park should be alert for bear signs, make noise while hiking, carry bear pepper spray and have it easily accessible. People should never approach bears, and if charged, should not run but should back away slowly, avoiding eye contact. If a bear attacks, a person should lie down, cover his or her head, and keep a backpack on to provide some protection.

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