Officials are investigating the Thanksgiving Day killing of a charging grizzly bear by three members of a hunting party who were stalking elk in Grand Teton National Park in Wyoming.
Jackie Skaggs, public affairs director for the park, told the Los Angeles Times that investigators haven’t concluded yet whether they will classify the hunters’ killing of the adult, male grizzly bear as justifiable self-defense.
“We don’t really suspect foul play,” she told The Times. “We’re just doing our due diligence that we do each time an animal is killed, especially on the endangered species list.”
She said the National Park Service isn’t releasing the names or hometowns of the three hunters, ages 48, 20 and 17. She says none of the hunters was hurt, but they were shaken by the encounter that occurred along the east side of the Snake River near Teton Point Overlook.
“I think they were pretty shaken up – I would if I faced a bear like that,” she said. “It was relatively close by the time they were able to stop the charge.”
A cow elk carcass was found near the bear shooting site and investigators believe the grizzly may have been trying to defend the kill.
Skaggs estimated that there are more than 600 grizzlies in the park system that includes Grand Teton and nearby Yellowstone National Park but that it is hard to pinpoint how many of the wandering animals live in the Grand Teton park – which is 310,000 square acres in size compared with Yellowstone’s 2.2 million.
This is the 51st known or probable grizzly bear mortality in the greater Yellowstone ecosystem this year, according to a tally maintained by the Interagency Grizzly Bear Study Team.
In recent years on average about one-third of annual grizzly bear mortalities are hunting related. But Grand Teton had avoided such kills. The incident was the first killing of a grizzly by hunters since the park began elk population-reduction hunts in 1950.
Skaggs said that many more bears are killed by vehicles in the park.