Sunday, August 1, 2010


Yellowstone grizzly bears
A few days ago, a sad and horrible thing happened at a place where some people were camping near Yellowstone National Park.  And what happened was that in the middle of the night, a mama grizzly bear and her three cubs attacked three people in three different tents.  The bears killed one man and also ate part of him, and the mama bear attacked a woman and bit her arm really bad and broke it, but she played dead, like a possum, so the bear went away.  And after that, the bear bit another man on the leg.

The mama grizzly in her trap
Then by that time, people started waking up, and they ran to their cars, where they could be safe from the bears, and they drove around and honked and scared the bears away.  But nobody felt really safe, since the bears could come back, so everyone left the campground and a couple of other campgrounds.  Then the wildlife ranger guys set up traps to catch the bears.  And the mama bear weighed 300 or 400 pounds, so they had to make a big trap out of a culvert pipe, and they put the tent of the man that got killed over the trap.  Then when the bear came, she tore down the tent, and that's how she got caught in the trap.

The trapped bears getting taken away

And her three cubs, who are about a year old, were caught in some other traps, and they all got taken to Bozeman to a wildlife lab.  Then the wildlife officials did some DNA tests on the mama bear to make sure she was the one that had killed the man, and it turned out that she was the one.  So, sadly, they had to put her to sleep.  And at first they said they might have to do the same thing with the cubs, because cubs learn from their mothers, and now these cubs had learned that it's okay to kill people who are sleeping in tents.  But then a place called ZooMontana, which is in Billings, said they would take the cubs because the zoo people thought that the cubs were young enough to get used to living in a zoo.

Anyway, one strange thing about this whole story is that no one understands why the mama grizzly went into the campground and picked out certain people to attack while they were just sleeping in their tents.  Because these tents were not all together in one place, and they didn't have any food stored in them or anything like that, which you are not supposed to do if you camp in bear country because food can attract the bears.  So there are these metal storage box things that you can put your food in, or else you can put it in your car.

Grizzly cubs
The most usual reasons why bears attack people are because (1) people surprise the bears out on a trail or something, which is why hikers often wear jingle bells so that bears can hear them coming, or (2) people get between a mother bear and her cubs, or (3) people meet up with a hungry bear or try to bother a bear who is eating something yummy, such as a dead deer that might have been shot by a hunter who had wanted to take the dead deer home himself.

But the bear who attacked the people in the campground this week did not seem to be starving or anything like that.  She seemed like she and her cubs had plenty of food.  So everyone is very puzzled about why she attacked the people, and now that she is dead, they are going to do an autopsy on her to see if she had some kind of disease or condition or anything that might explain why she did what she did.  I'm sure that it made perfect sense to her, as a bear, to do it, but sometimes it's hard for humans to understand these kinds of things.  Which is definitely true for Mom, who still doesn't really know why that dog bit her on Monday, but all she can figure out is that when she went into that room, it was a big threat for him, even though she wasn't looking at him or trying to touch him or anything like that.

Alaskan grizzly
And speaking of Mom and bears, I will just mention that Mom has camped in several places where there are bears, starting when she was 7, and she went with her mom and dad to the Smoky Mountains, and at night when they were sleeping in their camper, a bear would come and rub up against the camper and make it rock.  This was a black bear and not a grizzly, and they never knew why it rubbed on the camper, but I think maybe it had an itchy back.

Then another time, Mom and Aunt Sharon's family camped in Glacier National Park, where there are lots of grizzly bears, and Mom got in trouble with the ranger because she was washing her hair under an outdoor faucet, and the ranger said she could attract bears with the smell of the shampoo, which Mom didn't realize because there was such a long list of stuff that could attract bears, and she didn't notice "shampoo" on the list.  And Mom was sleeping in a little backpacking tent in Glacier National Park, so it would have been easy for a bear to rip into her tent, but luckily no bears came along.

American black bear

Oh, and one last bear adventure:  when Mom and Aunt Patti went camping in the Smokies many years ago, there was a black bear at their campground that the rangers were trying to trap, and one evening Mom and Aunt Patti saw this bear walking right through their campsite, and Mom was hiding in the tent, but silly Aunt Patti just kept sitting on the picnic table because she wanted to see the bear, but it was pretty dark, so it was hard to see it.  And at least it just kept walking and didn't stop to eat them, because if it had, I would not have a mom now.

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