Trouble a’Bruin? Bears Believed to Have Tracked Hunters

Grizzly bears are being monitored in Grand Teton National Park as part of a two-year study. (Photo: USGS)

Grizzly bears are being monitored in Grand Teton National Park as part of a two-year study. (Photo: USGS)

A study of the relationship of grizzly bears and hunters already is yielding some interesting results about interaction between the two and how bears may be tracking hunters in the woods in autumn and winter.

For many years hunters have said something to the effect of “when a bear hears a gunshot it’s like a dinner bell.” Whether they actually believed it isn’t known, but that may have some validity.

Federal wildlife researchers affix GPS trackers to eight grizzly bears. (Photo: USGS)

Federal wildlife researchers affix GPS trackers to eight grizzly bears. (Photo: USGS)

As part of the two-year Interagency Grizzly Bear Study Team research being done in Grand Teton National Park near Bozeman, eight grizzly bears were sedated and affixed with GPS tracking collars. Researchers on the study team are monitoring their travels and are using snares to gather hair samples for DNA comparison.

Also, with the help of hunters who are voluntarily assisting and carrying GPS tracking systems, they’re monitoring the hunters’ travels and any elk kills. Locations where the elk are field dressed and the remaining gut piles are monitored for bear activity.

Somewhat surprising, though, is that at least one bear began following hunters after they arrived at and departed a parking area. The bear stayed downwind, bedded down after a few hours, and then resumed following the hunters on their now hours-old trail. It got about 100 yards away at one point — a distance that a charging adult bear can cover in seconds, should it wish — but did not bother the hunters.

Yikes!