An archery elk hunter shot and killed a sow grizzly in the Island Park area of East Idaho on Thursday, Sept. 23. According to James Brower, the regional communications director for Idaho Fish and Game, one hunter deployed bear spray while the other discharged a pistol at close range, killing the charging bear. Both hunters evaded physical harm during the encounter.
“An investigation into the incident is still ongoing,” Brower told MeatEater, “but the hunters are not being charged with any crimes at this time.”
Game wardens arrived on the scene around 8:30 a.m. the morning of the incident. The hunters reported at least two cubs fled the area in the moments immediately after the shooting.
“There have been multiple attempts to locate the cubs,” Brower said. “But, so far, the dense vegetation has prevented us from doing so.”
Due to the ongoing investigation, Brower declined to disclose specific details such as the exact proximity of the hunters to the bear when the fatal shots were fired, what caliber pistol they used, and the name, age, or gender of the hunters involved.
The area where this incident occurred—known as Stamp Meadows—has seen multiple human-grizzly encounters this summer. On July 9, a trail runner from Maryland was bitten several times by a sow with a cub. He survived the attack and was treated at the Madison Memorial Hospital in Rexburg. Later that month, just four miles from the spot where the runner was mauled, a mountain biker was charged by a sow with a cub but managed to escape the pursuing griz.
According to Brower, there is no direct evidence that any of these events—including the Sept. 23 shooting—involved the same bear.
The Island Park area of Idaho, which sits adjacent to the western edge of Yellowstone National Park along the Henry’s Fork of the Snake River, is home to the full suite of native wildlife. “There are grizzly bears all over Island Park,” Brower said. “We consider both our grizzly and our black bear populations to be very healthy.”
Following a five-year status review completed by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service in March of 2021, grizzlies remain protected in the Lower 48 under the Endangered Species Act.
This encounter reinforces the importance and effectiveness of preparing yourself mentally and equipping yourself physically before entering bear country. What do you carry? Bear spray, pistol, or both? If you were charged by a big sow grizzly, what would you reach for first? Watch here as Clay Newcomb attempts to answer these questions to better prepare himself for hunting in bear habitat.