The grizzly bit
into Paul Dunn's sleeping bag and tore his shirt. He jumped up, and the bear,
startled, backed away. The camp was now in a frenzy. Ron Noseck helped Denise
into a tree and threw the dog up to her. Ray Noseck played dead as the bear
sniffed at him and moved away. He freed himself of his sleeping bag and ran for
a tree, calling to Michele to run for it. She could not get out of her sleeping
bag—she cried that the zipper was stuck—and then screamed that the bear was
tearing her arm. Then she cried, "Oh, my God, my head!" a cry that was
also heard as "Oh, my God, I'm dead!" By the light of the fire they saw
the bear dragging Michele, still trapped in her sleeping bag, into the
Light came about 6
o'clock. The four survivors climbed out of their trees and hurried to Lake
McDonald. They found a ranger, who led a party of four—another ranger, Ron
Noseck, Paul Dunn and Andy Sampson, a native of the region—back to Trout Lake.
Following a trail of blood, scraps of the sleeping bag and clothes, they found
Michele's body about a hundred yards from the campsite.
standards of grizzly-bear behavior all this was unusual, almost unbelievable.
Authentic accounts of grizzly attacks are rare. "It is just too much,"
one authority said, "that sheer coincidence caused two grizzly bears only a
few miles apart to attack two similar camping parties at almost the same
Craighead, who, with his twin brother, Dr. Frank Craighead, conducted an
eight-year study of the grizzlies in Yellowstone Park that began in 1959, said,
"Grizzlies are very wary of man, and retreat when they get the
Jack Lentfer, a
leading expert on grizzlies in Alaska, now directing bear studies for the
Alaska Department of Fish and Game and a veteran of 15 years of wildlife study,
said, "Grizzlies are cleverer than other bears—but also more wary. They
will avoid contact or encounters, more so than other bears."
Not that anyone
underestimates their power and ferocity when they do attack. Their prodigious
strength, their ability to smash and destroy, was the substance of outdoor
legends from the time white men first saw them. Henry Kelsey, the Canadian
explorer, began the record back in 1691. A hundred years later Edward
Umfreville, exploring the plains of Saskatchewan, wrote a warning: "Their
power is dangerous, and their haunts are to be guarded against." But it was
the journals of the Lewis and Clark expedition that really made the American
people aware of grizzlies, principally because grizzlies kept coming on and
attacking after they were shot. Hunters had to travel in pairs. "These
bears, being so hard to die, intimidate us all," Meriwether Lewis wrote in
his journal after one of them chased him into the Missouri River. "I must
confess I do not like the gentlemen, and would rather fight two Indians than
Henry Tinsley, a
writer for that favorite publication of Theodore Roosevelt, Outing Magazine,
noted that the bullets of a muzzle loader ran to 70 to the pound. A modern
.32-caliber rifle is heavier. Contemporary experts think that the use of
anything smaller than a .30/06 against a grizzly is foolhardy, and advocate a
.300 Magnum. Moreover, the old guns often failed to fire, and with a charging
grizzly, weighing perhaps half a ton and able to move at 30 miles per hour,
there was no chance to stop and fix things. Western literature from the time of
Grizzly Adams onward dealt with the imperviousness of these monsters to
bullets. In fact, the one attempt to write a Homeric poem on the West was
inspired by a grizzly: John Niehardt's gallant but unsuccessful Song of Hugh
Glass. Glass was unquestionably the angriest man in American history or poetry.
Mauled by a grizzly in South Dakota in 1825, he was abandoned by four
companions, who were afraid to stay around and unwilling to shoot him to put
him out of his misery. Glass crawled 100 miles on his hands and knees to the
nearest fort and then set out after the men who had left him behind. He chased
them through unexplored Montana and down into unknown Wyoming, brushing off two
Indian attacks that threatened to spoil his revenge, and at last, after
traveling 1,500 miles in nine months, caught them in the vicinity of Council
Bluffs, Iowa. Cooled off by then, he let them go.
By 1900 grizzlies
had almost disappeared from the U.S., except in the national parks. Today there
are between 800 and 1,000 in the U.S. plus about 10,000 to 20,000 in Alaska,
several thousand in British Columbia and the Yukon and a thousand or more in
the Northwest Territories and Alberta, Canada. Placed on the list of rare and
endangered species by the wildlife experts of the Department of the Interior,
grizzlies are not extensively hunted in the U.S., though around 600 are killed
yearly in Alaska. The total killed in the national forests in the U.S. last
year was 74, and 18 of these were taken in the Bob Marshall Wilderness area of
the Flathead National Forest, which adjoins Glacier Park. Protected in the
parks, grizzlies were fed at stations in Yellowstone for more than 20 years so
that visitors could watch them when they came at night to eat. The feeding
stations were discontinued in 1941, and since that time the grizzlies have
tended to gather at the park's refuse dumps.
bears have provided the subjects for scientific studies by the Craighead
brothers that began in 1959. In delicate and dangerous pioneering experiments,
the bears were trapped, measured, weighed, marked and followed around
Yellowstone by means of radio transmitters affixed on collars around their
necks. They were first immobilized by a shot of Sucostrin, delivered by a
gas-operated rifle shooting a projectile syringe. "The bear was constantly
growling and moving spasmodically," Dr. Frank Craighead said of one of the
first trapped. "It was like working over dynamite with a damp fuse."
Later on bears were given a second shot that left them unconscious. They were
tattooed under the front leg for identification, and a colored ear tag was
fastened through a small slit in each ear so they could be spotted from a
distance. Asked how the grizzlies reacted after such treatment, Dr. John
Craighead said, "Most of these grizzlies want to get away from us as fast
as they can. They don't seem angry, just puzzled and bewildered."
A disaster in the
summer of 1959 indicated the need for more knowledge of grizzlies. On June 18
of that year Joseph Williams, a 20-year-old college student from Ohio, on his
first day as a summer employee in a Glacier Park motel, went for a hike up
Mount Altyn, about a mile from the motel. He and a companion, Robert Winter of
Detroit, were about two-thirds of the way up the slope when they saw a grizzly
coming after them, weaving back and forth across the trail. Williams waved to
Winter, who was farther up the slope, but otherwise remained motionless.
Suddenly the bear appeared behind him and struck him in the small of the back.
It was a very small grizzly, perhaps not fully grown. Williams jumped up, and
it caught his hand in its mouth. "I ran down the mountain like going down
steep stairs," Williams said. "I kept rolling and stumbling, but it
caught me." The bear knocked him down, bit and mauled him. Winter rushed up
and hammered the bear on the head with a slab of rock. When the grizzly
released its hold, Williams tried to run again. He fell over a ledge, and the
bear, disregarding Winter, wandered down the hill and mauled him again. Winter
ran for help. When two rangers got back to Williams, the bear was still on top
of him, mauling and biting. The rangers shot the bear twice, killing it with a
bullet in the spine.