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THE GRIZZLY BEAR MURDER CASE
Jack Olsen
May 12, 1969
Death lurked on the trails of Glacier National Park in the hot summer of 1967. A bitterly debated question—can man and bear peacefully coexist in a shrinking environment?—was about to be answered. After the fearful events of August a determined effort was made to obscure that answer. Now Jack Olsen, in a three-part series growing out of intense personal investigation, tells what happened, why it happened—and who was at fault
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May 12, 1969

The Grizzly Bear Murder Case

Death lurked on the trails of Glacier National Park in the hot summer of 1967. A bitterly debated question—can man and bear peacefully coexist in a shrinking environment?—was about to be answered. After the fearful events of August a determined effort was made to obscure that answer. Now Jack Olsen, in a three-part series growing out of intense personal investigation, tells what happened, why it happened—and who was at fault

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The two youngsters had filled their packs with camping gear and goodies, picked up sack lunches from the kitchen of the lodge and hitchhiked the 20 miles to Logan Pass, jumping-off point for the seven-mile Highline hike to Granite Park. It was 7 p.m. when they arrived at the chalet and talked to Gullett and the Kleins, and 8 p.m. before they had looked around and finally settled on the official campground for their headquarters. Back at the chalet getting their packs, they noticed table scraps behind the back wall, but Roy had already heard about the bears that visited the place and he was not especially worried. They would be sleeping 500 yards away. Just before they started down the trail for the night, a woman asked them where they were headed. "To the campground," Roy said.

"But that's exactly where the bears come from," the woman said. "Aren't you afraid?" The two young people laughed and said they were not afraid.

They laid out their sleeping bags and nibbled at their sack lunches and enjoyed the sunset. Just before dark Roy carried the dinner leftovers to a log about 200 yards away and cached them underneath. Snuggled into their soft sleeping bags, they were warm and contented, and they chatted for a while as the last slivers of daylight faded down the mountain. Then they were asleep.

Earlier on that same broiling Saturday, Aug. 12, a party of youngsters had pushed up and over Howe Ridge, the 2,000-foot-high barrier separating McDonald and Trout lakes, some 10 miles south of Granite Park. Only the puppy, Squirt, a mixed breed with oversized feet that suggested a trace of German shepherd, had tired once or twice. When he did, one of the strong young people would carry him like a baby until he had recovered his breath. They were all in a hurry—they had got off to a late start and wanted to reach Trout Lake in time for some fishing and a relaxed outdoor meal. They had never heard of the ragged grizzly with the oddly shaped head or of the trouble earlier in the summer at Kellys Camp on Lake McDonald.

There were five in the party, all of them employees of concessionaires, and all but one of them veteran campers in the backcountry of Glacier National Park. The exception was a 16-year-old boy, Paul Dunn, who had arrived in the park three weeks earlier on a visit with his parents and promptly accepted a summertime job as busboy in the East Glacier Lodge. When the boy was asked if he would like to chaperone two couples on a weekend camp-out near a place called Trout Lake, he happily accepted. He had heard nothing in particular about grizzly bears around Trout Lake; indeed, he had barely heard of the lake itself, since he was stationed on the opposite side of the park, across the Divide. Before his parents had gone home, they all had listened to an orientation lecture by a park ranger. About all Paul remembered from the talk was the information that a grizzly will not attack you if you do not attack it, and if you see one just climb a tree. Oh, yes, there was one other point that the ranger had made: "Never take a dog on a trail." The ranger had said something about a poodle or some kind of dog being mangled by a bear the year before and that dogs and bears were natural enemies.

Now Paul and the two young couples were starting on the trail down toward Trout Lake, and assuredly there was a dog with them, but Paul Dunn was not particularly worried. The flop-footed Squirt was under human control and no one in the party equated him with danger. Red-haired Denise Huckle, a 20-year-old summertime room clerk and wintertime college student, had befriended the sick and weakened puppy after he had been abandoned in the park, and before setting out on the hike she had looked high and low at Lake McDonald Lodge for a leash, finally settling for a strong cord. Now the young animal alternately strained at the cord and begged for attention, and the hikers took turns obliging.

The two other young men in the party were brothers: Ray and Ron Noseck of Oracle, Ariz. Ron was 21, a waiter at East Glacier Lodge and Denise's date for the overnight trip. Ray was 23, a service-station manager near Lake McDonald Lodge and the other girl's date. Both the Nosecks were attending dental school at the University of Louisville.

The other girl was Michele Koons, 19, a frail and beautiful young lady who came from San Diego and was about to begin her second year at California Western University. She was working in the gift shop at Lake McDonald Lodge, where the manager of the shop described her as "a blessing, a girl with a zest for life." Michele's zest for life had taken her to Trout Lake several times before. Unlike Paul Dunn, she was aware that grizzlies frequented the area.

It was just before 5 in the afternoon when the hikers reached the broad patches of berry bushes and looked down on the blue-green waters below. As they neared the logjam camp where they intended to spend the night, the hikers could see circles dappling the water, the cutthroat trout were already feeding on their evening diet of flies and it would not be long before the skillet would be popping and crackling and the fragrant aroma of frying fish filling the air.

Setting up camp alongside the logjam took a matter of minutes. The hikers were so eager to catch their dinner before nightfall that they did little more than drop their packs and head for the lake, stopping only to cram their food into a single bag and haul it high into a tree. Michele Koons elected to stay behind while the others were gone. She could watch the dog and tidy up the camp, and when the others returned with their catches they could get right down to dinner with a minimum of delay. The girl and the dog stayed together for two or three hours, then the others returned. Paul Dunn had a single cutthroat, and he began to prepare it. Michele gave him a supplementary hot dog, and the 16-year-old boy laid both the fish and the frankfurter on top of the fire grate. Soon they were sizzling, and a thin wisp of aromatic smoke followed the gentle off-lake breeze and curled up the hill toward the berry patch.

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