Bear Activity, Conflicts Pick up in Teton Area

Bear Activity, Conflicts Pick up in Teton Area

“As discussed below, human-bear conflicts are usually caused by food left out by humans, and for that reason can mostly be managed. Quoting the authors, “A few miles northwest of Jackson, the recent incident in Ashton illustrates what can go wrong when bears enter areas with unsecured attractants.”


NOTE: this article was originally published to on September 4, 2023. It was written by Billy Arnold.

Grizzly 399 and her cub of the year have headed south of Grand Teton National Park. Two young grizzlies were killed in Ashton, Idaho. Two young black bears have been relocated from Rafter J.

Fall is in full swing and bears are searching farther and farther as they enter hyperphagia, a period of increased eating driven by their need to bulk up before winter.

But as they enter developed areas, conflicts are beginning to tally up. That’s true even though there are more bear-resistant trash containers than ever before, thanks to new town and county requirements and an accompanying blitz of messaging around bear safety.

“Even though residents are doing really great on compliance, we’ve still got a way to go,” said Kole Stewart, BearWise program manager for the Jackson Hole Wildlife Foundation.

While there have been no reported conflicts with Grizzly 399 and her cub since she left the park’s southern boundary Aug. 25, incidents earlier this season have led managers to take management actions against and relocate black bears in Jackson Hole. The old saying “a fed bear is a dead bear” has merit because when bruins get into human-related foods — garbage, compost, dirty grills, livestock feed, etc. — they can become aggressive in trying to get it again. Managers often kill or relocate bears to prevent human injuries.

In Grand Teton National Park, managers are stepping up patrols for and hazing bears near String Lake and the jumping rock on Phelps Lake, areas where bears have been able to get into humans’ backpacks, and, in one case, eat someone’s lunch. Earlier this summer, the park relocated a young, male black bear from the Jenny Lake area after it started exhibiting “bold behavior” but before it got a food reward, hoping to teach it to live elsewhere. The Wyoming Game and Fish Department, meanwhile, relocated two black bears that got into bird seed near Rafter J in August. There also have been other conflicts involving black bears and people staying in short term rentals in Teton Village. Renters don’t know how to keep bears from getting into human foods and are hard to reach, Stewart said.

It’s not that those properties don’t have bear-resistant trash cans, Stewart said. Instead, renters don’t know how to use them properly, overfill the cans, or leave other attractants like dirty grills out and available.

Bears are “being bears,” Stewart said. “But if there’s one barbecue grill or a garbage left open, that’s the straw that breaks the camel’s back every time.”

Residents and visitors alike can learn more about Jackson Hole’s bear-proofing initiatives and requirements, and how to bear-proof their stuff, at

A few miles northwest of Jackson, the recent incident in Ashton illustrates what can go wrong when bears enter areas with unsecured attractants.

Between June and August, the Idaho Fish and Game Department hazed the bears multiple times, patrolled neighborhoods and talked with residents about securing attractants to reduce future conflicts. But the bears continued getting into chicken feed, cat and dog food, and garbage. They attempted to break into an occupied trailer, damaged homes, pushed on an occupied tent, climbed on porches, were aggressive toward people, and got doused with bear spray twice.

Eventually, Idaho wildlife managers trapped and killed the two year-and-a-half-old grizzlies, after consulting with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, according to a Fish and Game press release.

Grizzly bears are currently listed as threatened under the Endangered Species Act, though Wyoming, Idaho and Montana wildlife managers and politicians want to see those protections removed, arguing the populations have recovered since 1975 when they were given federal protections. Wildlife advocates are pushing back, concerned that removing federal protections would lead to unfettered grizzly killing by wildlife managers and hunters.

Sarah Cubells, communications coordinator for the Henrys Fork Wildlife Alliance, said the imbroglio was evidence of the need for a countywide bear-resistant trash can requirement in Fremont County, Idaho.

Commissioners there have considered the measure, but it’s been stalled for about a year, Cubells said.

“The density of grizzlies and black bears is so high. We need to educate the public about how important it is to secure your trash,” Cubells said. “We have seen from other places that it is effective to have an ordinance in place.”

In Jackson Hole, county officials haven’t yet written a notice of violation against people who don’t have bear-resistant trash cans, though they have put warnings on about 500 non-compliant trash cans.

Compliance in neighborhoods where requirements have been in place for over a decade is hovering around 99%, county officials said. In southern neighborhoods where bear-resistant trash cans were only required in the last year, compliance is closer to 75%.

Stewart, from the Jackson Hole Wildlife Foundation, said human-bear conflicts this year are below average, but it’s hard to say whether that’s because of the regulations or other environmental conditions, such as the year’s berry crop.

Mike Abbott founded a bear awareness group Teton Valley Bear Wise after Fish and Game killed a female grizzly and her cubs near Tetonia, Idaho, last year. He was critical of Fish and Game’s decision last year, concerned that there was little evidence the bears had gotten into any human-related foods in Idaho. Abbott was critical that Fish and Game didn’t try to relocate the bears before killing them.

“That seems to be a problem with Idaho,” Abbott said. “They can’t find a way to relocate them or don’t want to relocate them.”

But, he said, it’s up to people to keep bears out of trash, dog food and other attractants.

“If we’re going to have more bears and more people, we’ve got to have better control of attractants by people who live out there, otherwise the bears are going to be put down,” Abbott said. “Ultimately it rests with us to figure that out.”

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