Yellowstone Bears Attacking Humans For Food?


Aug 9, 2007
A great article from Outside online.


An excerpt:

WHEN THEY DROVE through the entrance to Yellowstone National Park on July 5, 2011, Brian and Marylyn Matayoshi, of Torrance, California, were handed a newspaper—just like the other 3.4 million people who entered the park last year. The paper included, among other things, advice about what to do in the event of an encounter with a grizzly bear.

The following day, when the couple decided to hike a portion of the popular 16-mile Wapiti Lake Trail in the park’s Hayden Valley, they would have walked right by two wooden signboards. One, in large, bold letters, read WARNING: BEAR FREQUENTING AREA. The other read DANGER: YOU ARE ENTERING BEAR COUNTRY and displayed information about how visitors should react if they come upon a bear. The recommendations included “If a bear charges, stand still, do not run” and “Bear pepper spray is a good last defense.” The Matayoshis were making their fifth visit to Yellowstone; they’d never seen a grizzly in the park.

Despite the recommendation, neither Brian, 58, a retired pharmacist, nor Marylyn, also 58, carried pepper spray when they started hiking the Wapiti Lake Trail around 10 a.m. on that bright 70-degree morning. About a mile into their walk, a hiker coming toward them pointed out what looked to Marylyn like brown boulders about a quarter-mile in the distance. These were, it turned out, a grizzly sow and its two cubs. The Matayoshis stopped to watch the bears for a few minutes. Marylyn even took some photos: three brown dots on a vast green landscape.

The couple continued up the trail, hiking onto higher benches through scattered lodgepole forest. But another half-mile in, Yellowstone’s brawny mosquito population descended with virulence, and the couple decided to turn back. Unbeknownst to them, while they were hiking, the grizzlies they had seen earlier had moved closer to the trail and were heading right toward them.

When Brian spotted the bears again, only about 100 yards and a thin band of trees separated them. The Matayoshis did an about-face and started back up the trail, away from the grizzlies, glancing back over their shoulders. Marylyn saw “the bear’s head pop up” and alerted Brian.

The sow “started coming toward us,” Marylyn later told National Park Service investigators, “and Brian said, ‘Run!’ We were running down the trail.”

Keep reading on Outside Online


Jan 17, 2012
I'm guessing that not running from a bear that is charging at you is much easier said than done...

It's easy to recite this line and know it...but in the heat of the moment I'm not really sure how I would react. Hope I never have to find out...


I slay white dragons, adventure, and take photos
Jan 20, 2012
Tragic stories, which brings to light the importance of safety, education, and preparation. The black bear attack at the Timpanooke Campground also comes to mind. We went to Yellowstone last year, and the Ranger was (in my opinion) then, so paranoid about having people get too close to a feeding grizzly bear. Now I understand why they (Ranger) were this way quite a bit better.

A Grizzly's Lunchtime by Scott Barlow, on Flickr

This helps me remember that when out with the family, I need to be better at enforcing some rules, while at the same time making sure everyone is having fun. When we passed by the moose last Friday at Aspen Grove, the kids were probably 25-30 years in front of us, and if it had been a black bear, or had triggered the moose to run at them, we could have been possibly devastated.

Thanks for sharing!!
Jan 23, 2012
The most dangerous bears are the mother protecting her cubs and a bear defending it's food. In this case it was a mother grizzly. They always say PLAY DEAD and there's a reason for that. When you run, the predatory instincts are triggered for the bear to chase it's prey. I have encountered bears on the trail in the distance and it's a little nerve racking then. Always carry bear spray on your belt or a chest strap, make noise and keep your head up while hiking. If they recommend larger groups on certain trails and your group isn't large make more noise.


I lava it!!!
Jan 19, 2012
Yellowstone is definitely one of the places I would always carry pepper spray and definitely figure out before a hike HOW to use it.
There are so many incidents with hikers and bears that could have been avoidable if those hikers were more prepared and read the guidelines.
This is wilderness, we're going into bear country, so we have to learn the rules.
I had my black bear encounter last year in Salt Creek Canyon in the middle of the night. I did everything right, but it still happened. Common sense is important and especially in places like Yellowstone we should use our senses properly.
Jan 17, 2012
I'm guessing that not running from a bear that is charging at you is much easier said than done...

It's easy to recite this line and know it...but in the heat of the moment I'm not really sure how I would react. Hope I never have to find out...

I figure cover your neck, fall, and crap yourself - those are the instructions I keep in my head. I'm fairly confident I can deliver on at least one of the three.


Aug 9, 2007
Another interesting article on this subject:

Yellowstone’s Grizzlies are More Dangerous Than Glacier’s

Yellowstone has seen a nearly 50 percent increase in conflict between bears and humans in the past five years: A new report by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service comparing Yellowstone with Glacier shows that in 2011 there were 17 people charged by grizzlies in Glacier, while in Yellowstone 62 were charged — nearly four times more. This despite the fact that Glacier’s bear population is far greater, 1,000 bears vs. Yellowstone’s 600.

But even with all those interactions there were just two deaths by grizzly last year in Yellowstone, and throughout the national parks 81 percent of all bear charges resulted in zero injury. Still, the study, along with another one by the USGS, yields a lot of valuable information about why Yellowstone’s bears are more dangerous, and it comes back to a changing animal habitat that’s forcing bears to interact more with people.

For one thing, pine trees in Yellowstone are more endangered than the bears, with white bark pines falling prey to blister rust. That takes away an important part of the bears’ usual diet, pine nuts. And cutthroat trout have also disappeared because of the introduction of predatory lake trout — which can’t be caught by bears because they spawn in waters too deep for bears to fish. What’s left to eat is game…and human garbage.

Which accounts for why the bulk of a grizzly’s diet in Yellowstone is meat, while in Glacier it’s nearly 97 percent vegetarian.

Beyond the dietary constraints on bears in Yellowstone, the conditions of bear-on-people interactions are different as well. In Yellowstone, bears are more habituated to people, which isn’t a good thing, and the USFWS study, going back to 1990, shows that in 38 percent of bear charges human food was present, suggesting that people are too often careless with both their food and their trash.

Further, in the bulk of charges people weren’t carrying pepper spray. And unfortunately in too many instances of fatal attacks the victims ran away from the bears rather than standing their ground, making noise, etc., to scare the bears. Lastly, the most likely victims of charges were lone hikers or lone hunters, suggesting that there really is safety in numbers.

Environmental coverage made possible in part by support from Patagonia. For information on Patagonia and its environmental efforts, visit Grizzly photo by Shutterstock


Jan 19, 2012
Very interesting. Now I feel safer going to Glacier (someday)!


Feet on the ground, head in the clouds
Apr 11, 2012
Bear bells work great, so great in fact that when I have one on my pack I don't see any wildlife. I usually only use mine when I am snowshoeing because of the cougars (the cat not the hot older lady). This last winter I came up on a still steaming deer kill that a mountain lion had made. Blood was still flowing and the body was still steaming, it looked like I had scared the beast off it's dinner when I came crunching down the trail. Needless to say I could feel that sucker staring at me from the tree line and I beat feet it out of there.

I did come across a grizz in Yellowstone during a kayaking trip on the backside of Lake Yellowstone. Looked like a big male but I am no expert. I can tell you that when he was staring at me from the shoreline I wanted to turn and run right there and if he had charged I probably would have. The bear bell is the best bet, they hear you from a mile away so you won't suprise them and usually they get out of the area.
Feb 11, 2012
I've found that bringing along noisy kids strapped with bells and whistles works quite well, so long as they do not run up ahead.
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