Grizzly bear

A grizzly bear roams near Beaver Lake in 2011 in Yellowstone National Park.

AP

A grizzly bear attacked and injured a man looking for shed antlers Tuesday northwest of Cody, according to the Wyoming Game and Fish Department.

The man was bitten on his arm and leg, but none of the wounds were punctures or required serious medical attention, said Brian DeBolt, large carnivore conflict coordinator for Game and Fish.

“Luckily, it was real minor injuries considering he was attacked by a bear,” DeBolt said.

The man told Game and Fish officials that he was walking through a hilly, timbered area when he surprised the bear, which was likely on a day bed. The bear briefly attacked and then fled, DeBolt said.

The man walked to his vehicle and drove himself to a hospital.

Game and Fish officials will not look for the bear, as they do in some attacks, because the bear was acting naturally.

“Based on what we discovered and his story, it appears that it was just a simple defensive reaction by the bear and it was a natural form of aggression,” DeBolt said. “There was nothing unusual that would lead us to believe there is any human safety risk.”

Wyoming averages about two significant bear attacks on humans each year, he added. This would be considered significant since a person was injured.

Surprise attacks similar to this one are most common in Wyoming.

“They don’t hear or see each other coming and all of a sudden a person and bear are in very close proximity to each other,” DeBolt said. “ A bear could act aggressively. They evolved on the plains in situations where any time they encountered danger their instinct is to fight. It’s their evolutionary history. Anytime they sense danger for the most time they attack. A black bear on the other hand, are a little more timid and their reaction is to flee, typically up a tree, and that’s why grizzlies are more dangerous than black bears.”

This time of year carries a particularly high risk for bear encounters since all bears are out of their dens, but much of the high country is still covered in deep snow. It is also a time when people are out in the mountains looking for antlers, fishing or hiking.

Game and Fish biologists have had to relocate five bears so far this year, DeBolt said.

He reminded anyone planning to recreate in bear country to make noise and carry bear spray. Larger groups of people also have lower chances of encounters. Campers should keep their areas clean and free of food and trash.

Grizzly bears are still on the endangered species list, which means they are federally protected. Recent estimates report there are about 700 grizzly bears in the greater Yellowstone ecosystem, which encompasses parts of Montana, Wyoming and Idaho.

Follow managing editor Christine Peterson on Twitter @PetersonOutside

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A Casper native, Christine Peterson started as a Star-Tribune intern in 2002. She has covered outdoor recreation, the environment and wildlife since 2010, and became managing editor in 2015. If not tracking bears or elk on assignment, she's chasing trout.

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