Grizzly bear bit holstered bear spray during attack
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Grizzly bear bit holstered bear spray during attack

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Sunlight Basin

Sunlight Basin northwest of Cody was the site of a grizzly bear attack on a shed antler hunter on May 1.

A Cody shed antler hunter may have been spared further attack from an adult male grizzly bear on May 1 because the animal bit into the man’s holstered bear spray.

“This appears to be a surprise encounter that occurred at close range,” said Dan Smith, Cody Regional supervisor. “The bear was likely behaving in a defensive manner resulting from an unexpected, close encounter.”

The detail was one of many in a Wyoming Game and Fish Department press release issued on Tuesday following completion of an investigation into the incident which occurred in Sunlight Basin, northwest of Cody.

Injured in the attack was 42-year-old Spencer Smith. He was hiking alone in search of antlers in the steep, moderately timbered East Painter Creek drainage when the attack occurred. Smith was unaware of the bear until it made contact with him, biting down on his bear spray which was in a holster on his hip. The bite ruptured the canister and presumably caused the bear to break off the attack.

During the investigation Game and Fish personnel discovered the tracks of a single, adult male grizzly bear. A daybed was found in heavy cover about 30 yards from the site of the attack. There was no sign of the bear in the vicinity during the investigation, but evidence at the scene indicated the bear was at or near the daybed at the time of the encounter. Game and Fish has not been able to identify the individual bear involved in the incident.

Smith was able to walk about 1.5 miles to his ATV after the attack where he was assisted by area game warden Chris Queen. Smith was then flown by helicopter to a Billings hospital for treatment.

Due to the circumstances involving a surprise encounter and the inability to identify the individual bear, Game and Fish does not plan to take management action at this time, and no area closures have been implemented. Game and Fish will continue to monitor bear activity in the area.

“This is a very traumatic experience for a person to go through,” Dan Smith said. “We wish Spencer the very best for a full and speedy recovery.”

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