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Grizzlies are Following Elk Hunters, Study Says

Elk Hunters
National Park Service

So this is pretty creepy if you're one of the many elk hunters concerned about confronting a grizzly bear while field dressing an elk. 

In a study at Grand Teton National Park, officials have attached GPS collars to eight adult grizzly bears to track their movements during elk season. The purpose for this study is to verify if grizzly bears are attracted to rifle shots and scent trails elk hunters leave behind.

On the other hand, grizzlies can smell a dead elk up to four miles away. Perhaps elk hunters and grizzly interactions are just coincidental? So far, though, the immediate results have left many in Wyoming, Idaho, and Montana a little uneasy.

Elk hunters in the targeted area all carried GPS trackers during their respective hunts. This is how researchers from the Interagency Grizzly Bear Study Team from Bozeman, Montana, have been getting their initial answers.

The Initial Results

Over the course of this limited study, grizzlies do in fact follow elk hunters. At one point, a grizzly followed within 100 yards of one elk hunter, however the elk hunter never reported seeing it. As it appears, grizzlies follow elk hunters downwind and off to the side of a trail that hunters take. 

Yeah, so just think about that for a second. You're out hunting an elk in grizzly country, but a bear is out tracking your footsteps to seemingly take your elk when you shoot it. I'm guessing you can see the concern here. However, gut piles that hunters leave behind are seemingly the focus of the bears.

"We want to know on a daily basis where the gut piles are," said Mike Ebinger, the leader of the study. "We're not interested in the elk gut piles, but in how the grizzly bears respond to them. They can be a very attractive resource."

Interactions between elk hunters and grizzly bears are very rare. However, when they occur, it's the hunter that's worse off for wear. So, when elk hunting, make sure to keep your head on a swivel while in bear country, and always carry bear spray or pepper spray.

Whether you're hunting with or without a hunting guide near somewhere like Yellowstone National Park or Grand Teton, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service always encourages hunters to keep a safe distance from these predators.

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Grizzlies are Following Elk Hunters, Study Says