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New response team to help victims of Wyoming grizzly attacks

August 4, 2020 GMT

A new animal attack response team will rescue people attacked by grizzly bears in the northwestern Wyoming backcountry.

The Teton County Sheriff’s Office, Teton County Search and Rescue, Wyoming Game and Fish Department and Grand Teton National Park are behind the effort.

Grizzly attacks in Wyoming often involve elk hunters. Officials hope to have the team ready to go when hunting season begins in September.

It’s becoming more common for several different agencies to get called to attacks, Wyoming Game and Fish large carnivore biologist Mike Boyce told the Jackson Hole News & Guide.

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“We have had a couple fatalities in the last five years or so where both our agency and search and rescue have been involved. Their expertise is in the search and rescue and medical response, and we are more focused on evidence collection and that part of the investigation,” Boyce said July 27.

With both more people and bears in the backcountry, grizzly attacks have been increasing. They included a hunting guide killed on a mountain two years ago.

The attack, which left the guide’s client in need of rescue with the bear nearby, led to the idea for the response team, Teton County Sheriff Matt Carr said.

Sheriff’s officials considered hiking in to the attack scene that night but it was a dangerous situation. Instead, a helicopter dropped off two Game and Fish employees nearby the following morning.

“We made those decisions on the fly,” Carr said. “And we were kind of forced into this situation we hadn’t dealt with before.”

Teams in Alaska and British Columbia provided a model for the new Wyoming team. Candidates for the squad have been taking part in fitness trials.

They will also take handgun and rifle proficiency tests.

“The last thing we want to do is shoot a bear,” Carr said. “But we have to be proficient if we are in danger or attacked or if the patient is in danger.”