National Park Grizzly Attack Raises Questions

The news story about a Montana author and photographer who was seriously injured in an attack by a grizzly bear in Yellowstone National Park this week is sure to raise some questions from park (and wildlife) authorities—as well it should.

Jim Cole, 57, author of the books Lives of Grizzlies, Montana and Wyoming, and Lives of Grizzlies, Alaska, was listed in fair condition yesterday at Eastern Idaho Regional Medical Center.

According to reports, Cole told park rangers a grizzly sow with a cub attacked him while he took photographs in the Yellowstone backcountry Wednesday. Following the attack, he hiked about three miles to a road where he was found by authorities and airlifted for emergency medical care.Grizzly

Initial news reports indicate it was not the first time Cole has experienced close calls while photographing bears in national parks. In September 1993 he was injured by a grizzly while photographing in Montana’s Glacier National Park.

Further, a story in yesterday’s Casper Star-Tribune reported that in 2004 Cole was charged with purposely approaching within 20 yards of a grizzly bear, in violation of park regulations. While he was subsequently acquitted, news reports at the time indicated that prosecutors called for Cole to be banned from the park for a year, plus receive a fine and suspended jail sentence.

Have you ever watched tourists and other folks with cameras walk dangerously close to elk, bison and other animals at national parks? Should novice and professional close-proximity wildlife photography in national parks--where the animals are protected and never hunted—be a violation of park safety standards and subject to a citation?