When Problem Bears Attack

Armed only with a camera, OL editor Todd Smith watched as a sheep-killing grizzly being released into a remote wilderness … Continued

Here is a good look at the bear's canines. He was fully mature and in excellent condition. I wasn't permitted to use a flash and we had to be very quiet because the anesthetic used had put the animal under very quickly, but any loud noise could bring him out of semiconsciousness very fast.
I rode all the way up to the release area, in the Bob Marshall wilderness area, with Kis. The pickup carrying the trapped bear was in front of us. I recall seeing the bear suddenly wrap his paws around the steel bars, as if to break out. I remember Kis commenting at the time that this bear was not acting normal and that we'd have to be very careful when the time came to let him out.
Kis chose his release area carefully. He wanted to be near a stream and felt sure that, as with so many grizzlies he'd released previously, this bear would come out of the cage very thirsty and head straight for the stream.
Once at the site, we allowed 15 minutes or so for the bear to calm down, then Kis ordered everyone into their vehicles. We were instructed to have the motors running and be ready to get out of the bear's way in a hurry if need be. Kis insisted he be the only person left exposed atop the cage when it came time to let the bear out.
Kis climbed on top of the cage and began to unlatch the steel door, which lifts upward. What none of us realized was that Kis had already had the presence of mind to undo the strap securing his service revolver in his holster so that he'd have quick access to his gun if necessary. That move probably saved his life.
As the bear emerged, all I can recall is how he got about half his body out then slammed the gate upward. He literally jumped out, turned around and reached up to grab Kis, who was yelling to the driver to pull away.
As the bear grabbed the top of the trap, the combination of the trap not being strapped down in the truck, the truck's forward momentum as the driver tried to pull away and the bear pulling on the cage caused the trap to slide backward.
To our total horror, the trap upended, throwing Kis on top of the bear. Miraculously, Kis is on his feet here, but a moment later the bear was on him. The bear grabbed him just below the knee of his right leg and literally shook him like a rag doll. We were all screaming, and I remember actually stepping out of the truck with my camera in my hand, yelling for the biologist to shoot the bear. At the same time, Kis was unloading his .357 Magnum revolver into the bear–he was firing double-action so fast it sounded like an autoloader going off. The final shot broke the bear's neck.
The bear staggered off and a biologist finished him with buckshot. I recall one of Kis's first comments following the fracas, which lasted only a few seconds, was how much he hated killing the bear. A few minutes later we persuaded him to lie down, fearing he'd go into shock.
The medevac chopper had a hard time locating us, and windy conditions made it difficult for the pilot to land. By the time he did so, Kis was back on his feet and limped to the chopper with only minor assistance. We would later learn that he had suffered a hairline fracture to the leg the bear had grabbed and a few scratches to his upper body. All things considered, he was a very lucky man.
The bear's claws measured well over three inches and were razor-sharp. What struck me, however, was how incredibly fast the animal was. One second he was in the trap, and the next he had the warden down on the ground. Needless to say, I walk very cautiously these days in grizzly country.
The bear's claws measured well over three inches and were razor-sharp. What struck me, however, was how incredibly fast the animal was. One second he was in the trap, and the next he had the warden down on the ground. Needless to say, I walk very cautiously these days in grizzly country.

Armed only with a camera, OL editor Todd Smith watched as a sheep-killing grizzly being released into a remote wilderness area turned on the fish and game officer releasing it. These astounding photos record the event.