Grizzly Truth

grizzly bear sow with cubs

A grizzly bear killed a man this week in Yellowstone National Park. The incident took place when Brian and Marylyn Matayoshi came upon a grizzly sow.

The grizzly truth is that the animal was believed to have been protecting two six-month-old cubs, a supposition based on previous sightings and tracks near the attack site.

Now, this is a tragedy and so condolences go out to the wife who survived the attack, but I thought it was a good time to review a few things about wild bear encounters.

First, if you have plans to enter into a wilderness area, it is good to review safety rules and protocols related to the wildlife in the region. Specifically ask about any alerts or recent issues with wildlife in the area.

The couple had seen the bear previously and it was the second encounter that triggered a reaction.

In my region, many people feed wild animals or try to interact without a thought to the ramifications. The result? We have black bears that come into the area regularly as they are attracted by the buffet found stuffed into local trash bins.

People consistently fail to adjust their habits to make sure that these animals are not attracted to the residential area for the safety of both humans and animals.

Not making safety adjustments can lead to risky encounters.

Animal attacks happen all the time and a few of my previous comments can be found in Urban bears, animal attack week, and hiking hounds posts.

So it wasn’t a surprise to read about this bear attack. However, this incident suggests that the sow exhibited a defensive response this fortunately translates to the fact that the bear will not be killed in retaliation.

This is great news because wild animals behave like–uh, wild animals.

So, if you are trespassing in a bear’s home range, you are taking a calculated risk.

Grizzlies usually only get aggressive when harassed, taken by surprise, or if they are defending a food source or cubs.

I’ve heard estimates that up to 78% of incidents involve cub defense which, if true, makes those the majority of incidents.

Some bears will exhibit predatory behavior (offensive aggression) but this isn’t as common.

Whatever the case, learning how to avoid issues and making sure you use a few safety tools and common sense can go a long way to keeping you safe in bear country.

What can you do to avoid brown bear trouble?

Alaska State Parks shares some good bear safety tips and each year there are a variety of Bear Awareness campaigns that take place prior to the summer vacation season.

You can find a lot of information at the Center for Wildife or the Bear Necessities Coalition.

Check out some of the following resources.

Be Bear Aware

  • Stay on designated trails,
  • Keep bear spray in a holster for easy access & use as an attack deterrant,
  • Hike in groups of three or more,
  • Wear bells and make noise in places where a grizzly might be encountered,
  • Play dead in a protective posture as a defense in an attack.

Bear Safety Resources

What do you think about this most recently incident? Please leave your comments below. If comments are closed, please drop by my Facebook community page and contribute there.

Photo Credit: Being Myself

Aggression A Dirty Little Secret?

dog aggression

Animal professionals take a calculated risk when they work with animals. Knowing you face the risk of an attack or death is a reality when it comes to working with wild animals but what about companion animals such as pet dogs?

The biggest risk, believe it or not, involves the dog owners who keep aggression a dirty little secret. I’ve been pretty fortunate in my career to have been able to avoid serious injury and incidents by paying attention to animal behavior and stacking the cards in my favor. However, the only times I’ve had close calls have been due to owner failing to disclosure the fact that his or her pet had aggressive tendencies.

In one situation, I was on a consult for a puppy. The owners had an older dog but never said anything about him being aggressive during our initial interview by phone, nor did they do so while I was on the premises. However, this dog lunged to attack me and I was fortunate to have my training bag to thwart the attack and use as a barrier.

Now, I’ve made my living working in animal behavior & training for a long time and so that is a strong skill set–but there are other pet professionals that work with pets and that don’t have that knowledge to be able to deal with behavior problems–especially when they take them by surprise.

Before I get into this a little more, I want to say to those of you who own a pet, you are responsible to disclose whether or not your animal is aggressive.

This means if the animal has growled, nipped, tried to bite, or has ever bitten anyone–you are required to inform anyone who is going to be around your animal that there is potential for trouble.

Failing to do so is a grave error that could cause injury, disability and even death. You are liable for the actions of your pet and it is your responsibility to make sure that you keep your pet safe and other living beings safe from your pet if he or she displays aggression.

This doesn’t mean a pet professional won’t work with you, but it does mean that he or she will know to take safety measures to mitigate potential problems and so will be prepared if something does happen.

For instance, not too long ago an animal jumped a pet pro from behind and managed to grab and drag the person by the scalp. As she tried to protect herself, the dog lunged at her face. Throwing up her limbs to defend herself–she was mauled. What she discovered later, the dog had attacked all members of the family.

Now, when I was helping one of my colleagues with his practice, I was mortified by some of the incidences that happened within households. There were two dogs that attacked a toddler and ripped his ear off.

When I asked another owner to disclose the last time their dog had bit someone, he put out his hand to show me puncture wounds that went through the hand–and said, “two weeks ago” but it was shocking to hear that bites were a regular event!

Over the years, with few exceptions, I’ve not had a problem with people withholding information from me. Part of this is because I have a questionnaire that inquiries about growling, nipping, biting and other related activities.

Plus, I also ask the pet owners directly AND in some cases, will also ask other pet professionals who work with the animal for their input.

When I’ve asked non-trainer pet professionals about this issue, many discover that a cat or dog is aggressive when they insist that pet owners sign off on the issue.

Honesty keeps others safe, and then an informed decision can be made as to whether or not the problem is manageable or not.

If you are a pet professional, take the time to ask the tough questions and to do some exploration with new clients.

Finally, don’t forget to ask if the animals behave differently when their humans are around or not. Since, as the old saying goes, “An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.”

Okay, so now I want to know–have you failed to disclose something about your pet’s behavior because you were embarrassed, afraid or ???

If you are a pet pro–have you faced the unknown due to non-disclosure?

Please share your stories in the comments below. If comments are closed, take a moment to leave your note over on my Facebook community page.

Photo Credit: Lucas Vieira Moreira