Two grizzlies killed by vehicles

By Leo Wolfson

Cody Enterprise

Via Wyoming News Exchange

CODY — “I’m an 80-year-old granny who has killed a grizzly bear,” Lynne Simpson said.

The Cody resident barely even saw the bear before impact. It was a mid-September evening ruined by a sudden turn of events on the North Fork Highway near the Pahaska Teepee Resort.

The incident was the first of two bear-vehicle collisions in the past two months.

Dusty Lasseter, Wyoming Game and Fish Bear Wise coordinator, said bear-related vehicle accidents are rare, with typically only two to three in the entire west per year. It’s likely the bear was frequenting the many gooseberry patches that border US 14A.

“Bears are pretty intelligent,” Lasseter said. “They’re not prone to hitting vehicles.”

“He’s looking right into my soul,” Simpson said of the moment her Honda Accord struck the 2-3-year old grizzly, who locked eyes with the creature as it crunched onto her front hood.

“I watched him die,” Simpson said. “I’m not particularly proud of that.”

It took about 5 minutes from the point of impact for the bear to die, an interminable time Simpson and her husband Pete Simpson – parked behind her – stayed in their vehicles, uneasy about approaching the dying bear and concerned about a possible mother bear nearby.

“I stayed in the car rather than getting out and attacked while it was still alive,” Simpson said.

The bear perished on the front of her hood. Thanks to help from two passersby, who pulled the young bear off the car, Lynne Simpson never had to physically deal with it.

“An old lady loves compliments from handsome cowboys,” Simpson said, chuckling.

Wyoming Game and Fish also responded to the incident.

Simpson said the accident occurred at dusk when visibility was poor. The bear was chasing something as it crossed the road and was struck by Simpson’s car.

“He was pursuing something, I’m not sure what,” Simpson said.

She said there was damage to the vehicle, but it was not totaled. For her, the lasting remembrance of the event will extend much farther than the state of her car exterior.

“You’re used to hitting an antelope or deer,” Simpson said. “For us westerners, I guess that is what happens, you never know what to expect.”

Lasseter and the Park County Sheriff’s Office confirmed another grizzly was killed by a vehicle late Oct. 18, near Reef Creek Picnic Area on WYO 296.

Lasseter said the bear was a medium-sized five-year old adult. The accident wasn’t reported until about 11 a.m. Oct. 19. Game and Fish recovered the bear that day, still laying next to the highway.

Game and Fish will not release the name of the person involved in the incident. They are not facing any criminal charges for the grizzly kill since it was an accidental event.

Lasseter blames the recent uptick in collisions on increasing bear range.

“It’s a result of higher density of bears and increased distribution of their population,” Lasseter said.

Although bear strikes may be rare, Lasseter said people should always be cautious and mentally present when driving in wilderness areas.

“It’s no different than any other wildlife,” Lasseter. “Use lesser speeds so you’re less likely of striking something.”