On October 25 Karen and I were driving over Togwotee Pass on our way to our place in Idaho when we saw the grizzly sow named Felicia and her cub, Pepper, right by the road (see our trip report). While it was a fantastic experience, it also showed the potential for a bad outcome for people and/or the bears. As I metioned in the trip report, the bears approached the road with the people standing outside their cars. At my prompting those of us who were closest got in our cars but there were those who were just a few cars away that did not. Worse than that, after she crossed the road and was on the fence, a woman with a camera walked over behind a car that had just pulled over to get that close-up shot. She was probably about 10-15 feet away. Apparently the woman thought she was safe because she was standing behind the car, but if the bear had wanted she could have been on her instantly. Instead Felicia moved off the fence and down the hill.
I have been critical of the Wyoming wildlife officials for their attitudes towards the grizzlies in general and Felicia/Pepper in particular. But I do see that they are faced with a dilema. If they do nothing, some idiot will eventually try to pet the bear or do something almost that stupid. The two times I have observed Felicia, she has seemed comfortable with the people around and not aggressive at all. However, we all know that any bear can be potentially dangerous and can turn at any time, sometimes for good reasons or sometimes for no reason. The first time I observed her was in June and even though there were more people, they gave her plenty of room as she moved closer to the road. This last time, however, there were a number of people who were very complacent as she came to the road and the woman I mentioned who was just asking for trouble.
Also, there is the danger with speeding vehicles. On the 25th there wasn't much traffic and what there was was not moving very fast as the road in that area was mostly snow covered. However, when the road is clear, there are a lot of trucks and cars that speed along which could be deadly for the bears or the people that swerve to avoid them.
So, the question is should the wildlife officials do something, and if so, what could they do to help the situation?
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