Contrary to popular belief, grizzly bears are not skulking in the forest, just waiting for a hapless human to wander into their clutches. Grizzly bears want to avoid you even more than you want to avoid them. They want to avoid you more than a toddler avoids a vegetable. However, since, unlike their cousin the American black bear, grizzlies hang out in more vulnerable grassland habitats than protected forests, a frightened, cornered grizzly will defend itself rather than run away.
Unfortunately, Shannun Rammel of Choteau, Montana, decided to go looking for a grizzly bear in order to prove to wildlife officials that there was a bear in the area. Apparently, the grizzly tracks did not suffice as proof. Also apparently, this bear has been an absolute fiend. “…he was ready to jump over into the corrals where the pigs are. So he’s been a real pest.” Indeed. Walking near a pen of bacon. Super pesky.
Despite the fact that bear spray is statistically the safest weapon you can use against a grizzly bear , Mr. Rammel decided to check a grain storage shed with a low-caliber gun. Keep in mind that grizzly diets are actually mostly plant matter.
What happened when Mr. Rammel cornered a half-ton grizzly bear? Did his low-caliber gun protect him? Did he triumph over the beast and show it who was boss? Shockingly, the grizzly reacted naturally, completely defensively at being cornered by a human with a gun.
Who would have guessed? Mr. Rammel received “superficial” injuries and no broken bones, which frankly, should have been more severe considering grizzly claws are about 4 inches long. “I looked to the left and all of a sudden I heard a roar and he came flying out of there right off the bat.” It’s almost as if the bear was behaving in a fight or flight reaction?
And by the way, the bear did not stick around. It fled. Human reactions, however, were not so peaceful. “My instinct was to start up my truck, drive towards him and run over the bear if I could,” said Jammie, Mr. Rammel’s wife. (Cue up the soundtrack from Duel?)
Mr. Rammel was sure to record his injuries, including exposed bone, apparently in case he succumbed to them. The purpose for the video is unclear. Would nobody believe him? Maybe it’s fair, since the logic in approaching an abandoned shed with essentially no protection — certainly no bear spray— in pursuit of a grizzly is shaky at best. Or perhaps he just likes being a star in his own movement against an animal that has done nothing more than stroll past a pig pen.
Whatever the case, Mr. Rammel wants the bear dead. Apparently, he is not happy that the result of him cornering a half-ton grizzly in a shed and challenging it to a fight ended in him losing that particular fight.
By the way, Montana Fish, Wildlife, and Parks spent 12 days tracking the offending grizzly bear with radar, aircraft, and cameras. To no avail. Like most bears that have a negative, startling encounter with a human however, this grizzly has run far away from the scene and will likely never return.
As always, the media was happy to swoop down on a “grizzly attack”. The Greater Falls Tribune reported it as, “Choteau man seriously injured in grizzly bear attack. ‘It was throwing him like a ragdoll’.” It is further written that Mr. Rammel “unwittingly” surprised a grizzly bear, making no mention that Mr. Rammel was, in fact, actively looking for it. Yet another article in the Independent Record displays, “Montana man hospitalized after being mauled by grizzly bear”. Unfortunately, sensational articles like these do little to report the facts of the story undermining the fear factor, like the grizzly running away, Mr. Rammel’s purposeful search, or his determination for the animal to be killed for a natural behavior. If journalism wants to make an ecological statement, it needs to step up and hold accountable such sensational titles that fear monger for more clicks.
“They’ve got the whole Rocky Mountain Front up there, and they need to stay up there,” said Mrs. Rammel. “The problem is there’s too many bears, so the big ones are pushing them out and they’re coming down to our prairie lands.” Except… that’s not what’s happening.
Among other things, what Mrs. Rammel may not know is that between 1850 and 1920, grizzlies were exterminated from 95% of their historic range. As of today, grizzlies occupy only 2% of their historic range, over half of which is still suitable grizzly territory.
It comes down to this: zero grizzlies deserve death for behaving perfectly naturally when cornered and surprised in an unsecured shed containing a free buffet, and fewer than 2% of the original population of grizzly bears does not statistically hold up as “too many bears”.