It was a typical Saturday for Dale Cowan … other than the three bears in his tree.
Cowan’s home and business, Cowan Construction, are located just south of the Shoshone River, behind the Walmart Supercenter on Cody’s West Strip.
Cowan doesn’t mind the black bears, but is not a fan of grizzlies — and he couldn’t immediately tell which species was in his tree.
“If they were grizzlies, I wanted them out of here,” he said.
He called law enforcement at about 3:50 p.m. and was referred to the Wyoming Game and Fish Department.
Luke Ellsbury, a large carnivore biologist for the Game and Fish in Cody, took the call and headed to Gulch Drive to check on the report.
Up in Cowan’s tree were a black bear sow and her two yearling cubs. The location was just on the edge of the city, so Ellsbury decided it would be best to just scare off the three bears instead of trying to capture them.
After deploying an air-soft rifle (which shoots plastic, non-lethal BBs) the bears climbed down from the branches and took off running toward Rattlesnake Mountain, Ellsbury said.
“We expect to see bears [on the Shoshone River] this time of year, so be vigilant if you’re recreating near the river,” he said.
The biologist said most communities in the area, including Powell, get one or two bears in town a year.
“We’ve had bears down here before,” Cowan said. “No big deal.”
In June, a large black bear boar was captured in Cody after raiding a resident’s chicken coop, killing three chickens and moving to the First Presbyterian Church on a Sunday morning. The bear was euthanized after the Game and Fish found it to be in poor physical condition.
Earlier this month, a large male grizzly raided fruit trees in Cody city limits and left tracks on a mountain bike trail near Beck Lake. It eluded capture.
Decisions on captured bears in conflict situations are made on a case by case basis by Game and Fish biologists. Some are captured and released in safe bear habitat. Others are euthanized.
A bear, presumably a grizzly, attacked a hiker north of Cody in the Beartooth Mountain range on Sept. 9. Game and Fish personnel did not take any action, saying the bruin appeared to be defending a cache of pine nuts after being surprised by the hiker.
Then on Sept. 14, a hunting outfitter and his client in the Jackson area were attacked by a sow grizzly and her yearling cub while retrieving an elk killed on a hunt the day before. The outfitter, a father of five, was killed in the attack. Game and Fish personnel later killed the two grizzlies, saying the bears had acted with abnormal aggression.
As of Friday, 48 grizzly bears were known to have died or have been killed in the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem this year, according to the U.S. Geological Survey; 34 of those were human-caused deaths — mostly “removals” of grizzlies that attacked livestock or people and were euthanized.
For more Wyoming bear information, visit www.bit.ly/2dGgxWv.