Jackson Hole Daily, Mike Koshmrl- The Casper man who was maimed by a bear Tuesday morning was calling for elk to assist his bow-hunting friend when the bruin attacked him on steep, timbered slopes in the Leidy Highlands.
Reggie Riebe reportedly suffered injuries to his hands, arms, buttocks and scalp, but by Wednesday afternoon was in “good condition” in the primary care unit of St. John’s Medical Center. The details of Riebe’s bloody encounter, phoned into authorities at 9:06 a.m., remain hazy because so far he’s been unwilling to talk with wildlife officials who are investigating the attack.
“Who knows what he’s been through,” Wyoming Game and Fish Department spokesman Mark Gocke said. “He might be in a lot of pain. We’re not going to fault him.”
Reached via St. John’s administrators, Riebe also declined an interview with the Jackson Hole Daily.
Game and Fish officials were able to gather some details by talking with the elk hunter Riebe was aiding. The mauled man was 100 to 150 yards away from his partner in an area with lots of deadfall and low visibility when attacked so the struggle was not witnessed.
Brian DeBolt, Game and Fish’s large carnivore conflict coordinator, relayed the account of the uninjured hunter, who was not identified.
“He was hunting and Reggie was calling,” DeBolt said. “Then, when they regrouped, Reggie said, ‘hey, I’ve been mauled by a bear.’ And he had some wounds to show that.”
The party walked a mile to their vehicle and drove to meet an ambulance.
Because of the area, aggressive behavior of the animal and extent of Riebe’s injuries, Game and Fish suspects the attacking animal was a grizzly bear, Gocke said.
Learning of the specific location — 25 miles north of Jackson in the Skull Creek drainage — DeBolt and colleagues went to try to find the scene of the attack but were unsuccessful. In the hours between the mauling and DeBolt’s arrival significant rain fell, he said.
There are many questions Game and Fish has that are left to be answered: the bear’s behavior, if Riebe was cow calling or bugling, if cubs or a carcass were present and what caused the bear to flee. That information could help state wildlife managers decide what course of action to take, DeBolt said.
“Do we need to move that bear out of the area?” DeBolt said. “Do we need to sign that area? There’s a whole list of management options.”
“In this case, it appears that it was a little more than a surprise encounter,” he said. “As we state in all our education, calling can attract a bear. It doesn’t appear to be the case that it was overly aggressive or seeking out humans.”
The bear also wasn’t shot at — at least to Game and Fish’s knowledge — and so there’s no reason to believe the animal might be injured and dangerous.
Believing there is no imminent human safety threat, no trapping operations or area closures are in Game and Fish or the U.S. Forest Service’s plans.
With rifle deer season starting today in most of Jackson Hole and rifle elk season 11 days away, Gocke urged hunters to take precautions when pursuing ungulates in grizzly country. Hunters in the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem kill an average of 10 grizzly bears a year.
So far in 2016 there have been two hunter-bear encounters that turned fatal for the grizzly, DeBolt said.