Hunter recalls run-in with grizzly bear in Idaho

IDAHO FALLS, Idaho – A hunter who was bitten by a grizzly bear after surprising the animal in eastern Idaho says the attack happened in seconds.

Gary Detwiler, a 67-year-old archer from Midland, Mich., said he was helping his hunting partner retrieve a bull elk carcass last week when they encountered the bear, which may already have claimed the carcass.

James Kindy had shot the six-point elk the previous evening and decided to track the animal the next day because it was getting dark, Detwiler said. The men located a blood trail and started following it, walking into a grove of small pine trees no more than 300 yards away.

“We basically heard branches breaking,” Detwiler said. “I thought it was the elk ... but then a bear jumped out.”

Detwiler said the bear was 10 to 12 feet away when it broke from cover, bit him on the bicep and then returned to the trees.

“I only had about one second between when I saw it and it jumped on me,” Detwiler said. “And I had another second or two before it jumped back to the same spot.”

He didn’t remember any sounds, smells or pain, just the speed of the attack and how the bear was nearly the same color as an elk.

“I thought I was going to die for a minute, but then I knew I wasn’t,” he said.

The animal didn’t give him time to react, he said.

“It wouldn’t have mattered if I had pepper spray, a pistol or a shotgun,” Detwiler said. “There was nothing I could have done in the second it took for the bear to bite me. Absolutely nothing.”

The two men walked about four miles back to their truck and drove to a medical clinic in Ashton, Idaho, where Detwiler was stitched up and released. In the days since, Detwiler has stayed behind at the Island Park hunting camp while Kindy hunted. He said he will hunt in the future, but may stick to areas that are free of grizzlies.

Steve Schmidt, the Idaho Department of Fish and Game’s regional supervisor in Idaho Falls, said biologists will return to the scene to find out if the bruin was guarding the elk carcass – a source of food that a bear likely would try to defend.

“We don’t have enough information to say what the bear was doing,” Schmidt said.

Kindy hasn’t yet found the elk he wounded, Schmidt said. There are no plans to relocate or kill the grizzly because biologists would have no way to identify the one that bit Detwiler.