Printed on: September 18, 2012

Hunter recalls bear attack

By Rob Thornberry

The hunter attacked by a grizzly bear last week in the Centennial Mountains said nothing could have stopped the incident.

"It wouldn't have mattered if I had pepper spray, a pistol or a shotgun," said Gary Detwiler during a telephone interview Monday from his hunting camp in Island Park. "There was nothing I could have done in the second it took for the bear to bite me. Absolutely nothing."

The 67-year-old hunter from Midland, Mich., was helping his hunting partner track down an elk when the mauling occurred. His partner, James Kindy, had shot a six-point bull elk late Thursday. Instead of trailing the elk, Kindy withdrew and hiked four miles off the mountain in the Sheridan Creek drainage.

"James didn't want to bump the elk and chase it off," Detwiler said. "You are supposed to give them a half an hour before trailing them. It was getting dark, so James decided to wait to the next day."

On Friday, Kindy and Detwiler found a blood trail and started following it.

They walked no more than 300 yards when they entered a grove of small pine trees.

"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.

"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. The only thing that stood out was the color of the bear -- basically the same color as an elk.

And as quickly as the attack happened, Detwiler said, they started down the trail. He said blood soaked through his shirt where the bear bit him on the left bicep, but he said it never really hurt.

"I thought I was going to die for a minute, but then I knew I wasn't," he said.

They walked four miles back to the truck and drove to the Ashton Clinic, where he was stitched up and released.

Since then, Detwiler has sat in hunting camp as Kindy has hunted. He said he will continue to hunt, but may move to an area devoid of grizzlies.

"He was just doing his thing I guess, but I don't like seeing grizzlies around people," said Detwiler, who has hunted in the Island Park area for more than 15 years.

Steve Schmidt, the Idaho Department of Fish and Game's regional supervisor in Idaho Falls, said biologists will return to the scene in the coming days to find out if the bruin was guarding a carcass.

Kindy has been unable to find the wounded elk, Schmidt said.

Schmidt also said there are no plans to relocate or kill the bear since biologists have no idea which bear bit Dewiler.

"We don't have enough information to say what the bear was doing," Schmidt said.

Detwiler, meanwhile, has been sitting in camp and thinking about the attack and his hunting future.

"I guess I will go hunting again," he said. "It isn't going to do me any good to get excited about it."

Hunters and Island Park residents are encouraged to be smart about bears, Fish and Game officials said Monday.

On Sunday, an archer was charged by a grizzly bear on Sheridan Ridge near where Detwiler was bitten.

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