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Backcountry skier rescued at Grand Teton

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A missing skier was rescued Wednesday after two nights in the backcountry of Grand Teton National Park after exiting a backcountry gate leaving the Jackson Hole Mountain Resort in Jackson, Wy., according to the National Park Service.

Two skiers were reported overdue by friends at approximately 7 p.m. Monday night, February 20, when they did not return from skiing at Jackson Hole Mountain Resort. The men were identified as 30-year old Chris Prem from Destin, Florida, and 31-year old Mike Syverson from Telluride, Colo.

The emergency call to 911 prompted a conference call with Teton County Sheriff’s Office and Teton County Search and Rescue with Grand Teton National Park to initiate a search for the men. Information to help determine a search area was very limited, other than it was believed the men planned to exit the resort and ski the nearby backcountry. At approximately 10 p.m. the Teton County Sheriff’s Office successfully got a cell phone ping to help determine that the missing skiers were in the Granite Canyon area of Grand Teton National Park. This information greatly helped to narrow the search area.

The National Park Service took the lead with the search. Due to avalanche danger and darkness, resources were gathered to begin an aerial and ground search for early Tuesday morning.

At approximately 1:30 a.m. Tuesday, February 21, a resort tram operator spending the night near the top of the tram was awakened by one of the missing skiers, Prem. An emergency call was made to alert rescue personnel. Prem was uninjured, and communicated that he had separated from Syverson because he had gear that would allow him to travel back to the summit for help. He also had a GPS coordinate from a phone app that could help to locate his friend. Prem spent the night atop the mountain.

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Climbing parties rescued from Teton’s Stettner Couloir

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mountain_climbing_icon_1Two climbing parties were rescued in an around-the-clock evacuation effort after they became stranded while descending Grand Teton over the weekend.

Here’s the National Park Service account of the rescue:

Climbers Stranded Overnight in Stettner Couloir Suffer Hypothermia, Prompt Rescue

Aug. 19, 2015

In the early morning hours of Sunday, Aug. 16, Grand Teton National Park rangers initiated a multi-phased rescue mission for 10 climbers in two separate parties who became stranded together in the Stettner Couloir late Saturday evening, Aug. 15, while descending from the Petzoldt Ridge on the Grand Teton.

The initial call for help, at 8:45 Saturday evening, set in motion a search and rescue operation that did not end until four of the climbers were finally evacuated from the Lower Saddle of the Grand by helicopter late Sunday afternoon. Although none of the ten climbers sustained injuries during their mountain mishap, several did suffer from exposure to the extremely wet and cold conditions that they experienced during their hours-long descent of the Stettner Couloir.

The two climbing parties (one with six members and the other with four) were attempting to summit the Grand Teton in a single day, rather than making a two-day climb with an overnight in Garnet Canyon.

The two parties met up during their respective descents off the Petzoldt Ridge, and both groups made an ill-fated decision to rappel down Chevy Couloir and into the Stettner Couloir to reach the Lower Saddle at the end of their day-long climbing adventure. With little understanding of summertime conditions typically found in the Stettner Couloir, this decision proved to be problematic and ultimately placed the climbers in jeopardy of incurring serious injury.

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Boulder injury at Grand Teton

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A rolling boulder injured a Wyoming man’s arm while he was hiking the Upper Saddle at Grand Teton, prompting a helicopter evacuation. Here’s the National Park Service’s Morning Report on the incident:

Hiker Injured By Dislodged Boulder

On Tuesday, July 21st, a large boulder dislodged and rolled over the arm of a hiker, causing severe injury to his limb and prompting a helicopter-assisted rescue by Grand Teton National Park rangers.

Tucker Zibilich, 26, of Jackson, Wyoming, and his partner were on their descent after making a day trek to the Upper Saddle of the Grand Teton when he was injured by the boulder.

Teton Interagency Dispatch Center received an emergency call for help at 12:40 p.m. from Zibilich’s partner and several other climbers, and park rangers immediately initiated a rescue operation. A backcountry ranger and a retired Jenny Lake Subdistrict ranger happened to be approaching the base of the headwall, just below the Lower Saddle of the Grand Teton, when the call came in. They advanced to the Lower Saddle, picked up gear at the park’s backcountry rescue cache, and ascended another 1,200 plus feet to the accident site. They reached Zibilich at 2:15 p.m., assessed his condition and provided emergency medical care until additional park rangers could arrive.

Due to nature of Zibilich’s injury and concern about attempting to hike him downslope over steep and rocky terrain to reach the Grand Teton’s broad and somewhat flat Lower Saddle for an aerial evacuation, a decision was made to use the Teton Interagency contract helicopter to instead short-haul Zibilich directly from his high elevation site on the Grand Teton to the Jenny Lake Rescue Cache on the valley floor.

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One dead, four rescued in Mount Moran avalanche

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From the National Park Service’s Morning Report:

One dead, four rescued in avalanche

May, 29, 2015

A team of rangers, emergency medical personnel, Teton County SAR team members and a contract helicopter rescued four backcountry ski mountaineers who were involved in an avalanche on the northeast face of Mount Moran at Grand TetonNational Park in Wyoming on Sunday.

753fa-logoLuke Lynch, 38, was killed in the avalanche and one of his companions, Stephen P. Adamson, Jr.,  42, sustained life-threatening injuries, prompting evacuation by helicopter. Two other companions – Brook Yeomans, 37, who suffered minor injuries, and Zahan Billimoria , 37, who escaped injury – were also evacuated via helicopter as continuing avalanche activity and a steady cycle of snow squalls across the Tetons made the multi-staged rescue operation more challenging.

Teton Interagency Dispatch Center received a 911 transfer call from Teton County on Sunday and quickly contacted park rangers, who immediately began a coordinated rescue operation. Because of the remote location on Mount Moran and the report of multiple injured persons, rangers quickly staged at and responded from the Jenny Lake Rescue Cache, located at Lupine Meadows near the base of Teewinot Mountain. Rangers also summoned the Teton County SAR contract helicopter.

The four ski mountaineers were ascending the steep Sickle Couloir on Mount Moran when a shallow wet slough avalanche released from above. The snow slide swept three of the mountaineers downslope for approximately 500 feet over rock and ice covered terrain. Billimoria was able to move out of the heavier portion of the debris flow and was not caught in the slide. He quickly descended to his teammates, called 911, and began the difficult task of administering aid to his three companions.

Light snowfall on the slopes above continued to cause additional sloughs that repeatedly hit the group, requiring Billimoria to work desperately to move Adamson and Lynch to a safer location. Although injured, Yeomans was able to descend slowly downslope under his own power.

After a slight lull in the recurring snowstorms over the Teton peaks, the Teton County SAR helicopter was able to deliver several rescuers to the base of the couloir. A Teton County SAR member was short-hauled to the scene to aid in the evacuation of Adamson, who receiving emergency medical care by park rangers on site and getting package for airlift off the mountain.

Adamson and the Teton County SAR member were both short-hauled directly to the Jenny Lake Rescue Cache where a team of medics and the park’s medical director, Dr. Will Smith, provided additional emergency care before Adamson was transported by park ambulance to the Jackson Hole Airport. Upon reaching the airport, Adamson was transferred to a fixed wing air ambulance that flew him to the Eastern Idaho Regional Medical Center in Idaho Falls, Idaho.

The Teton County SAR helicopter subsequently returned to pick up the two other avalanche survivors and transport them out of the backcountry. Additional flights were made to bring out Lynch’s body, as well as the remaining park rangers and their rescue gear. All rescue personnel were safely out of the mountains.

Avalanche rescue at Grand Teton

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Below is the latest from the National Park Service on Sunday’s helicopter rescue following an avalanche at Grand Teton. According to the Bridger-Teton Avalanche Center, the skier deployed an airbag and wasn’t buried but sustained significant injuries.

Backcountry Skier Caught & Injured in an Avalanche Gets Aerial Rescue
March 10, 2014

A skier was caught in an avalanche and seriously injured about 2 p.m. on Sunday, March 9, in Grand Teton National Park’s backcountry. Greg Epstein, 43, from Wyoming, was preparing to descend one of the Air Force chutes within Granite Canyon with two companions at the time of the avalanche. Epstein was reportedly carried over 1,000 feet by the slide. No other members of the party were injured.

Just after 2 p.m., Teton County Sheriffs’ Office received a 911 call reporting the avalanche and injured skier. Shortly after, Teton Interagency Dispatch Center was notified and Grand Teton National Park rangers began coordination of the rescue operation with Teton County Search and Rescue personnel. Jackson Hole Ski Patrol initially responded to the scene, stabilized Epstein, and transported him 300 to 400 feet down to the bottom of the chutes. A Teton County Search and Rescue helicopter flew two park rangers to the area and Epstein was placed inside the ship with an attending park ranger and flown to the base of Teton Village and a waiting ambulance.

Due to the proximity of Granite Canyon to Jackson Hole Mountain Resort, Jackson Hole ski patrollers are often the first rescuers to respond to winter emergencies within the canyon. Ski patrol reached Epstein about an hour after the incident. They subsequently delivered him to the responding park rangers and rescue helicopter at 4:20 p.m. Epstein was transferred to a Jackson Hole Fire/EMS ambulance and transported to St. John’s Medical Center in Jackson, Wyoming, for further care.

This was the second backcountry ski run of the day for Epstein and his companions. All three are expert skiers with extensive knowledge of backcountry skiing and avalanche danger. The ski party was well equipped for their plan and they were carrying all the appropriate safety gear, including avalanche beacons and probes.

The Air Force chutes are one of many popular backcountry ski areas accessible from Jackson Hole Mountain Resort. Rangers remind skiers and snowboarders who leave the resort boundary that neither their safety nor a rescue is guaranteed. Parties should be equipped with appropriate avalanche gear and know how to use it. Backcountry users should also carry extra food and water in the event they have to spend any unplanned nights the park’s remote terrain.

The Bridger-Teton Avalanche Center listed the avalanche danger on March 9 at mid and high elevations as moderate in the morning and considerable in the afternoon. A general avalanche advisory noted that “Skiers…who venture into steep avalanche terrain could trigger dense surface slabs and in isolated areas, very destructive deep hard slabs. These slabs could be triggered during the morning hours and will become more sensitive to human triggers as temperatures increase.”

Rescue during Teton snow storm

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Rangers at Grand Teton National Park rescued a group of skiers who became lost in the park over the weekend.

Here’s the National Park Service account of the operation:

 

Lost Skiers Rescued during Major Winter Storm
Date: Feb. 10, 2014

   Three skiers unintentionally ended up in Grand Teton National Park’s Granite Canyon backcountry on Friday, Feb. 7, prompting a search and rescue mission by park rangers the following day during a significant winter storm. Despite a high and rising avalanche danger, park rescuers successfully assisted the three out of the Teton backcountry by 9:30 p.m. Saturday, Feb. 8.

Tom Barry, 59, of Jackson, Wy., Zoe Tong, 49, and Dave Catero, 52, from San Francisco, Calif., left the Jackson Hole Mountain Resort boundary from Gate 1 at about 11 a.m. on Friday with the intention of skiing an area called Four Pines, adjacent to the ski resort. The three mistakenly skied into Granite Canyon instead, and became lost in Grand Teton’s more remote backcountry.

By 4 p.m. Friday, the three skiers realized they were lost, so they decided to dig a snow cave and stay put for the night. By Saturday morning, the group was out of food and water, and only one of them was carrying an avalanche transceiver. They decided to send a text message to a friend indicating they were lost and needed help.

Teton County Sheriff’s Office dispatchers received the call for help, and notified park rangers at 8:30 a.m. The skiers were able to provide their location by GPS coordinates derived from their cell phone, and through a text message, rangers determined that no one in the party was injured. Due to high winds and low visibility, a helicopter reconnaissance and rescue was not possible, so rangers prepared for a ground-based rescue.

Rangers spent most of the day weighing options to help the trio while analyzing the risk to rescuers. With concerns that the three might not survive a second night in the backcountry, rangers ultimately decided to attempt a rescue. If rescuers had encountered signs of slope instability, or if the avalanche danger had been any higher, rangers would not have attempted the rescue. Ultimately, four park rangers departed the Jackson Hole Mountain Resort on skis at 4 p.m. Saturday and reached the party at 7:30 p.m. The group was then escorted out of the backcountry and back to the base of the Jackson Hole Mountain Resort.

Rangers remind backcountry users and those who leave the ski resort boundary that a rescue is not guaranteed. Pursing these activities requires a high level of personal accountability and responsibility. All members of a backcountry party should have appropriate avalanche gear, including a transceiver, shovel, and probe. Backcountry skiers and snowboarders need to be prepared to spend more time than anticipated by bringing extra clothing, high energy snacks and water. They should also consider their physical limitations and time restrictions when choosing a destination, and bring a map of the area and know how to use it before setting out.

The Bridger-Teton Avalanche Center reported the avalanche danger as “considerable” to “high” on Saturday with increasing danger due to strong winds, warming temperatures and abundant new snow. It’s important to note that the avalanche forecast center does not provide reports for extreme terrain.

This was the first major search and rescue in Grand Teton National Park this winter.

Paraglider rescue

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A paraglider got a short-haul ride from a rescue helicopter (dangeling underneath on a rope) following aforced landing Grand Teton National Park. Here’s the NPS account:

A local paraglider made a forced landing in Death Canyon Wednesday afternoon, July 10, triggering a search and rescue operation in Grand Teton National Park. Dispatchers received a call for help at 4 p.m. for Rebecca Bredehoft, 29, of Jackson, Wyoming, after she took a hard landing about 4.5 miles up canyon from the Death Canyon trailhead. Bredehoft sustained serious injuries during that landing.

Bredehoft, an expert paraglider, and a companion launched from Teton Village intending to glide north over the Teton Range before returning to land at Teton Village. While she was over Death Canyon, Bredehoft lost her thermal lift causing a forced descent to the canyon floor. Hikers, who witnessed her descent, assisted Bredehoft in moving her paraglider and other gear down the canyon trail where she subsequently met park rangers responding to the scene.

Grand Teton National Park rangers and a Teton Interagency contract helicopter flew to a landing zone about a half mile above Bredehoft’s location in Death Canyon. Once rangers arrived on scene they provided emergency medical care and prepared Bredehoft for a short-haul evacuation from the canyon to the valley floor. With a ranger attending, Bredehoft was short-hauled in a litter to a landing zone at the historic White Grass Ranch where she was met by a park ambulance and transported to St. John’s Medical Center in Jackson.

Rangers remind park users that taking off or landing by a paraglider, hang glider, hot air balloon or other airborne means is not permitted in Grand Teton National Park. People who chose to engage in these activities are reminded that the responsibility lies with each individual to ensure that they can make an appropriate landing outside the park boundary.

Grizzly shooting ruled self defense

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Officials have decided against filing charges in a 2012 grizzly shooting at Grand Teton National Park in Wyoming. Two elk hunters opened fire on the bear when it charged them while trying to protect a kill in November. For those keeping score, this is the first hunting-related grizzly kill since 1950 in Grand Teton. Most grizzly encounters that end in death for the bear are road kill incidents. Encounters that end bad for people are up, but haven’t been fatal.

Here’s the National Park Service account of the incident:

Investigation Results Made Public in 2012 Grizzly Bear Shooting

March 7, 2013

In consultation with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Grand Teton National Park law enforcement rangers completed their comprehensive investigation into the fatal shooting of a grizzly bear on Thanksgiving morning, 2012 by three hunters participating in the park’s elk reduction program. As the final step in the process, the United States Attorney’s Office has determined that no criminal charges will be filed against the hunters involved in this incident.

Although Grand Teton National Park managers regret the loss of an adult male grizzly bear due to human activities, it is important to note that the hunters involved in the incident made sound decisions after their bear encounter ended. They immediately reported the situation to park authorities and fully cooperated with the ensuing investigation, which concluded that the overall encounter lasted less than 10 seconds. During that brief time, the hunters deployed bear spray and discharged firearms against the charging grizzly. Park rangers and science and resource management personnel believe that both the bear spray and bullets contacted the grizzly bear at nearly the same instant. The totality of circumstances indicated that the hunters were forced to make rapid decisions in close proximity to the bear, and they acted in self-defense. Based on the facts of the case and this determination, no criminal charges will be filed for using a firearm or taking of wildlife.

At 7:25 a.m. on November 22, 2012, two Grand Teton National Park rangers on routine patrol, and making hunter contacts at Teton Point Overlook, reported hearing five gun shots in less than 5 seconds; the first two shots were followed in rapid succession by three more. At 7:32 a.m., a woman called the Teton Interagency Dispatch Center to report that her husband and sons had been charged by a grizzly bear and they shot at the animal. She also reported that they were in the process of hiking out from the location where the shooting occurred, and she informed the dispatcher that no people were injured.

Park law enforcement rangers and wildlife biologists responded and began a systematic investigation into the incident. Rangers met with the hunting party and all three men fully cooperated with the investigation. The three hunters (ages 48, 20 and 17), all from Wyoming, had permits to participate in the elk reduction program at Grand Teton National Park. All three carried bear spray as required for this wildlife management program.

According to interviews, the hunting party left the parking area at Schwabacher Landing at first light and had just entered into a timbered area in the Snake River bottom, slightly north of Schwabacher Landing and west of Teton Point Overlook, when the oldest of the group first noticed the bear. Although he tried to scare the bear off, it began to charge the group from 42 yards away. One member of the group described the grizzly bear as moving “like a cat,” incredibly fast, snapping tree branches, and moving very low to the ground.

All three hunters had bear spray readily accessible. The oldest member of the group immediately began deploying his bear spray while the two younger hunters raised their rifles. When the grizzly bear came within 10 feet of the young men, they both fired shots. Three bullets impacted the grizzly-one on the back and two in the head-and immediately dropped the animal to the ground. During the investigation, a partially consumed and cached elk carcass was discovered 50 yards away, leading park biologists to conclude that the bear was defending its food source. The fatally injured male bear weighed 534 pounds and was estimated to be 18 to 20 years old.

Since the elk reduction program began in 1950, this is the first grizzly bear killed by hunters in Grand Teton National Park. The largest source of known grizzly bear mortalities in Grand Teton have actually resulted from vehicle collisions, with a total of five grizzlies killed on park roads during 2005-2012 alone. To date, encounters between humans and grizzly bears that resulted in injuries to people are relatively uncommon. However, during the last 20 years as the Yellowstone ecosystem grizzly bear population has recovered and regained formerly occupied habitat (including in Grand Teton National Park) bear maulings have increased. Grand Teton has documented six attacks since 1994 when a jogger was mauled on the Emma Matilda Lake trail. Other maulings occurred in 2001, 2007 and 2011. A mauling also occurred in the John D. Rockefeller, Jr. Memorial Parkway in 1997. None of these bear attacks resulted in fatal injuries to humans.

Grand Teton fall

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(Note: Originally posted 7.25.12)This climbing season is turning out to be a deadly one for the Teton range. Over the weekend, a California climber became the latest fatality, bringing the number of dead to four so far this year. Below is part of the National Park Service release on the accident:Mountain Climber Dies from Fall on Middle Teton Date: July 23, 2012A climber from California fell to his death on the Middle Teton in Grand Teton National Park in Wyoming while descending on Sunday, July 22, according to National Park Service officials.
Justin Harold Beldin, 27 of Benicia, and two climbing partners had summited the 12,804-foot mountain and were beginning to down at about noon when the accident occurred, officials said.
Another group of climbers near the summit of the Middle Teton saw Beldin fall from the Northwest Couloir side of the ridge that separates it from the Southwest Couloir. They hailed Beldin’s companions — who were already working their way down from the summit via the Southwest Couloir and were unaware of the fall.
A member of the second climbing party called the ranger station, which summoned a Teton Interagency contract helicopter. Rangers saw Beldin during that over flight and determined that he likely suffered fatal injuries in a fall of approximately 1,000 feet.
An approaching thunderstorm forced the helicopter to land and wait for better weather. Unfortunately the storm worsened, and weather continued to delay recovery efforts until Monday. At about 10:30 a.m. Monday, four rangers reached the landing zone at the Lower Saddle of the Grand Teton by helicopter and climbed to Beldin’s body to prepare an evacuation.
Beldin, a California native, had been living in Victor, Idaho, since April and working in Jackson, Wy. Beldin carried an ice axe with him on the climb; however, he was not wearing a helmet, park officials said.
The Middle Teton is one of the most popular climbs in the Teton Range and is often reached via the Southwest Couloir. The rock climbing section of the Northwest Couloir is rated a 5.6 on the Yosemite Decimal System-a set of numeric ratings describing the difficulty of climbs. There is also a snow and ice section of the couloir that is rated a 3 on the Alpine Ice numeric rating scale.
Beldin’s death the fourth fatality in the Teton Range this year. Earlier, two backcountry skiers were killed in an avalanche on Ranger Peak on March 7, and a climber fell to his death on Teewinot on July 12. (7.25.12)

Roadkill report: Bear at Grand Teton

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(NOTES: Originally published June 27, 2012)

We find the National Park Service roadkill reports interesting, so there will be a few of these drifting in on Assorted Skullduggery over the next week. As you will see, park officials take this stuff seriously. Our first installment is about a bear that was hit Thursday. Below is the NPS release:

Investigation Reveals Details about Collision between a Vehicle and Grizzly Bear
Date: June 22, 2012
An ongoing investigation by Grand Teton National Park rangers, with assistance from Wyoming Highway Patrol, has clarified the circumstances around a vehicle accident that resulted in the death of a young male grizzly bear on June 21. The driver of the vehicle, a 29-year-old Pennsylvania man, sustained minor injuries and his sedan incurred significant damage.

The preliminary investigation has determined that a southbound vehicle slightly swerved to avoid a young grizzly bear that was trying to cross the highway. That unexpected maneuver caused the northbound vehicle to also swerve, over correct, and veer off into the sagebrush on the west side of Highway 26/89/191. At some point while the vehicle careened through the sage, it collided with the bear-the animal was not struck on the road surface. The vehicle came to rest about 80 feet off the road. Findings from the accident scene reconstruction suggest that neither vehicle was speeding at the time of the incident. The daytime speed limit on this highway is 55 mph.

The young bear was still breathing when park rangers arrived at the scene, but it died shortly after. Grand Teton National Park biologists removed the carcass and took hair and tissue samples as well as a tooth, which determines the age of the bear. Biologists will submit a hair sample for DNA testing to determine whether this bear is related to identifiable grizzlies within the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem (GYE).

The Interagency Grizzly Bear Study Team conducts research on grizzly bears throughout the 22-million-acre GYE as part of a long-term effort to monitor the population. The hair sample will be matched with available data collected by this interdisciplinary group of scientists and biologists. The team has obtained data on grizzlies through biological samples and radio-collar tracking since 1973. The team is composed of representatives from the U.S. Geological Survey, National Park Service, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, U.S. Forest Service, and the States of Idaho, Montana, and Wyoming.

This is the first bear fatality caused by a vehicle on park roads this year. However each year in Grand Teton, an average of one or more bears (grizzly and/or black bears) are involved in vehicle collisions that result in the injury or death of the animal.

In the past six years, vehicle-related deaths of bears include: 2006, one black bear; 2007, two black bears and one grizzly bear cub; 2009, one black bear; and 2010, one grizzly bear, one black bear cub, and one black bear cub and two other bears (unverified species) that were injured but left the scene; 2011, two black bears, according to the National Park Service.

These encounters between vehicles and bears — among other wildlife accidents — serve as a reminder that animals actively cross and use park roads. Motorists are reminded to drive the posted speed limit and be prepared to stop suddenly for wildlife, or those viewing wildlife, along or on park roadways. Driving slower than indicated speed limits-especially at night-can increase the margin of safety for people and animals. Collisions between motor vehicles and wildlife may result in severe damage to a vehicle, serious or fatal injuries to the occupants of that vehicle, and/or death for the animal involved.

In addition to bears, other wildlife such as wolves, elk, moose, bison, deer, pronghorn antelope, as well as smaller creatures such as beavers, marmots, and porcupines may also be encountered on or near park roads. (6.27.12)