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A Picture from History: Night of the Grizzlies

“Don’t feed the bears.” 

You’ve likely heard and read this warning, especially if you do much camping. 

Bear country sign
A warning many of us have seen before. (Photo: Helena Jacoba)

But many don’t realize there was a specific incident that prompted those warnings.

It was a night of claws and fangs…the night of the Grizzlies. 

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August 12, 1967

Michele Koons and a small group of friends decided to go camping at Trout Lake in Glacier National Park.

Koons was a 19-year-old from San Diego, California, and worked in the park’s gift shop during the summer.

Trout Lake in Glacier National Park
Trout Lake (Photo: Colin dm)

As the group headed out to the lake they passed hikers going the opposite direction who warned them about bears in the area. 

But within Glacier National Park, there hadn’t ever been a bear attack. So, the campers continued on.

Glacier National Park
No wonder Glacier National Park is so popular among campers. (Photo: Benoit Brummer)

Miles away Roy Ducat and Julie Hegelson camped near the Granite Park Chalet, a hotel within Glacier National.

Similar to Koons and her friends, the couple received warnings from a passerby about the threat of bears. But decided to continue with their camping plans anyway.

Granite Park Chalet
Granite Park Chalet

The Attack at Trout Lake

Shortly after setting up camp at the lake, an emaciated grizzly bear approached Koons and her fellow campers.

It stole some food but the group headed towards the shore to set up a campfire. They hoped the fire would keep the bear away.

Grizzly bear investigates a tent
A grizzly bear investigates a campsite. (Photo: Valerie)

Initially, it seemed to work. But, the group fell asleep, and with the fire left untended, it died out.

The grizzly returned.

One camper was awakened to the feeling of a bear snout sniffing their scalp. That camper laid motionless and the bear moved on, stopping at Koons.

Startled by the bear’s presence, Koons woke up screaming.

Grizzly bear among yellow flowers
Something so deadly shouldn’t be so cute. (Photo: JoeBreuer)

Her screaming soon woke everybody else who darted in different directions. But Koons couldn’t follow because her sleeping bag zipper was stuck.

Her friends watched in horror as the grizzly ripped her arm off then dragged her into the woods. 

The campers spent the night in the trees until dawn arrived and then went looking for help.

Bears fishing in a river
Bears are serious when it comes to finding their next meal. (Photo: MargSkogland)

The Attack at the Chalet

Roy Ducat and Julie Hegelson fell asleep near the chalet but were woken by a bear rummaging nearby. Hegelson cautioned Ducat to not move. However, it doesn’t matter.

The grizzly pounced on Ducat, tearing into the teenage boy with claws and teeth. Ducat laid as still as possible throughout the entire attack in an attempt to play dead

bear with some fishers
This bear clearly has no fear of people. (Photo: BarbaraJackson)

And apparently, it worked for Ducat…but the bear then pounced on his girlfriend. 

Ducat sprinted back to the chalet for help. And when rescuers arrived, they found Hegelson 400-feet away in the woods suffering from shock and severe blood loss. 

Grizzly bear in a clearing
Grizzly bear in a clearing (Photo: Zdeněk Macháček)

Unfortunately, she died before the medivac arrived. 

A New Hunt

After they examined the attack site, Glacier National Park Ranger Bert Gildart and a fellow ranger stood outside their ranger station…when a grizzly approached them.

Retreating to the station, the duo grabbed their rifles.

charging bear
A less than ideal sight the day after not one, but two bear attacks.

They shot, and the grizzly dropped.

Meanwhile, back at the chalet, Ranger Dave Shea spots another grizzly.

He cocked his .300 H&H Magnum and 11 shots later, the grizzly was dead.

Bert Gildart with bear after the night of the grizzlies
Bert Gildart with the bear he shot after the “Night of the Grizzlies” (Photo: Bert Gildart)

Don’t Feed the Bears

Immediately following the attacks, people began questioning why the bears attacked.

And it didn’t take long for the answer to appear.

Regular trash “bear feeds” were used by rangers to attract tourists.

The chalet fed food scraps to bears and the campgrounds were noted for being covered in human-created garbage. 

Bear with trash can
Bears frequently try to scavenge for snacks in trash cans. (Photo: npapaioannou)

As a result, the grizzlies learned to associate humans with food.

And this is why parks now insist campers store food, trash, toiletries, and other things to prevent attracting bears.

Want to read more about the night of the grizzlies? I highly recommend checking out Jack Olsen’s book of the same title.

This is a new style of article for Pew Pew Tactical, if you liked it — let us know in the comments! If you didn’t enjoy it…well phooey. To catch up on previous Pictures from History, click on over to our History Category.

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6 Leave a Reply

  • Commenter Avatar
    Johnathon E

    Great article but as noted in other comments don’t stray too far afield.

    October 25, 2021 4:04 am
  • Commenter Avatar
    T. Barton L.

    This was a terrific article. It's so important to get more than a standard Disney approach to the facts, dangers and wonders of wilderness camping. This was very well done.

    October 24, 2021 7:49 pm
  • Commenter Avatar
    jerry

    I like it, an interesting tidbit while learning something too! A little something different is not bad, AS LONG AS YOU DO NOT DRIFT LEFT OF CENTER AND FORGET YOUR TRUE MISSION.

    October 24, 2021 4:01 pm
  • Commenter Avatar
    JohnM

    I liked the article, but it's not what I look for from PPT. I regard PPT as my best tech source. I often share PPT tech info with friends, but I won't be sharing articles like this. I can get stories like this from lots of other outlets. Might I suggest you "stay in your swim lane", where you excel and have widespread respect.

    October 24, 2021 3:07 pm
    • Commenter Avatar
      Jacki Billings, Editor

      Hey John, thanks for the feedback. This has been a recurring series on PPT for the past few months, looking into moments in history. While we definitely are still dedicated to all things guns, sometimes we like to branch out and offer our readers more than just guns and gear. Regardless, there's still plenty of other things on the site for you to check out if this isn't your thing. Thanks so much for reading!

      October 25, 2021 6:57 am
  • Commenter Avatar
    John

    Person: "Hey, look at that sign - active bears in camp ground. But lets go camping anyway."

    Bear: "Yummmmmmm :) "

    October 23, 2021 8:00 am
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