It is a pretty pathetic story. The Yellowstone Club maintains a paintball area for the megamillionaires owning estates on the grounds. Paintballs are made of dyed vegetable oil, which is harmless to people.
But quite the attraction for bears; the alluring smell of the paintballs are detected by bears from miles around, so they descend upon the paintball grounds, assuming there’s some sort of food connected with the vegetable oil.
As a result, security guards at the Yellowstone Club are used to bears hanging around and carry rubber bullets for hazing purposes. Now, you can begin this discussion by pointing out that this is a pretty poor way to approach bear management; the smarter route would be to find a different paintball that didn’t attract bears or, lacking that, closing down the paintball area because it’s such a lure for bears.
The situation intensified on August 11 when a security guard went out to the paintball course to haze a mother black bear sniffing around for food. But the gun didn’t contain a rubber bullet; it was live ammo. And the resulting shot killed the mother bear, orphaning her two cubs.
The security guard will be in court next week to answer for his actions, but many larger issues remain. First, the FWP is accusing the Club of worrying too much about muzzling public release of the incident — especially with two orphaned cubs — and less about coming up with a better bear-management plan. A larger investigation of the Club’s bear practices is underway. A letter from the state was sent to the Club, warning of possible consequences.
The response from Club officials: the FWP response is “a little bit overstated.”
RELATED STORIES: Two More Bear Deaths in Rough Ursine Summer