YELLOWSTONE NATIONAL PARK, Wyo. — A man whose face was severely mauled by a grizzly in Yellowstone National Park is a photographer and author of books about grizzlies who also had been attacked in 1993.
The National Park Service said Jim Cole, 57, was hiking alone, off-trail in prime grizzly habitat Wednesday when he was attacked by a sow with a cub. He apparently was carrying pepper spray but whether he used it was unclear.
Cole told rangers he walked two to three miles to seek help.
Cole, of Bozeman, Mont., was in fair condition Friday at Eastern Idaho Regional Medical Center in Idaho Falls. He underwent seven hours of surgery Thursday to repair his face.
Longtime friend Rich Berman said Cole was unable to speak and was breathing through a ventilator and being fed through a tube. "He's lucky to be alive," Berman said.
Berman said the bear hit Cole twice on the head and face with its claws, and the park service said there weren't any bite marks. That indicates the attack wasn't predatory, but was rather a defensive or protective action by the mother bear.
In 1993, Cole was attacked by a grizzly in Glacier National Park in Montana, but was hurt much less seriously, according to his description in one of his books.
He and a friend were hiking when they surprised a young grizzly. Cole's scalp was torn and his wrist was broken by the bear, but the friend was able to scare it away.
Cole's books — "Lives of Grizzlies: Montana and Wyoming" and "Lives of Grizzlies: Alaska" — contain his photographs and personal narratives based on traveling and observing grizzlies for many years.
In 2005, he was acquitted of willfully approaching within 100 yards of bears in Yellowstone. Cole said he came upon the bears inadvertently, snapped a few pictures and backed away slowly.
Grizzly bears and black bears are active throughout Yellowstone this time of year. Park visitors are encouraged to travel in groups, make noise and carry canisters of bear pepper spray.
The park service says no human injuries from bears in Yellowstone were reported last year and only eight minor injuries were reported since 2000. The last bear-caused human fatality in the park was in 1986.
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