A Wyoming backpacker is in a hospital recovering from injuries after getting mauled by a grizzly bear. KTVQ reports the 68-year-old man from Buffalo, New York, was on a multi-day backpacking trip when he was attacked west of Meeteetse in the Franc’s Peak area.
He was only discovered because he activated a personal locator beacon which sent out a distress signal. The air rescue crew initially thought the signal was coming from a downed aircraft.
Park County Search and Rescue helicopters were dispatched to the remote, high-altitude location after searchers realized it was a beacon. The man was flown to a hospital in Billing. His condition is described as “severely mauled.” The man’s identity and severity of his injuries have not been released.
On Monday, June 28th, 2022 at 3:07 P.M. the Park County Sheriff’s Office Communications Division received a report of a possible downed aircraft in the Franc’s Peak Area from the Air Force Rescue Coordination Center (AFRCC). They were receiving a distress signal. As Park County Search and Rescue (PCSAR) was being deployed and in the planning stages more information continued to come in, it was determined that the signal was a Personal Locator Beacon (PLB) at a high altitude. Due to the location of the signal PSAR Air – 1 and a Guardian Medical helicopter were launched. A UH-1H Huey from Sublette County SAR was also summoned to assist in transporting a PCSAR ground team to the remote location.
A 68 year-old-male from Buffalo, NY, on a multi-day backpacking trip, had encountered a grizzly bear and was severely mauled. The attack had happened too quickly to deploy bear spray, which he did have. The patient was quickly loaded in the Huey and flown to a landing zone in the Wood River area, where he was transferred to the Guardian Medical Helicopter and transported to Billings for treatment.
No further information about his condition is available.
The incident is under investigation by Wyoming Game and Fish.
A PLB is a beacon characteristically seen in maritime applications and not typically carried by hikers in recent years. Most outdoor enthusiasts carry a device which communicates with satellites to triangulate a position to within a few feet. However, a PLB transmits on a radio frequency which is typically associated with downed aircraft Emergency Location Transmitter (ELT). The AFRCC monitors ELT activations for the entire United States and reports them to the Sheriff’s Office in whatever jurisdiction they occur. While the signal was initially perceived as a down aircraft it was quickly realized to be a PLB. They assisted in translating the coordinates of the PLB, which resulted in a faster rescue. Thankfully the AFRCC was diligent in their efforts to identify this signal even after it was determined to not be aircraft related. PCSAR and the Park County Sheriff’s Office are grateful to all agencies participating in this joint rescue effort as it took each one of them to make this a successful operation.