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Photog mauled by grizzly has surgery

Farcountry Press/ Ingrid Cole 'Lives of Grizzlies'Photographer and author Jim Cole, who writes about bears, is shown was attacked by a grizzly bear in Yellowstone National Park, Wednesday. (AP)
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BOZEMAN, Mont. ” A wildlife photographer mauled by a grizzly bear in Yellowstone National Park was listed in fair condition Friday after undergoing seven hours of emergency surgery to repair his severely clawed face.

Jim Cole, 57, of Bozeman, underwent the surgery Thursday and was recovering at Eastern Idaho Regional Medical Center in Idaho Falls, according to family friend Rich Berman.

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. “The trauma center here is just phenomenal.”

Park officials said Cole was photographing bears Wednesday in the Hayden Valley’s Trout Creek drainage, which is prime grizzly habitat. He was hiking alone, off trail, about two or three miles from the road when a female with a single cub attacked.

Berman said the bear hit Cole twice on the head and face with its claws. Cole had bear pepper spray with him, but it is unknown if he used it.

It was the second time Cole was mauled by a grizzly.

In 1993, he was hiking with a friend in Montana’s Glacier National Park when he surprised a young grizzly. The bear tore a hole in his scalp and broke his wrist before the friend used pepper spray and the bear left.

Cole mentioned the experience in his 2004 book, “Lives of Grizzlies: Montana and Wyoming.”

“I figured this was as traumatic an experience for the young bruin as it was for me,” Cole wrote later.

Cole has written and taken photos for two books about grizzly bears, and as a writer he advocated photographing Yellowstone bears from the safety of the road. But he also said he has hiked thousands of miles in grizzly country.

“I want to document natural grizzly behavior, not bears reacting to humans,” Cole wrote in 2004. “All the same, as careful as I try to be, I certainly have made my share of mistakes.”

In 2004, park rangers ticketed Cole, allegedly for intentionally getting within 100 yards of a grizzly female and two cubs. Cole denied the charge and a judge acquitted him in 2005.

Yellowstone spokesman Al Nash said there were no plans to kill or relocate the bear.

“From the little bit of information that we have, it appears he surprised the bear and was attacked,” he said.

Berman said he knows Cole would want the National Park Service to leave the bear alone.

“If anything good comes from this, it would be that people learn from his mistake,” Berman said. “Jim would want people to still go to the park, enjoy the park, respect the wildlife and be careful. And please don’t try to get too close to get the perfect picture.”


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