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Inside a bear attack training exercise in Island Park

Outdoors

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ISLAND PARK — Every year, people in eastern Idaho encounter bears or other wildlife.

With hunting season just around the corner, Idaho Department of Fish and Game workers want to be ready for the next incident. Members of the Wildlife Human Attack Response Team (WHART) met near Island Park Wednesday afternoon for a simulated bear attack and EastIdahoNews.com was invited along for an exclusive look.

“It’s really important for us to be on our A-game,” IDFG spokesman James Brower told EastIdahoNews.com. “A lot of times when people are out there hunting they’re being quiet, they are stalking animals, they may smell like an elk or deer … so the likelihood of being attacked increases in those situations.”

Fish and Game holds classroom and on-the-ground training throughout the year to be prepared. To make this week’s scenario more realistic, Fish and Game brought in someone to play the role as an injured hunter and requested help from Air Idaho Rescue so they could more quickly get the person medical help.

In addition to medical personnel, WHART teams consist of administrative staff, conservation officers and biologists to investigate and ensure people’s safety.

“Human safety is number one. Then we try to investigate the scene and determine what happened, what went on and if there is an animal, if we need to capture or take out – then we take action,” Brower said.

Earlier this summer a grizzly bear mauled a runner visiting Island Park. The runner shared his story with EastIdahoNews.com about getting himself to safety and calling for help.

RELATED | Man recounts being mauled by grizzly bear and what kept him alive

With Fish and Game preparing to respond to emergencies, people can prepare themselves before going into bear country. From carrying and knowing how to use bear spray to traveling in groups of three or more, all can help. Wildlife experts also recommend people stay on maintained trails and make noise.

If someone does encounter a bear, it’s recommended to remain still, stand your ground and wave your arms. If the bear does attack, do not run. Additional bear safety tips can be found on the National Park Service website.

“We’re here for you,” Brower said. “We’re going to respond as quickly as we can to protect the public and we appreciate when people call and report things (like bear encounters).”

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