Final Report: Was Bear Spray Effective in the Mark Uptain Grizzly Fatality?

Final Report: Was Bear Spray Effective in the Mark Uptain Grizzly Fatality?
Final Report: Was Bear Spray Effective in the Mark Uptain Grizzly Fatality?

Wyoming -(Ammoland.com)- The Wyoming Game and Fish Department (WGF) has released a final report on the grizzly bear attack that killed hunting guide Mark Uptain and injured his client, Corey Chubon.

The report confirms previous information that the Glock pistol was found without a round in the chamber, and separated from its magazine. The magazine was fully loaded with 15 rounds of  F C flat nosed full metal jacketed rounds. The pistol had not been fired.

At some time during the attack, bear spray was used by Mark Uptain. The bear spray can was emptied. The grizzly sow was reported to have a strong odor of bear spray about her head.

Below is a hand sketch of the relationship of various items found at the scene by the investigators:

sketch of the relationship of various items found at the scene by the investigators.
sketch of the relationship of various items found at the scene by the investigators.

The weather was warm enough to compel Uptain to take off his shirt. Unfortunately, Mark Uptain also took off his holstered Glock 10mm.

The Glock pistol, in a shoulder holster, had been placed with the packs, about 5-10 yards from the elk carcass.

He placed it too far from him to be accessed before the sow reached him. By doing that, he negated one of the greatest advantages of pistols for defensive use. The advantage is having a gun on your person when you need it. Holstered pistols free up both hands to do other things.

To sum up the events: The guide, Mark Uptain, and his client, Corey Chubon, were processing the bull elk they had recovered. The elk carcass had not been molested by any predators. They were nearly finished when the bears attacked, from down hill and downwind.

The sow, about 250 lbs, attacked Uptain at the elk carcass. Corey Chubon ran to the packs and drew the pistol from the holster. At first, he did not fire for fear of hitting Uptain. Then the sow turned her attention to him.

Being unfamiliar with the Glock, he was unable to make it fire, because the pistol did not have a round chambered. While attempting to fire the pistol, he ejected the loaded magazine on the ground.

This has been known to happen when people unfamiliar with a pistol's controls are desperately attempting to make it fire in a life or death scenario. People try every control they can find, trying to make the pistol work.

When the bear started to maul Chubon, he attempted to throw the pistol to Mark Uptain. The bear then left Chubon and re-attacked Uptain. Chubon fled for help.

Chubon had bear spray, but it had been placed in one of the packs, making it inaccessible during the attack.

A rescue helicopter picked up Chubon about two and a half hours after the attack. The helicopter was being used on a fire,and had to be called back for the rescue. The report concluded that Mark Uptain had died about the time that Chubon called for rescue, two hours before rescuers reached Chubon.

The report states the use of bear spray likely halted the attack. Writers for other publications conclude this shows bear spray was effective in this incident.

Bear attack expert and author Dave Smith questions that assessment.  From correspondence with Dave Smith:

2. The bear spray spin. Uptain did not have time to use bear spray before the bear initially attacked and injured him. Is that a bear spray success, or a bear spray failure?The 2nd time the bear attacked, Uptain sprayed the bear but was killed. Is that a bear spray success or a bear spray failure?

The WyoFile article begins by stating, ” Evidence suggests bear spray stopped a grizzly bear attack after it mortally wounded hunting guide Mark Uptain.” According to the WGF report, “Evidence suggests that when Uptain deployed the bear spray, it stopped the aggression, giving him time to escape, however, this appears to be after the fatal injuries were inflicted.” 

It is hard to see this event as successful use of bear spray. Bear spray was used, but the user was killed. The bear stopped attacking at some point, and Mark Uptain, fatally wounded, was able to move about 50 yards from the elk carcass before he died. The empty bear spray canister was found near his body.

There are several incidents where bear spray initially deterred a bear, which later returned to continue the attack. There are numerous incidents where bears left mauled victims, without being sprayed, then returned later.

By all accounts, Mark Uptain was an outstanding man, hunter, and guide. He will be missed.

Many people have suggested that while dressing game in grizzly country, one person should stay alert and guard, while other member(s) of the party dress the game.

Dave Smith added this useful tip: The person on guard should be on the downwind side of the  location. Bears almost always approach from downwind, as they did in this case. From Dave Smith:

“Given that it took Uptain and his client 2-3 hours to field dress the elk, it would have been wise for Uptain to have the hunter standing guard on red alert with bear spray in hand. Wind was broadcasting the scent of elk blood & guts; thus, the hunter should have been downwind from Uptain and the carcass. It's 100% predictable that the bears would approach from downwind. But the hunter was only 3 to 4 yards away from Uptain, unarmed. The hunter did not have Uptain's Glock in hand. The hunter did not know how to use Uptain's Glock. The hunter did not have bear spray in hand. Bottom line? Uptain and the hunter were not prepared for a worse case scenario. It's a bit surprising the bears charged the hunters, but it's no surprise the bears showed up. Does WGF offer hunters and/or guides any meaningful guidance on how to handle this field dressing an elk in grizzly country situation?”

This is a sad case. It appears to be an example of bear spray failure, rather than a bear spray success story.

If the 10mm Glock had been in the hands of someone who knew how to use it,  both men would probably have survived.

It is likely only one bear would have been killed.


About Dean Weingarten:Dean Weingarten

Dean Weingarten has been a peace officer, a military officer, was on the University of Wisconsin Pistol Team for four years, and was first certified to teach firearms safety in 1973. He taught the Arizona concealed carry course for fifteen years until the goal of constitutional carry was attained. He has degrees in meteorology and mining engineering, and recently retired from the Department of Defense after a 30 year career in Army Research, Development, Testing, and Evaluation.

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    Dave SmithJanetCarlosRattlerjakewilly d Recent comment authors
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    Dave Smith
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    Dave Smith

    You make a good point. Wildlife agencies should tell hunters not to sling their rifles while hunting in grizzly country. A 1983 U.S. Forest Service report on Safety in Bear Country: Protective Measures and Bullet Performance at Short Range said, “Because there is almost no possibility of a slung rifle being brought into action during a short-distance confrontation, rifles carried in bear country should not be permanently equipped with slings. The sling should be mounted on detachable swivels, and should be removed when conditions exist for a possible confrontation.” Incredibly, an Interagency Grizzly Bear Committee video titled “Bear Spray Demonstration… Read more »

    Janet
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    Janet

    I would add that there be a Guard standing and that the Guard have a loaded rifle with the safety on OFF to deal with any bear. Then a readily accessible pistol or revolver with a chambered round. Bears move FAST. This same issue can arise in fishing country. I know of a man who went hunting in Alberta and a Sow jumped him as he left the parking area. He was killed. His rifle was over his shoulder and no handgun was availalble because he was in Canada. One should never go into grizzly country unless ready to fire.

    Carlos
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    Carlos

    Layered defense is a must. First is evaluating the terrain that you will be doing a lot of work in. I probably would have moved that Elk carcass out in the open, as far away from the woodline as possible. If you have Bear Spray, you should be aware of the prevailing breeze in case you have to use it. The Guide should have taken the time to (a) Load his pistol; (b) Strap his holstered pistol back on; and (c) Brief his client on the proper use of both Bear Spray and the handgun. This is an unfortunate failure… Read more »

    willy d
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    willy d

    There are different times to carry different guns or knives, I carry different when hunting then when in town or city, hunting is large caliper pistol, rifle, and large knife, town medium caliper revolver, above 38, plus a medium knife, and back home in the city, east coast, a semi-auto with at least 15 rounds with a back- up ankle unit plus extra mags, I do not want to be lunch or a victim, I have a vise I p;an to live a long life, my own way without being lunch or a victim!!!!!!!!!!

    Larry Brickey
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    Larry Brickey

    My bear spray is made of lead.

    Scotty Gunn
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    Scotty Gunn

    When I was young, we used to hike in bear country. Everyone carried a gun at all times-always. I even carried a take down model 12 shotgun broken down (bbl cut to 18 1/2″) and ammo spread out in several packs. (Buck and slugs). Holsters were on belts that stayed on your person, if you shed the pack. Decent sized good quality knives were on the belts as well as a mag or two. Speed loaders for the revolver guys. At night the shotgun was assembled and loaded and kept at hand. Weight was critical, we lived out of the… Read more »

    Roy D.
    Guest
    Roy D.

    Attention Ammoland: Perhaps when there have been previous discussions on a subject, like this one, you could post the links to the other discussions for the benefit of those who have not seen them.

    Mark K
    Guest
    Mark K

    The client was probably a “greenhorn” who didn’t know how to field dress and quarter an animal, leaving the guide to do all of the work. As has been said, unfamiliarity with a firearm at a critical time is a recipe for disaster, and this story is proof. . It’s unfortunate that the guide was the only one who had a handgun and knew how to use it, but the old Boy Scout saying “Be Prepared” was not followed. Whenever I’m in bear country I carry a double action revolver with all cylinders full. There’s no round “stove piped” when… Read more »

    Staccato
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    Staccato

    Thanks for the report, well done. Being in Wyoming I’ve read about everything I could find on this tragedy. A wonderful man and guide who left a wife and five children, and who made several fatal mistakes. To his credit he didn’t want to go back the next day after the bow hunter made a poor shot late on the previous afternoon. We say that “Anything left out in Grizzly country belongs to the bears”, but that’s the job and he went back, followed the blood trail and found the elk which had finally bled out. The operation was a… Read more »

    alex
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    alex

    the Florida hunter sounds like the kind of guy who read too many action stories. he made a bad shot late,didn’t know anything about hunting ,only what he probably read in a magazine.he didn’t even know how to shoot a pistol,the asshole should have stayed in Florida and made sand castles.

    TomC
    Guest
    TomC

    This wasn’t a Bear Spray Success — but it also wasn’t a Bear Spray Failure. This was a Human Failure.
    It was nothing but hunter/guide incompetence.

    If either Chubon or Uptain had been properly on guard, it is almost 100% certain that no one would have been killed or even injured. The failure to have anyone properly on guard rests with Uptain as the experienced guide who certainly should have known better.

    Rattlerjake
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    Rattlerjake

    EXACTLY! There is no excuse for incompetence! One of the first things they should have done was used one of the horses to drag the elk into the open area so they would have a much better 360 degree view. Second is NEVER be unarmed in bear country.

    Jim Macklin
    Guest
    Jim Macklin

    The problem is modern living and the false “life lessons” learned from so many sources.
    Bears are of one mind. They only do one thing at a time.
    People have many advantages, unfortunately it isn’t strength.
    Bear spray, pepper spray, Tasers and weapons are seen and recognized by anyone over 10 years of age. But bears never recognize weapons.
    If you insist on using bear spray best use bare spray so you don’t get sun burned.

    JPM
    Guest
    JPM

    Bear spray is an animal rights, politically correct and deadly scam, as evidenced by Mark Uptain’s regretful death (one of many over the years). The North American Grizzly bear and his northern cousins are the largest land predators on the face of the PLANET! If spray is so effective, why hasn’t it been adopted and used by others in other places in the world with major land predators smaller than grizzly bears, like in Africa for lions and leopards and in India for tigers? Simply, because they have to deal with predators often and don’t want to die. We live… Read more »

    Larry Brickey
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    Larry Brickey

    And don’t want you to have guns, period.

    Hey Jude
    Guest
    Hey Jude

    Well unfortunately the guide made a HORRIBLE and very costly mistake. Folks if ever in a situation like that, for the love of God have your pistol for example in a holster, on your Body not in a bag and several feet away and other such stupidity. It sounds like novice hour at best good lord seriously.

    TS the Deplorable
    Guest
    TS the Deplorable

    There is a huge lesson here for people who carry for all sorts of self defense. If you don’t have the weapon on your person at the time of the attack, you may not have a weapon at all. That gun in your glovebox is likely worthless in a carjacking. That gun in your tackle box is likely worthless in a bear attack. That gun in your purse is likely worthless the moment you set it down on the car seat or the bench in the restaurant. Carrying a pistol without a chambered round is just damn stupid. If your… Read more »

    Hey Jude
    Guest
    Hey Jude

    TS: I agree with you 1000%

    Ross
    Guest
    Ross

    Amen

    Jerry S.
    Guest
    Jerry S.

    Hit the nail on the proverbial head….nice job!!

    Matt in Oklahoma
    Guest
    Matt in Oklahoma

    A pack isn’t a holster and a holster goes on the hip for both weapons. Laziness and complacency will get you killed in a lot of places, jobs and activities.
    They can try and spin this anyway they want to try and show that the spray was effective but at the end of the day the final results speak for themselves.
    Just like on a tac-team non lethal is always covered with lethal.

    Mark K
    Guest
    Mark K

    Matt, perhaps you could google shoulder holsters. They are quite popular.

    Matt in Oklahoma
    Guest
    Matt in Oklahoma

    Perhaps you should just take the point at face value and shut your sharpshooting piehole. Put that in your shoulder holster fanny pack ankle rig

    Larry Brickey
    Guest
    Larry Brickey

    He wasn’t attacking you or your position. He simply pointed to another possibility. And personal attacks really add zero to the conversation but that is easier than taking a breath, calming down, and thinking about what he said.

    Sal Chichon
    Guest
    Sal Chichon

    A 10 mm pistol in the hands of somebody who knows what they are doing will always be better than a glorified can of pressurized seasoning.

    ras
    Guest
    ras

    The Glock would have changed this sad story if it was used properly.

    Hubcap
    Guest
    Hubcap

    My father told me pepper spray just adds flavor. Don’t wear bells either, they just call a bear to supper.