SALT LAKE CITY — The Wyoming hunter who shot himself in the leg to survive a grizzly bear attack was discharged from the University of Utah Hospital on Oct. 25, according to KSL-TV in Salt Lake City. In an interview with the station from his hospital bed, Lee Francis, 65, estimated the bear was 8 feet tall and weighed 700 pounds.
Francis told the news outlet that the bear charged him from less than 10 feet away, adding, “I think I put my foot up to stop him from grabbing me and just defensively shot my leg.”
Francis, an Evanston dentist and avid outdoorsmen, thought some of the rounds he fired also struck the bear.
Wyoming Game and Fish Pinedale Regional Supervisor John Lund told the Pinedale Roundup that wildlife officials “did not find any indication that the bear was wounded or killed.”
Lund explained that the agency’s investigation indicated Francis surprised the grizzly in the direct vicinity of its den.
“Since this was a surprise encounter and considering the bear did not make physical contact with the individual, no other management actions are planned,” Lund said.
Francis noted he’s “been around these big bears, but it’s a whole different deal when they’re coming after ‘ya and they’ve decided they’re gonna take you out.”
The attack occurred near the head of Rock Creek in the Sawtooth Mountains of the Gros Ventre Mountain Range on Oct. 22.
Dr. Josh Francis, also a dentist and owner of Wind River Dental in Pinedale, was elk hunting just east of Bondurant with his father, Lee, just before dusk Friday when the bear “came flying out (of the den) at” Lee.
At 5:52 p.m., Josh Francis activated his SOS device and administered first aid to staunch the blood flow from his father’s bullet wound. With the help of a pack mule, Josh Francis helped his father back toward Water Dog Lake while Tip Top Search and Rescue (TTSAR) members drove a utility terrain vehicle (UTV) from the Flying A Ranch.
More than three hours later, the parties met up in the Big Twin Creek drainage, where volunteers rendered additional aid to the injured dentist.
Francis was extracted by UTV from the drainage back to Flying A Ranch where an air ambulance was staged. From there he was life-flighted to the University of Utah Hospital.
A TTSAR member accompanied Josh Francis and the horses back to the trailhead.
Lund said, “The efforts of the Sublette County Sheriff’s Office and Tip Top Search and Rescue are greatly appreciated as they were able to get Mr. Francis the medical attention he needed as quickly as possible under difficult conditions.”
Looking toward the future, Francis predicts the “scary” encounter will stick with him on his next hunting trip.
“I’ll probably have a nightmare or two next time I’m up in the mountains.”
The Oct. 22 grizzly attack in Sublette County marked the second such attack in western Wyoming in a single week.
While all outdoor enthusiasts should take precautions when recreating in bear country this time of year, hunters and anglers are especially predisposed to bear conflicts due to the nature of their activities. The Wyoming Game and Fish Department recommends hunting with a partner, carrying a defense such as a firearm or bear spray and storing game meat, capes, dirty tools and clothing at least 100 years away and downwind from camp.