Jack Hanna Sprays GRIZZLY BEAR with Pepper Spray!

Jack Hanna

It was around 5:30 a.m. and I had just rolled over to the side of the bed with the window fan so I could feel the breeze when David came in and told me that Jack Hanna, the famous zookeeper, had sprayed a bear on the Grinnell trail. My early bird husband probably didn’t notice, but I instantly went from groggy to interested. Why? Because I’m always interested in grizzly bear stories (yes, I really am) and because we had our own adventure on the Grinnell trail in Glacier National Park.

First of all, if you’re unfamiliar with Jack Hanna, he has been the director of the Columbus Zoo in Columbus, Ohio since 1978. He is now director emeritus. Jack has been a frequent guest of David Letterman where he and an assistant have entertained Dave and the audience with wild and exotic animals. And “Jack Hanna’s Animal Adventures” TV show used to be a morning treat for M and E when they were little tykes. Jack Hanna and his wife have a home in Bigfork, on the east side of Flathead Lake (one of the places where we go to pick cherries). About Montana, I read that he and his wife love hiking, love the people, and the wildlife here.



According to the Daily Interlake, Jack Hanna, his wife Suzi, another couple, and the couple’s 18 – year old daughter were hiking in the park on the Grinnell Glacier Trail last Saturday when they encountered bears. The 18 year old was up ahead on a narrow section of the trail when she saw 3 bears approaching up the trail. She ran back to tell the rest of the group. Hanna said he told the group to get behind him and start backing up the trail. He said, “We started walking backwards, and we started talking loudly, but we didn’t yell.”


There was an area where there was a steep clear slope leading to walls of rock. The hikers were able to scramble uphill and stand with their backs to the wall. They watched the mother grizzly and one of her yearling cubs amble by. The two bears passed by without noticing them. However, when the 3rd bear came by, he stopped. He looked up and saw the hikers. Hanna said, “That one youngster stops…and the hair starts going on its back and I said, ’Oh shoot.”


That’s when he readied his pepper spray and shot a burst toward the bear which was at about 30 feet. Wind carried the spray away and the bear continued to advance towards them. Hanna sprayed again when the cub was at about 20 feet but it had no effect. At about 10 feet, Hanna used the bear spray again and said, “I got him in the face and he shook his head and ran.”


Oh boy, what an adrenaline rush! I can tell you! I saw a small cub on the Scenic Point trail a couple of weeks ago and even though we’ve had close encounters before, we were scared. We all readied our bear spray and began to walk past where I had seen the bear. When we got past the point where I had seen the cub, David stopped. He said, “Look, your bear is a marmot.” There on the side of the trail was a marmot munching on foliage. I insisted that what I saw was a bear and not a marmot! My husband dawdled as usual when we see bears, he always wants to make sure we get good pictures, but the girls and I were uncomfortable with waiting to get eaten and began to yell. If any bears were around that day, I’m sure we scared them off.


Now, I know you’ve gotta  love bear stories too, so check out one of our close encounters.  And for some pretty pics of the Grinnell trail visit my flickr photostream.

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Happy Trails,

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