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Adventures from the Archives - Marguerite McDonald’s Grizzly Bear

Montana 1964

By PJ DelHomme 
Images Courtesy of Yellowstone Gateway Museum of Park County - 406-222-4184

At a remote ranch just outside Yellowstone Park, Marguerite McDonald had a visitor one night...


The Silver Tip Ranch is a remote dude ranch that requires visitors to hike, mount a horse, or ride in a wagon a dozen miles through the northeast corner of Yellowstone National Park in Wyoming and across the state line into Montana. Originally homesteaded by G. Milton Ames in 1913, the area was (and still is) thick with grizzlies. Ames killed eight bears in the first spring on his homestead. In 1922, Joseph “Frenchy” Duret was trapping bears in a meadow near the ranch. That spring, a park ranger found Frenchy’s body, which a grizzly had most obviously mauled. At the trap site more than a mile away, the ranger found Frenchy’s rifle that the bear had used as a chew toy.

Before we dive into the details of how this enormous grizzly bear met its demise, we should point out that many facts in this story are blurry. What follows is a compilation of newspaper and magazine articles, blog posts, and personal narratives that all end with one live caretaker and one dead bear. We’ve done our best to highlight the facts and note conjecture.


In the 1960s, Marguerite McDonald and her husband Jack were year-round caretakers for the Silver Tip. In 1964, Jack took the long trip from the ranch to Gardiner for supplies. Marguerite stayed behind with just the dogs for company. One night, a bear came onto the porch and swiped a slab of bacon that was stored in a screened box. As a public safety notice, we want to note that storing bacon on a porch in bear country is a bad idea. Some accounts of the story say the grizzly came knocking on the porch in spring. Other accounts say fall. Either way, the bear got the bacon and left.

Marguerite assumed correctly that the bear would return the following night. She called Jack in Gardiner, and he told her how to load the Model 70 Winchester .30-06. The facts get murky again, but all accounts are hair-raising. An article about the encounter appeared in a 1967 issue of Outdoor Life written by Virgil W. Binkley, who had met Marguerite and heard her tale. Binkley wrote that Marguerite stayed in a different cabin the night after the bear swiped the bacon off her porch. She heard the bear return to look for another easy meal. She tried yelling at the bear to scare it away, but it showed no intention of leaving. As it turned toward her, Marguerite shot the bear once in the chest. It then ran past her at a distance of five feet; other accounts say it brushed past her on its way to the safety of a thicket.


Another, even more entertaining account was described by Vern Waples, a Montana game warden who heard the story from Jack and Marguerite years after he’d retired. He said it was during the fall when Marguerite first heard knocking at the cabin door. When the bear returned the next night, Marguerite attempted to scare it away by banging on an old washtub. Undeterred, the bruin smashed in one cabin door and made its way to another door, which it also broke down. That’s when Marguerite shot it, and it died right there in the doorway. Worried there might be other bears around, she stayed up that night, rifle in hand, waiting for other visitors. “I tell you, she was a tough woman,” Waples said. “A nice big woman. She could wrestle that bear if she hadn’t had a rifle.”

According to Waples’s account, Jack returned two days later, pulling up in a wagon full of supplies. He yelled out to Marguerite for help unloading, and when he came inside with an armload of groceries, he tripped and landed on top of the bear’s carcass still in the doorway. Waples said Jack came running out, yelling that a bear was in the house. Marguerite calmly said she knew about the bear.

“Marguerite! You don’t understand me! There’s a bear in the house,” Jack replied.

“I know there’s a bear in the house, you goddamn fool!” she replied. “Who do you suppose shot him?”


Because all those involved in this story have long passed, take these quotes with a grain of salt. Here is what we do know. This bear’s skull measured 15-8/16 inches long by 8-11/16 inches wide, totaling 24-3/16 points. Jack estimated that the bear weighed 850 pounds, and its hind feet were 12 inches long from heel to toe. It currently ranks as the fifth-largest grizzly from Montana and 792 overall. Grizzly bears were federally listed as threatened under the Endangered Species Act in 1975 and remain so today. There is no hunting of grizzlies allowed in the Lower 48, where nearly 2,000 grizzlies are estimated to roam.

After 20 years, Jack and Marguerite left the relative remoteness of the Silver Tip and worked in Pryor, Montana. They had three children and nine grandchildren. Jack drove a bus, and Marguerite was a school cook. Marguerite died in Livingston, Montana, in 1989, at 75. Jack died in 1994 at the age of 83.

B&C Position Statement - Wolf and Grizzly Bear Management

Gray wolves and grizzly bears have become the most controversial species of wildlife in North America. Once considered animals to be eradicated by any means possible, these two species were “listed” under the Federal Endangered Species Act (ESA) in the 1970s. Since then, they have recolonized remarkably in the lower 48 states of the U.S., advancing under decades of Federal protection and three wolf reintroductions, and supported by abundant prey. Populations of both species are either stable or growing wherever they occur. Read More

Grizzly Bears of Montana, Second Edition

Montana is bear country, with the grizzly bear being the official state animal. Grizzly bears in Montana are an iconic native species with high value to people and cultures across the state and around the world, and they play important roles in Montana ecosystems and economies. Today, Montana has the largest remaining grizzly bear population in the lower 48 states.


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About Adventures from the Archives

The Boone and Crockett Club’s records contain more than 70,000 big game entries, from musk ox to mule deer. Among those entries are more than a few stories of adventures afield. To celebrate those trophies, their habitat, and the hunter, we’re bringing those stories back to life with each installment of Boone and Crockett’s Adventures from the Archives.

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