Evanston dentist recovering from bear attack and accidental gunshot wound

Dr. Lee Francis at home on the mend. (COURTESY PHOTO)

Evanston dentist Dr. Lee Francis is recovering from an accidental gunshot wound to the leg that occurred while he was fighting off a grizzly on Friday, Oct. 21. Francis and his son, Pinedale dentist Dr. Josh Francis, were elk hunting in the Rock Creek area in Sublette County when they came upon a bear den with a bear in it. The bear came out of the den and L. Francis drew his gun as soon as the bear started to approach him. L. Francis ended up on his back and continued to shoot at the bear in self-defense. His natural reaction was to kick the bear away from him. It was at this time that L. Francis shot himself in the lower leg. The bullet exited out his ankle.

According to L. Francis, his son was able to provide some first aid by using sticks and a belt to help with the bleeding. The two men then rode their mules three hours to Water Dog Lake where Tip Top Search and Rescue members could pick them up. Once the rescue team were able to get to the two men, they traveled another six miles by a utility terrain vehicle to meet the air ambulance where he was life-flighted to the University of Utah Hospital in Salt Lake City. 

Dr. Francis said this is the third grizzly bear he has seen since September. While he and his son were on a bow hunting trip in September, they encountered a bear but were able to scare it away by hitting sticks together. On that same hunting trip, another bear came into their camp and scared their horses.

After the incident in September, Francis decided to start carrying his pistol whilehunting. When asked if he had any advice to other people, including recent bear attack survivor Kendell Cummings, he said, “Carry bear protection. Bear attacks happen so quickly.”

After having two surgeries Dr. Francis is expected to make a full recovery, although he might need more surgeries later. The doctors told him he could be back to work in six weeks, but Francis stated he would like to be back in the office sooner than that. He will have to wear an orthopedic boot on his foot while he recovers.

Dr. Francis said he would like to see a bear hunting season opened to help regulate the grizzly population. He is also very grateful he didn’t get bitten or injured worse. 

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