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Former sheriff Jim Cole comes to Hope, Wyoming, in 1880 with his wife and family to claim the ranch left him by his grandfather. Jed Curry, the town's leading citizen, wants the ranch for his sons, but Cole refuses to sell despite its poor condition. When spring comes, a marauding grizzly bear comes down from the hills and wreaks havoc at the ranches. Cole's prize bull is decapitated by the beast, his fences are knocked down, Curry's sheep flock is destroyed, a man is clawed to death, and another is maimed. Cole pledges all he owns for a loan to rebuild; and when the ranchers post a reward for the death of the grizzly, Cole sees a way out of debt. The reward also attracts Cass Dowdy, a man Cole once sent to prison and who is now out to get the former lawman. Both set out after the grizzly; and after some vicious encounters between Dowdy and Cole, Dowdy is killed by the bear, which in turn is killed by Cole.