Grizzly Kills Hiker Near Yellowstone

U.S. Fish and Wildlife officers shoot and positively identify the responsible bear

On Thursday, a grizzly bear mauled and killed a 70-year-old hiker about seven miles from the park's borders—the first fatal grizzly attack in 25 years. By Saturday morning, U.S. Fish and Wildlife located the adult male grizzly near the east entrance of Yellowstone and shot it after determining it could pose a future danger to humans. DNA testing later confirmed it was the same bear that killed the hiker.

The circumstances surrounding the mauling are odd and suspicious. Botanist Erwin Frank Evert wandered into an area where the Interagency Grizzly Bear Study Team had just released a bear they had tranquilized and tagged. Friends and family say that he knew of the team's attempts to capture a bear in the area, but ignored posted signs noting the area's closure to human visitors and current bear danger.

“None of us understand it and apparently never will,” said retired ecologist Chuck Neal, author of “Grizzlies in the Mist.”

Neal, a survivor of several close encounters with grizzlies, said Evert had called him last week asking about a sign posted at Kitty Creek warning about bear-trapping activities, and that Evert was “absolutely aware” of the risks of hiking in the area.

Investigators attempted to determine if the attack was a natural, defensive attack or the result of unusual aggression. When they were unable to settle on a cause, they decided to remove the bear from the population as a safety precaution.

“We try to do everything we can to minimize the risks. But we can’t protect ourselves against people that ignore every warning we give, and we can’t protect people against themselves,” said U.S. Fish and Wildlife bear coordinator Chris Servheen.

 “The whole thing is regrettable; just one tragedy followed by another,” Servheen said.

Evert was not carrying a gun or bear spray at the time of the attack. Windy, blustery weather had been reported in the area; some speculate that it might've inhibited the bears' senses of detection and led to a surprise encounter.

—Ted Alvarez

via Billings Gazette

Image credit: Alaskan Dude