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Home National & State Parks Yellowstone Second Hiker Killed by Yellowstone Grizzly

Second Hiker Killed by Yellowstone Grizzly

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After recording no deaths from a bear attack in the park since 1986, Yellowstone National Park now has experienced its second hiker killed this year by a grizzly.

Park rangers on Aug. 29, 2011 identified John Wallace, 59, from Chassell, Mich. as the victim of a grizzly attack while he was hiking along the Mary Mountain Trail.

grizzlyEarly Friday afternoon a pair of hikers reported finding what they believed to be the body of a human male along the eastern section of the trail. The 21-mile long trail crosses the center of Yellowstone, connecting the west and east sides of the lower portion of the Grand Loop Road.

Wallace was traveling alone, rangers said, and had pitched a tent in a park campground sometime Wednesday. He died from his attack on Wednesday or Thursday.

Rangers discovered signs of grizzly bear activity at the scene Friday afternoon, including bear tracks and scat. As of Monday, rangers were still looking for the bear.

Results from an autopsy conducted Sunday afternoon concluded that Wallace died as a result of traumatic injuries from a bear attack.

The Mary Mountain Trail, the Cygnet Lakes Trail, and the section of the Hayden Valley west of the Grand Loop Road have been closed to hikers.

Wallace's death follows a similar grizzly attack in early July that claimed the life of Brian Matayoshi, 57, from Torrance, Calif.

Matayoshi and his wife, Marylyn, were hiking Wednesday morning, July 6, n the Wapiti Lake Trail, located off the South Rim Drive, south of Canyon Village and east of the park's Grand Loop Road.

Rangers said the couple was hiking west back toward their vehicle just before the attack.

At approximately 11 a.m., at a point about a mile and a half from the trailhead, they walked out of a forested area into an open meadow. It appears that the couple spotted a bear approximately 100 yards away and then began walking away from the bear.

When they turned around to look, they reportedly saw the female grizzly running down the trail at them. The couple began running, but the bear caught up with them, attacking Mr. Matayoshi.

The bear then went over to Mrs. Matayoshi, who had fallen to the ground nearby. The bear bit her daypack, lifting her from the ground and then dropping her. She remained still and the bear left the area.

Mr. Matayoshi received multiple bite and clawing injuries, and was dead when rangers arrived at the scene at approximately 11:30 a.m.

The initial investigation suggests the sow grizzly acted in a purely defensive nature to protect her cubs, rangers said. This female bear is not tagged or collared, and does not apparently have a history of aggression or human interaction.

Typically, the National Park Service does not trap, relocate, or kill a bear under those circumstances. A Board of Review, which will include interagency experts, will be convened to review the incident.

A third hiker, not identified by rangers, escaped a close call from an aggressive grizzly on July 30.

Rangers said a grizzly aggressively approached and then charged at the man who was sitting along the Storm Point Trail on the north edge of Yellowstone Lake.

The man threw his pack at the bear, rangers said, which stopped the bear's charge. However, the bear then tore into the man's pack and ate the food inside. The sub-adult male bear was healthy and had 14.8 percent body fat, normal for this time of year.

The grizzly bear, conditioned to human foods, was captured and euthanized by park staff on Aug. 1.

For the past three years, the four-year-old, 258-pound male bear had been unsuccessfully hazed at least 25 times from the Lake Village, Bridge Bay Campground and Fishing Bridge developments, rangers said.

Due to the bear's history of associating people with food, repeated visitation to developed areas within the park and numerous unsuccessful hazing attempts, the bear posed a threat to the safety of park visitors.

Efforts to relocate food-conditioned bears have also generally proven unsuccessful because the bears simply return to the areas from which they were removed.

Even with summer 2011 nearly over, rangers still caution park visitors and hikers to stay on designated trails, hike in groups of three or more people, be alert for bears, make noise, carry bear spray, and not to run upon encountering a bear.

Hikers and backcountry users are encouraged to check with staff at park visitor centers or backcountry offices for updated information before planning any trips in the central portion of the park.

If a bear charges during a surprise encounter, stand your ground, do not run, and use your bear pepper spray, rangers said.

Park regulations require that visitors stay at least 100 yards away from black and grizzly bears at all times. The best defense against bear attacks is to stay a safe distance from bears and use your binoculars, spotting scope, or telephoto lens to get a closer look.

Bear sightings should be reported to the nearest visitor center or ranger station as soon as possible.

All visitors to Yellowstone National Park should keep food and garbage stored in a bear-proof manner. Also, visitors should use roadside pullouts and stay in their cars while viewing roadside bears.

Predatory attacks are extremely rare. The odds of being injured by a bear while visiting Yellowstone National Park are less than one in two million, rangers said. There were about 3.6 million visitors to Yellowstone in 2010.

For more information about Yellowstone conditions, visit the Website at
www.nps.gov/yell .

 
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