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Feb 18th
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Home National & State Parks Yellowstone Grizzly Linked to Yellowstone Maulings Killed; Bear Management Review Planned

Grizzly Linked to Yellowstone Maulings Killed; Bear Management Review Planned

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Following the capture and killing of a grizzly linked to two Yellowstone fatal maulings of hikers, a review of bear and wildlife management as well as visitor regulations will soon get underway by park rangers and staff.

"We are already discussing our approach to bear management and wildlife management and visitor education," Al Nash, park spokesperson, told OldWestNewWest.com Travel & History Magazine.

grizzly_warningRangers will be looking at policies for the rest of 2011 and into early 2012. Policy changes, if any, most likely wouldn't take place until next summer.

"We are working on convening a board of review," Dan Hottle, another park spokesperson told this magazine. "One idea is maybe to make carrying bear pepper spray mandatory. Right now it's only recommended."

Improving the park's current visitor education also is another idea.

Hottle said convening a board of review is something "We're hoping to do sometime soon," he added.

On Oct. 3, 2011 Yellowstone rangers announced that a grizzly bear sow and her two cubs captured by Yellowstone staff had been linked to the scene of the recent mauling death of a hiker in the Hayden Valley.

Results from genetic (DNA) tests obtained from bear hair and scat samples indicated the 250-pound, 6- to 7-year-old sow was present at the scene on the Mary Mountain Trail where hiker John Wallace's body was recovered Aug. 26.

The sow was the same bear that was responsible for the death of hiker Brian Matayoshi during a defensive attack on July 6, 2011 on the Wapiti Lake Trail. An Interagency Board of Review determined Mr. Matayoshi's death near Canyon Village on the Wapiti Lake Trail resulted from a defensive attack by the sow protecting her cubs.

"We will more than likely never know what role, if any, the sow might have played in Mr. Wallace's death, due to the lack of witnesses and presence of multiple bears at the incident scene," Yellowstone Superintendent Dan Wenk said.

"But because the DNA analysis indicates the same bear was present at the scene of both fatalities, we euthanized her to eliminate the risk of future interaction with Yellowstone visitors and staff," he added.

Rangers had no choice but to euthanize the sow, park spokesperson Nash said.

"There was no question that she was the animal responsible for the fatal injuries to Mr. Matayoshi, and DNA confirmed she was at the scene of the attack for Mr. Wallace," Nash told this magazine. "There was no way for us to definitely know if she was involved in the attack, or just came across the scene.

"But because we could link her to two fatal attacks in some fashion, she posed a threat to visitor safety," he added. "She was the one animal that we could link to two fatal accident sites."

Nash said killing the sow has had a tremendous negative impact on park staff.

"Frankly, - and it's hard for us to get this across - we worked diligently to make sure we had best information available, but it didn't make the decision to remove a bear an easy one to make," he said. "The cubs will spend the rest of their lives in captivity. They will adapt, but they are not old enough to live in the wild on their own. Adults do not well in captivity."

The adult female grizzly was captured on Sept. 28. Her two cubs were captured Sept. 29 and placed in the Grizzly & Wolf Discovery Center in West Yellowstone, Montana.

In the Wallace incident, Yellowstone officials determined that at least nine grizzly bears were feeding on two bison carcasses in the area, including one carcass which was located 150 yards from where Mr. Wallace was hiking alone on the Mary Mountain Trail. Seventeen bear "daybeds" were also found in the same vicinity.

Hayden Valley is known for a great deal of bear activity.

"After Mr. Wallace had been attacked and killed, we found out a visitor a couple of days earlier had seen nine bears (in the area), but the report didn't get back to us until after the attack," Nash said.

There have only been seven fatal attacks recorded in the history of Yellowstone, but two occurred this year.

"It's very difficult to analyze and put these (attacks) in some kind of context other than the broad issue of bear-caused human injuries," Nash said.

"We average one bear-caused human injury a year," he added, but that's compared to the fact that "Yellowstone has 3 million visitors a year."

Although Yellowstone pretty much is closed for the approaching winter season, rangers still are actively trapping grizzlies, and are still collecting DNA samples.

"These two (fatal) incidents certainly have prompted us to review our policies," Nash added.

For more information on visiting Yellowstone National Park, visit the Web site at
www.nps.gov/yell/ .

National & State Parks