Rare attack is the second bear-caused fatality this year in the North American wild
SUMMIT COUNTY — A hiker in Yellowstone National Park was killed by a grizzly bear sow Wednesday morning (July 6) after surprising the bear and her cubs along the popular Wapiti Lake trail.
It was the first time since 1986 that a visitor to the park has been killed by a grizzly, according to a press release from the National Park Service.
Altogether, about 28 people have been killed by bears in the past 10 years. Bearplanet.org maintains a listing of known bear attacks.
Last summer, a camper was killed by a grizzly in late July in Montana’s Gallatin National Forest. Several other campers were injured in the same incident, when a bear bit or tore through several tents.
The adult female grizzly (about 10 to 15 years old) was captured along with three yearling cubs after that attack.
A report released several weeks after the attack said biologists couldn’t completely explain the bear’s behavior. The adult female was in poor body condition and had been relying on natural food sources and was not habituated to human food sources. Read more about last year’s attack here.
Another man was killed by a grizzly in Shoshone National Forest in Wyoming last summer about seven miles east of Yellowstone and a 72-year old woman was killed earlier this summer by a black bear in British Columbia.
“It is extremely unfortunate that this couple’s trip into the Yellowstone backcountry has ended in tragedy,” said Dan Wenk, superintendent of Yellowstone National Park. “Our heart goes out to the family and friends of the victim as they work to cope with their loss.”
Patrols are underway to clear the area of all backcountry users. All trails and backcountry campsites in the area have been closed until further notice. The incident is under investigation.
A bear warning sign is posted at the Wapiti Lake trailhead, since it is one of the access points to the Pelican Valley area, known for significant bear activity. However, there had been no reports of bear encounters along or near the Wapiti Lake trail this season. There had been no recent reports of animal carcasses along or near the trail. No research trapping of bears has been conducted in Yellowstone National Park this season.
According to the Park Service, the husband and wife couple had traveled about a mile and a half in on the trail Wednesday morning when they surprised the grizzly sow with cubs. In an apparent attempt to defend a perceived threat to her cubs, the bear attacked and fatally wounded the man. Another group of hikers nearby heard the victim’s wife crying out for help, and used a cell phone to call 911. Park rangers were summoned and quickly responded to the scene.
Park visitors are advised to stay on designated trails, hike in groups of three or more people, and to be alert for bears and make noise in blind spots. Bear pepper spray has been highly successful at stopping aggressive behavior in bears. It is not yet known if either individual involved in this attack was carrying bear pepper spray.
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 Canyon area. Updated information is also available by calling 307-344-2160 during normal business hours.
Bear advocates point out that attacks are very rare, and that people are 12 times more likely to die from a bee sting than from a bear attack. From the Grizzlybay.org website: “for each person killed by a black bear attack there are 13 people killed by snakes, 17 by spiders, 45 by dogs, 120 by bees, 150 by tornadoes, 374 by lightning, and 60,000 by humans.”
Filed under: Environment, federal government, wildlife Tagged: | Bear, bear attacks, bear deaths, Gallatin National Forest, grizzly attacks, grizzly bear kills hiker in Yellowstone, grizzly bears, hiker killed by grizzly in Yellowstone, Montana, National Park Service, Shoshone National Forest, Summit County News, Yellowstone grizzly attack, Yellowstone National Park, Yellowstone National Park grizzly death