Erwin Frank Evert, 70, had seen warning signs posted by researchers with the Interagency Grizzly Bear Study Team; they’d been in the area for three weeks tracking down grizzlies and tranquilizing them for research purposes. On June 17 they concluded their research and left behind a tranquilized grizzly bear in a groggy state. Evert apparently hiked up the trail and was mauled to death when the grizzly fully awoke. His widow happened upon his body that evening.
The report doesn’t lay out much in the way of policy recommendations past leaving up warning signs for a longer period of time, but it’s clear the authorities laid much of the blame on Evert. A botanist by training and trade, Evert had an inquisitive nature, so much so that he was interested in meeting up with the researchers to discuss their work. With June 17 a cold and snowy day, the researchers didn’t think it likely any hikers would be headed up the trail; in fact, they’d seen no hikers during all three weeks of their research. Evert also made a point of going to the trapping site that day — a half mile off his regular hiking route — indicating that he was indeed seeking out the researchers.
The bear was killed two days later by authorities.
Evert’s death is a tragedy; no doubt about it. Did he hike up to the trapping area because he thought it was safe? Not necessarily. He might have thought the researchers were still in the area and assumed the risk. As an experienced hiker in an area frequented by grizzlies, Evert surely would have know there’s always the danger of running into grizzlies, and he chose to hike that day without a sidearm or bear spray. But whether the tragedy could have been prevented is another issue — and it’s something we’ll never know.
Image of grizzly courtesy of the National Park Service.
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