After a preliminary investigation into the death of a Yellowstone hiker, officials have concluded a grizzly bear was involved.
Although the exact cause of death had not been pinpointed, the victim’s arms showed what are believed to be defensive wounds. In addition, the victim’s body was discovered partially consumed and cached near the Elephant Back Loop Trail in Lake Village. Investigators discovered partial tracks on the scene likely belonging to a grizzly sow accompanied by a young cub.
More details have emerged regarding the victim’s identity, although the victim’s name has not been released. The victim is identified as a Montana man who worked as a long-term seasonal employee for Medcor, which operates three urgent care clinics in the Park. He was an experienced hiker who lived and worked in Yellowstone for five consecutive seasons.
As previously reported, the Yellowstone hiker’s body was discovered around noon Friday, August 7, after being reported missing that morning. A ranger discovered his body in the Elephant Back Loop Trail. Additional rangers and Park biologists responded to the scene to comb for grizzly bear DNA.
The investigation is set to continue, although recent heavy rains on Friday and Saturday may complicate further DNA gathering. A forensic autopsy is scheduled for Monday.
In the mean time, Park biologists set grizzly traps Friday evening around the Elephant Back area. Any bear captured that can be identified as involved in the incident will be euthanized.
“We may not be able to conclusively determine the circumstances of this bear attack, but we will not risk public safety,” said Yellowstone National Park Superintendent Dan Wenk in a Yellowstone NPS press release. “We are deeply saddened by this tragedy and our hearts go out to the family and friends of the victim as they work to cope with the loss of someone who loved Yellowstone so very much.
The Elephant Back Loop Trail and immediate vicinity will be closed to hiking until further notice. More updates, including the victim’s name, will be released by noon Monday, August 10.