Yellowstone National Park officials have captured a female grizzly bear, after a bear was identified as “likely involved” in the death of a hiker.
Friday, August 7, the body of a Montana man was discovered near the Elephant Back Loop Trail in Lake Village. He had been reported missing that morning. The man (whose identity has not been released yet, pending notification of his family) was a seasonal employee of Medcor, which runs Yellowstone’s three urgent care clinics. This was his fifth season working and living in the Park.
Later on Friday, Park rangers and biologists set up grizzly traps in the area surrounding the Elephant Back Loop Trail, in hopes of catching the bear responsible. Previously, rangers and biologists had been on the scene gathering evidence that could yield bear DNA. Heavy rains Friday and Saturday complicated these efforts.
According to the preliminary investigation, the hiker was found with defensive wounds on his forearms and his body was found “cached” i.e. stashed away as a future food store. In addition, rangers discovered a pair of partial tracks belonging to an adult female grizzly and a cub who may have also been involved.
Officials are currently testing the captured female grizzly bear in order to identify whether it is the complicit bear.
“We are in the process of doing testing with the bear,” said Yellowstone Superintendent Dan Wenk in a video for ABC News, “and [making] sure that we have in fact captured the right bear.”
Wenk added: “[The hiker] had defensive wounds on his forearms, which means he was alive when he encountered the bear.”
In the event the bear is identified as involved in the hiker’s death, it will be euthanized. There is no word as to what will happen to the cub if it is found, although one possibility would be for it to be transported to the Grizzly & Wolf Discovery Center. Two of the bears in the Discovery Center, Grant and Roosevelt, were transported to the center before their mother was euthanized for killing two visitors earlier that summer.
The victim’s identity is scheduled to be released by noon today. A forensic autopsy is scheduled for today as well.
Hikers in Yellowstone National Park should take extra care in light of this incident. While hiking be sure to travel in groups, make noise either by talking loudly or wearing bells, and carry bear spray in case of emergency.