An autopsy conducted Monday has confirmed the hiker found dead Friday, August 7 in Yellowstone National Park was killed by a grizzly bear.
Lance Crosby, a 63-year old resident of Billings, MT and a seasonal employee in Yellowstone National Park, was found dead on the Elephant Back Loop Trail. After a grizzly bear was indicated as responsible or involved in Crosby’s death, Park biologists set up grizzly traps around the area, capturing a female bear later that day. Biologists believe the bear was accompanied by at least one cub, based on partial tracks.
Park officials have captured the two grizzly cubs believed to be related to the grizzly sow currently in custody.
Park spokeswoman Amy Bartlett said Tuesday that the two cubs and their mother, who was captured last week, were being held pending DNA tests on the older bear to determine if it was the culprit.
If so, park officials have said the adult animal will be euthanized out of concern for public safety.
It was unclear, initially, whether Crosby was the victim of an attack or whether he succumbed to a medical issue and was only discovered by the bear later.
From Montana Public Radio, quoting Yellowstone National Park spokesperson Amy Bartlett:
“There was some question, perhaps could Mr. Crosby have died from some medical reason, and then the bear found him and fed on him. But autopsy results are showing that that’s not the case, that he was actually alive when the bear attack happened.”
It is also still unclear whether the grizzly sow attacked Crosby unprovoked or was defending her cubs from a perceived threat, which complicates in part the decision to euthanize.
Although the grizzly sow will be euthanized if it is linked to Crosby’s death, the fate of the two cubs is still uncertain. The best-case scenario would involve the cubs being moved to a zoo or similar facility, where they would be raised in captivity. Unfortunately, if there is nowhere for the cubs to go, they will be euthanized as well, being unable to fend for themselves in the wild.
Test results confirming or refuting the grizzly sow’s involvement in Crosby’s death are expected to come by the end of the week.