DNA testing has confirmed the grizzly bear captured Friday was responsible for the death of a 63-year old hiker.
Lance Crosby, a seasonal employee with Medcor, which runs three urgent care facilities in Yellowstone National Park, was found dead August 7 off the Elephant Back Loop Trail, the apparent victim of a bear attack. His body was partially eaten and cached off-trail. A forensic autopsy conducted Monday confirmed Crosby’s death was bear related.
Park officials were tasked to look for a female grizzly bear and at least one cub, based on partial tracks discovered at the scene. After Park biologists laid grizzly traps around the cache site of Crosby’s body Friday evening, they captured a female grizzly bear. By the end of the weekend, they had both her cubs in custody as well.
Park officials ran several tests to establish whether the bear they had in custody was involved in Crosby’s death. Biologist tested bear hair samples collected from the hiker’s body and determined that the female’s bite range correlated with canine teeth puncture wounds found on the body.
All tests, in addition to the fact that all three bears returned to the site of Crosby’s body after his body was discovered, confirmed the grizzly sow in custody was the bear responsible for Crosby’s death.
Yellowstone officials euthanized the grizzly sow earlier today.
The decision to euthanize was complicated by the lack of eyewitness testimony regarding whether the attack was predatory or defensive; however, officials noted that, in addition to the DNA evidence verifying the bear’s involvement, because the body had been partially consumed and cached, it did not fit the parameters of normal defensive encounters. Normally, when a grizzly sow is defending its cubs against a perceived threat, it does not feed on its provoker.
“As managers of Yellowstone National Park, we balance the preservation of park resources with public safety,” said Yellowstone National Park Superintendent Dan Wenk in a Yellowstone press release. “Our decision takes into account the facts of the case, the goals of the bear management program, and the long term viability of the grizzly bear population as a whole, rather than an individual bear.”
The grizzly cubs captured over the weekend will not be euthanized. Rather, thanks to an arrangement through the Association of Zoos and Aquariums, they will be transferred to an accredited facility. The details have not been finalized, but the facility receiving these cubs is expected to make an announcement Friday.
The trail closures that currently encompass Elephant Back Loop Trail and Natural Bridge Trail will be lifted Friday, August 14.