Habituated Yellowstone black bear put down

After a habituated Yellowstone black bear entered a backcountry campsite and bit several campers before raiding the group’s food cache, rangers made the decision to kill the bear.

Here’s the story: at approximately 5 p.m. on Monday, July 6, 2020, an adult female black bear entered a backcountry campsite occupied by five backpackers (three adults and two children) as they were sitting outside of their tents. The campsite is located approximately 3 miles from the Hellroaring Trailhead in the northern part of the park.

The bear walked up to an adult woman and bit her on the right arm and head, inflicting bruises and minor abrasions. The bear also nipped at the right hand of one of the two children. The bear then walked over to the group’s food, which was under a storage pole but not yet hung and began consuming it. 

Rangers responded by horseback and when they arrived on scene, the bear was still in the campsite eating the backpackers’ food. 

The decision was made to kill the bear for the following: 1) human safety concerns, 2) the bear entered an occupied campsite, 3) it bit one of the occupants, and 4) it received a considerable food reward after this behavior.

“The risk of being injured by a black bear while in backcountry campsites in Yellowstone National Park is approximately 1 in 850,000 overnight stays,” said Yellowstone Bear Management Biologist Kerry Gunther in an NPS press statement. “Although the risk is low, the park recommends that backcountry campers carry bear spray while hiking and when in camp. Hang food from the food pole at all times except when cooking or eating.”

In Yellowstone, injuries to humans by black bears are very rare, and occur about once in every seven years–though the same sort of situation was encountered in 2019.

No, this is not a photo of the black bear in question; it’s a file photo from 2016 by Eric Johnston, courtesy NPS.

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