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Updated: Investigation Continues Into Yellowstone National Park Bear Mauling



Editor's note: This updates that a bear has been trapped, but officials unsure if it was responsible for the mauling.

An investigation continued Friday into the fatal mauling of a Michigan man in the backcountry of Yellowstone National Park. While a grizzly has been trapped, officials were not immediately sure if it was the one responsible for the mauling.

The 420-pound boar was trapped Friday near the site of the mauling, according to park spokesman Al Nash.

The plan was to take hair samples from the grizzly for DNA analysis to see if there's  a match with hair found near the site of the mauling of 59-year-old John Wallace, of Chassell, Mich. The grizzly was to be released wearing a radio collar so it could be tracked if a match is made, said the park spokesman.

It was a week ago that the body of Mr. Wallace was found along the Mary Mountain Trail in the central portion of the park. An autopsy confirmed that Mr. Wallace died on August 25 from traumatic injuries incurred by a grizzly attack.

Park officials have decided that if they are able to catch the bear responsible for Mr. Wallace's death they will kill it. Back in July, when another park visitor was killed by a grizzly, officials decided to let it live because that attack was deemed to be defensive in that the sow had cubs nearby.

"Our investigation into the July attack, which included an eyewitness account, led us to determine that it involved a bear with no history of aggression toward people, and whose actions were consistent those a sow would take in response to a perceived threat to her cubs.  This led to our decision not to capture and kill the bear," Mr. Nash said Friday. "We know less about the circumstances surrounding the most recent attack. We can't rule out the possibility that it was conducted by a predatory or aggressive bear."

Yellowstone hosts over 3 million visitors a year, with an average of just one bear-caused human injury a year. To the best of anyone's knowledge, this is the first time in the park's history that there have been two fatal bear attacks in one year. Since the park was established in 1872, there have only been seven recorded fatal maulings, according to Mr. Nash.

Sunny skies with daytime highs in the 60s could result in a large number of visitors to Yellowstone during the Labor Day holiday weekend. With such a favorable forecast, campground and lodging in the park could fill very early in the day.
All roads to and inside the park are open. There are no construction-related delays or closures associated with the Lamar River Bridge project scheduled over the weekend.

The fire danger rating in Yellowstone is currently “High.”  Visitors are encouraged to be careful with campfires, grills, camp stoves and smoking materials.   When actively burning, smoke may be visible from park roadways.

With bison mating season ending, the elk mating season beginning, and bears focused on eating to gain weigh before winter arrives, visitors are encouraged to educate themselves about wildlife safety utilizing the many resources available including the park web site, the newspaper handed out at park entrances, and the signs posted at every trailhead.

Visitors are reminded that park regulations require people to stay at least 100 yards away from bears and wolves and at least 25 yards away from all other large animals. Hikers are encouraged to travel in groups of three or more, make noise on the trail, and carry bear spray.

Some trails and backcountry campsites are temporarily closed due to fire or wildlife activity.  The latest information on backcountry access is available by contacting Visitor Centers or Backcountry Offices.


I wonder how park officials can be so sure that Yellowstone's most recent death-by-grizzly incident was not the result of a sow defending her cubs. On August 25, the day this fatal incident occured, I was in the visitor center at West Thumb/Grant Village when a fellow visitor told me he had seen a sow grizzly and two cubs in Hayden Valley around 10:00 that morning.  We didn't see any bears when we visited Hayden Valley the next day (though we did see one hell of a bison jam).  However, when I learned of the hiker's death I immediately thought of the sow-with-cubs trio that was sighted in Hayden Valley on the day of the incident and wondered if there was a connection.    

The article indicates this as only the second fatal attack in park history.  This is the second fatal attack this year.  Prior to this year, I know there was at least one other fatal attack in 1986.  I agree with the previous comment.  When we were there in July, we saw a sow with cubs on multiple days in the general vicinity of this trail.  Makes me wonder if park officials were unable to find indications of cubs or if the bear's death is more of a political move.

Good catch. You're right, of course, that the article should have specified that it was the second fatal attack this year, and we'll correct it to that.

Is the NPS hunting a man-eating grizzly bear ? Did a grizzly prey on Michigan hiker John Wallace? It's customary for the NPS and other agencies to kill a bear that preys on people, or even a grizzly that scavenges on the body of a human it didn't kill. The NPS hasn't said a grizzly fed on Wallace's body, so what's the explanation for the massive bear hunt?
Grizzlies "attack" people to defend their cubs, their personal space, or a carcass. Those aren't capital offenses. And trapping grizzlies until we find a bear that left DNA on Wallace won't tell us if that bear was defending its cubs, personal space, or a carcass.
So what's the point of trapping grizzlies unless . . . the NPS isn't telling the public that a grizzly fed on John Wallace.

The NPS needs to protect rare wildlife in their several small refuges and place warning signs at trailheads so visitors enter at their own risk.  This fascist NPS ranger command & control against predators in the national parks needs to stop; afterall, it is being funded by scarce taxpayer dollars.  Hey, The US Justice System treats serial human murderers better than the NPS does predators.  Remember the NPS LEGACY when proud superintendents were photographed with bear, wolf, coyote and cougar kills in their parks? 
The basic problem with NPS superintendencies, is that these people are not voter elected and not accountable to anyone other than a rare US Senator who wants them transferred to the basement of the Interior Building. Arrogance among NPS superintendents is tragically common because they rarely are penalized for any wrong-doing.  NPS Bureaucratic Management supports Management, no matter what the bad behavior issue may be.

That's quite a charge, Anonymous.  Are you saying we should hold a national election to select park superintendents?

It would be very interesting to learn more about your background and qualifications to write such a thing.

When a bear attacks/kills a human that is not carrying bear spray, not in a group and the specifics are basically unknown, the bear should get the benefit of the doubt since the park is their habitat, not humans.  I agree with the comment that this may be a political move. Humans must be held accountable when they visit our parks, not the animals. The animals are doing what comes naturally and sadly, some humans learn they are not apex predators.  Don't forget the yearling wolf that was killed for interest in bicyclists. Instead of banning bicyclists from the area, the wolf was exterminated.  I like the idea of a nature tax, if you want to visit and utilize "natural" areas, then there is a risk involved and thus you must do all you can to minimize your own risk as well as danger to the environment and animals and accept the consequences.  If the bear (or wolf) is a vicious killer and not just doing what is natural, but hunting humans, that would be different. I don't see this being the case in any of these incidents...Bottom line, when a human puts themselves at risk, the animals should not be held accountable.  This is not a sterile landscape, and I hope it never it, and thus will never be 100% safe for humans. The park service does a disservice by killing a bear to appease the visitors. Better to capitalize on the incident, perhaps require bear spray and group hiking rules?  Or suffer the consequences.

My eyes tend to glaze over and I stop reading or listening when someone arbitrarily throws in "fascist" as an adjective in a discussion like this. It means that the author has given up on the facts of his or her case being sufficient to convey the point.

And, by the way, park superintendents are like employees everywhere, whether in federal service or working at McDonals - they are not only responsible to the random Senator who wants them to do something, they are responsible to the entire long chain of command starting with the person who signs off on their time card. 

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