Rangers in Yellowstone National Park have trapped a grizzly bear in the same area where a hiker was found dead last week after being attacked by a bear. Officials are conducting DNA tests to determine if the trapped bear is responsible for killing the hiker, and say they plan to euthanize any bear connected to the attack.
Lance Crosby, 63, from Billings, Montana, was found dead at around noon on Friday, less than a mile from the Elephant Back Loop Trail in a popular off-trail area near Yellowstone’s Lake Village.
Crosby was a long-term seasonal employee of Medcor, the company that operates three urgent care clinics in the park. He had been hiking alone, and was reported missing by co-workers before his body was found. Crosby had worked and lived in Yellowstone for five seasons and was an experienced hiker, according to a statement released by the park’s public affairs office.
Preliminary results of an investigation into Crosby’s death show that he was attacked by at least one grizzly bear. He suffered what appear to be defensive wounds to his forearms. A forensic autopsy is being conducted to help determine the exact cause of death.
Crosby’s body was found partially consumed and cached, or covered. Such behavior is not typical in most bear incidents. Partial tracks at the scene indicate that an adult female grizzly and at least one cub-of-the-year were present, and likely involved in the attack.
Wildlife biologists set bear traps in the area of the attack on Friday evening. An adult female was captured during the overnight hours, but no other bears have been captured. Traps remain set in the hopes of catching other bears in the area.
Biologists will compare scat samples, paw measurements and DNA to determine if the captured bear attacked Crosby. If the bear is determined as having been involved, it will be killed.
Yellowstone Superintendent Dan Wenk said “the decision to euthanize a bear is one that we do not take lightly.”
“As park managers, we are constantly working to strike a balance between the preservation of park resources and the safety of our park visitors and employees,” Wenk said.
“Our decision is based on the totality of the circumstances in this unfortunate event,” he said. “Yellowstone has had a grizzly bear management program since 1983. The primary goals of this program are to minimize bear-human interactions, prevent human-caused displacement of bears from prime food sources, and to decrease the risk of bear-caused human injuries.”
Fatal bear attacks are uncommon among the 3.5 million annual visitors who roam across Yellowstone’s 2.2 million acres. But park officials say they are continually working to educate the public about the dangers posed by grizzlies and other wildlife.
Two people were killed in separate bear attacks in Yellowstone in 2011, and four people have been injured by bison so far this year.
Park visitation for 2015 is on a record pace, up 20 percent over last year.
The Elephant Back Loop Trail, Natural Bridge Trail, and the immediate area is closed until further notice. All of Yellowstone National Park is considered bear country. Hikers are advised to stay on designated trails, travel in groups of three or more people, carry bear spray, be alert for bears, and make noise to help avoid surprise encounters.