An adult female grizzly bear captured in Yellowstone National Park has been euthanized after park officials determined the bear was responsible for killing a hiker last week. The bear’s two cubs will be transferred to a zoo or other animal sanctuary.
Park officials made the decision after an autopsy conducted Monday concluded that Lance Crosby, a 63-year-old Billings, Mont. man, died as a result of traumatic injuries sustained from the attack.
Genetic analysis confirmed that the adult female grizzly, which was captured near the scene of the attack, was the same bear that attacked and killed Crosby, according to a statement released Thursday by the park’s public affairs office.
Park officials have faced sharp criticism from wildlife advocates, photographers and others for the decision to kill the adult female bear. Critics say the bear should not be killed, and further contend that it should placed in a sanctuary, along with the cubs.
Yellowstone Superintendent Dan Wenk said the decision to kill the grizzly was made after taking 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.”
Wenk said in a statement that park managers must “balance the preservation of park resources with public safety.”
Park officials said that a key factor in the decision was that “a significant portion” of Crosby’s body was eaten by the grizzly, and cached (hidden or covered) by the bear—behavior that signals the bear planned to return later to resume feeding on the body.
Such behavior is abnormal in typical defensive attacks by female bears defending their cubs, park officials said.
Crosby 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.
He 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, but was reportedly not carrying bear spray, an aerosol pepper spray that repels attacking bears and is recommended for all hikers.
DNA analysis of bear fur samples collected next to Crosby’s body confirmed the adult female grizzly bear that was captured at the scene on the night the body was discovered was the bear involved in the fatal attack.
Park officials said other evidence also showed they had captured the problem bear, including matching paw tracks and matching the bear’s teeth to puncture wounds suffered by Crosby.
The bear’s two cubs will be transferred to a facility accredited by the Association of Zoos and Aquariums, but final details on the placement are not expected until Friday.
Area closures implemented following the attack will be lifted Friday.
All of Yellowstone is bear country. Hikers are encouraged to travel in groups of three or more, always carry bear spray that is readily accessible, make noise on the trail, and be alert for bears. Park regulations require visitors to maintain a minimum distance of at least 100 yards from bears and wolves and at least 25 yards from all other large animals.
Contact Yellowstone Gate at 307-213-9818 or [email protected]