Yellowstone euthanizes female grizzly linked to fatal attack

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]

13 thoughts on “Yellowstone euthanizes female grizzly linked to fatal attack

  1. How old were the cubs? Maybe I missed that. Sad they will be stuffed in a zoo to grow fat and neurotic.

    • Steve—

      Awaiting confirmation on age of trapped cubs, but earlier references from the Park Service had mentioned they were likely cubs of the year. Details on where they’re headed should come Friday.


      • Thank you. Though conditions have improved so much for captive bears they still pace forth and back and look so pathetic just sitting there with nothing to do.
        I know keepers try and keep them interested by hiding food here and there for them
        to find or give them toys, etc. but they always look so sad and stressed. Hopefully
        these cubs will be placed in a good facility.

  2. Bears protect their cubs.They kill,they eat! That’s their job!
    Why would u run down a 40 mph deer or jump a huge Bison when you can eat one of those Slow stupid tourist !
    You hike the trails where they live , you take your chances!
    The bears not to blame!
    It’s a bear for crying out loud !

    • I’m sorry but, I think that if the family of the man who was EATEN read your comment they would be appalled, not very nice, he had a life and a family and was probably just going on a stroll through the park, which is what the park is there for! For hikers and back packers, we all need to be bear aware but its a sad day when someone will stick up for an animal and call a human a slow stupid tourist. Please be a little more sensitive sir

  3. I am sickened that this bear was euthanized. She was a mother. The hiker was not respecting her territory. If he was that experienced, and respectful of nature, he would have been prepared, AND pay attention to markings that bears in the area would have left (tracks. droppings, other evidence).

    Then, to euthanize the bear because she fed on the victim is insane. What was she to do … act like an uncaring, selfish, self absorbed, human and let a food source go to waste? She had cubs she was trying to nourish.

    Incredible! I think justice might be best served if the person who mandated to euthanize the bear also remove himself/herself from their existence. One less ignorant in charge is a start…

    Reminds me of that joke “What does one call a group of lawyers at the bottom of a lake? … A good start.” Was the decision made to euthanize this bear based on legal advice to mitigate potential future problems?

    C’mon. Everyone knows the truth! It is time to start defending it and living up to it. But then that act requires integrity and courage. I suggest everyone get some.

  4. My thoughts and prayers go out to the family and friend’s of the human victim who was only ridiculed in these pages . It’s a sad day in our society when the loss of wildlife is more valued than human life, and safety. Mary obviously thinks someone doing their job, and protecting the public should be put down too. I hope she’s not a parent, then she herself would have a decision to make. As for the park service keep up the extraordinary work. I know it was a hard decision to make , and you have shown what values you hold.

    • not sure anyone is really ridiculing the victim, and there has been precious little info on exactly where the attack occurred as the body was found a good distance from the elephant back trail. if the hiker was offtrail and bushwhacking thru forest when he was attacked, then he should get his share of the blame. hiking alone and without bear spray doesn’t seem like sound decision making to me, on the part of the hiker.

      having hiked this particular trail several times over the years, its one that you have to know bears, especially grizzlies, often frequent the area. the entire area between fishing bridge and lake hotel is grizzly country, and one of the best places in the park to get lucky and see a bear. park literature cautions hiking alone, and then going without bear spray really adds to the risk. frankly, this hiker appears to have been unprepared~~experienced or not.

      the sow had to come out of yellowstone park once it had fed on a human, and clearly intended to feed again. really not sure that euthanizing was the best option available. the grizzly and wolf discovery center in west yellowstone is a great facility that has lost several bears over the last few years. i really do wonder if this particular sow might have been able to find a home there. the discovery center does have a good history with yellowstone ecosystem grizzlies, and currently has an old sow that is over 30 years old. this sow spent many (20+) years in the ecosysytem before being brought to the center, and suggests there is a decent successful history of placing an older sow there. as an added note sow 101 was placed with 2 cubs at the discovery center, though the cubs were later moved elsewhere.

      • Thank you Gerald for your response. Your writing is very informative and helpful. I hope that those in charge, who’s previous actions I believed were inappropriate, may allow all life involved to benefit from your knowledge. Your assistance and consultation may be the immense reasoning that those in charge truly need. I PRAY THEY ASK YOUR OPINION prior to future potential “mishaps” when a “history repeats itself” decision is likely to be made. Again, thank you for your response.

    • I do not have children … just animals -pets. Yet, I do respect all life, and I wonder what the victim’s intentions truly were to have caused his demise. That said. I also agree with the comments from Gerald stated below.

      Everyone and everything has a right to life. Life is for ALL! Human beings do not have a monopoly on that fact, although some seem to act that way. I believe there was a better way to handle the problem rather than euthanize the bear and orphan her cubs.

  5. Based on all the evidence and the circumstances involved, the officials made the correct decision by removing the sow grizzly from the population. True, the victim does share some responsibility for what happened. But a grizz with a taste for human flesh will likely result in opportunistic or predatory attacks on humans at some point down the road. Managing the grizzly bear population in the GYE is a delicate balancing act, as anyone who appreciates the great bear knows. It is prudent to head-off potential problems before they occur. As an avid backcountry user and lifelong advocate of the grizzly bear, I believe the officials made the right call on this incident based on the totality of the circumstances.

    Kudos to the NPS for making the difficult, albeit correct, decision!