A grizzly bear sow and two cubs captured by Yellowstone National Park staff have been linked to the scene of the recent mauling death of a hiker in the Hayden Valley.
Results from genetic (DNA) tests obtained from bear hair and scat samples indicate the 250-pound, 6- to 7 year-old sow was present at the scene on the Mary Mountain Trail where hiker John Wallace’s body was recovered Aug. 26.
This is the same bear that was responsible for the death of hiker Brian Matayoshi, 57, of Torrance during a defensive attack on July 6 on the Wapiti Lake Trail. Rangers and an Interagency Board of Review determined Matayoshi’s death near Canyon Village on the Wapiti Lake Trail resulted from a defensive attack by the sow protecting her cubs.
“We will more than likely never know what role, if any, the sow might have played in Mr. Wallace’s death due to the lack of witnesses and presence of multiple bears at the incident scene,” said Superintendent Dan Wenk. “But because the DNA analysis indicates the same bear was present at the scene of both fatalities, we euthanized her to eliminate the risk of future interaction with Yellowstone visitors and staff.”
The adult female grizzly was captured on Sept. 28. Her two cubs were captured Sept. 29 and placed in the Grizzly & Wolf Discovery Center in West Yellowstone, Mont. The sow was euthanized on Oct. 2. Grizzly bear cubs typically adapt successfully to captivity. Adult bears that are removed from the wild do not adapt well to captivity.
In the Wallace incident, Yellowstone officials determined that at least nine grizzly bears were feeding on two bison carcasses in the area, including one carcass that was located 150 yards from where Wallace was hiking alone on the Mary Mountain Trail. Seventeen bear “daybeds” were also found in the same vicinity.
Capture operations, reconnaissance flights, and DNA sampling and testing will continue through the fall. Any future management decisions will be made on a case-by-case basis for any additional bears that are captured and provide a DNA link to the scene.
Hikers are encouraged to travel in groups of three or more, make noise on the trail, and carry bear spray. 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.
The investigation team’s report on the Matayoshi case was released Sept. 20 and is available online at http://www.fws.gov/mountain-prairie/species/mammals/grizzly/yellowstone.htm.
The complete National Park Service Case Incident Report and an audio recording of the 911 call made by nearby hikers who heard the attack have also been released and are available at http://www.nps.gov/aboutus/foia/foia-frd.htm.