CHEYENNE, Wyo. – A grizzly bear killed a Wyoming man outside Yellowstone National Park, apparently just hours after researchers trapped and tranquilized the animal.
The attack happened Thursday in the same place where two researchers with the Interagency Grizzly Bear Study Team had examined a large adult male grizzly earlier that day, Park County Sheriff Scott Steward said Friday.
The suspect bear was wearing a radio collar. Authorities didn’t intend to venture into the woods to chase the animal, however.
They hoped to trap it — again — and do DNA testing to see if it was indeed responsible.
“Certainly there is a good chance it was the bear they were working on,” Steward said. “There’s certainly the exception, where it’s just another bear.”
Shoshone National Forest officials closed off the Kitty Creek area, about six miles outside the Yellowstone East Entrance, until further notice.
“There have been Forest Service people in the area talking to people who live in those cabins, and at the lodges around there, letting them know what’s going on,” forest spokeswoman Susan Douglas said Friday.
The victim was Erwin Frank Evert, 70, who went hiking around 12:45 p.m. from his cabin in the Kitty Creek drainage.
When Evert didn’t return, his wife went looking for him and met one of the bear researchers. The researchers had been getting ready to leave the area but one of them returned to the place where they had found the bear in a previously set trap, then tranquilized the animal for study.
The researcher found Evert’s body where they had left the bear to wake up, about two miles from Evert’s cabin.
“My heart goes out for the victim and the family involved in this. Nobody would want anything like this to happen,” Chuck Schwartz, head of the Interagency Grizzly Bear Study Team based in Bozeman, Mont., said Friday.
The team is made up of federal and state biologists who monitor and study grizzlies in the Yellowstone ecosystem.
The researchers also had trapped and tranquilized another grizzly in the area Thursday.
Schwartz said there would be an investigation, including into whether required procedures were followed, such as posting warning signs about the grizzly research.
Schwartz said it wasn’t certain whether the trapped grizzly had mauled Evert. But Chris Servheen, grizzly bear recovery coordinator with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, said it’s unlikely that another grizzly would have been in the same area as the large adult male.
“There’s a very, very high probability that it was this bear,” Servheen said.
The Wyoming Game and Fish Department was working Friday to try to recapture the bear, agency spokesman Eric Keszler said.
Grizzly bears have been back on the federal list of threatened species since last year.
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