Officials at Yellowstone National Park said a female grizzly bear that attacked and killed a hiker earlier this week was trying to protect her cubs and not acting aggressively. The bear will be allowed to continue to roam free with her family.
CNN reported that around 11 a.m. on Wednesday Brian Matayoshi and his wife Marylyn, both experienced hikers from Southern California, came out of a forested area on a back country trail and surprised a mother bear and her two cubs while they were relaxing in an open meadow.
Dan Wenk, Park Superintendent said, “Upon seeing the bear, they began to back down the trail and when they turned to check, the bear was in full charge towards them.”
The bear caught up with the couple and attacked Mr. Matayoshi while his wife took cover behind a fallen tree. After the grizzly bit and clawed her husband it then advanced toward Marylyn, lifting her off the ground by grabbing hold of her backpack. Marylyn played dead and the bear lumbered off, leaving her uninjured.
Marylyn called out for help and was aided by other hikers in the area, but her husband died at the scene.
At first park rangers thought they would have to capture and possibly kill the bear, but their investigation led them to conclude she was only trying to protect her cubs.
“This bear is not marked in any way and has never been involved in another conflict in the area,” said wildlife biologist Kerry Gunther.
He also said the couple did almost everything right during the encounter, except carry bear spray which is generally effective in keeping bears away. It was the Matayoshi’s fourth trip to Yellowstone.
Wenk told Reuters, “The bear’s behavior is consistent with a bear who was in a defensive posture. We did not see anything predatory in terms of the bear’s actions.”
The female grizzly and her two 6-month-old cubs had been spotted in the area before the attack and have remained in the meadow area since Wednesday. A warning sign to other hikers has been posted on the trail.
Biologists believe there are at least 600 bears in the greater Yellowstone area. And although mauling’s are very rare with an occurrence of “1 in 3 million”, tourists have reported seeing many bears this season.
Last summer a mother grizzly was captured and euthanized after she killed a camper while he slept and bit two others in the Soda Butte Campground five miles from Yellowstone. Her one-year-old cubs were sent to the zoo in Billings, Montana. It was determined the bear had “displayed unprovoked aggressive behavior.”
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