Grizzly bear shot after killing hiker

Posted 6/22/10

“And he (Evert) saw those signs,” Servheen said.

Chuck Neal, a friend of Evert's and the author of “Grizzlies in the Mist,” and who calls himself a “student of grizzly bears,” said Evert had told him a week …

This item is available in full to subscribers.

Please log in to continue

Log in

Grizzly bear shot after killing hiker


Late last week, an Illinois man was killed by a grizzly bear in the Kitty Creek drainage on the North Fork, about 10 miles east of Yellowstone National Park. The grizzly was shot and killed two days later.An Interagency Grizzly Bear Study Team had captured and placed radio collars on two grizzly bears in the Kitty Creek area, said Chris Servheen, grizzly bear coordinator for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service in Missoula, Mont.Despite posted signs warning that grizzly bear trapping operations were ongoing and telling the public not to enter, Erwin Frank Evert, 70, of Park Ridge, Ill., hiked into the area late Thursday morning.

“And he (Evert) saw those signs,” Servheen said.

Chuck Neal, a friend of Evert's and the author of “Grizzlies in the Mist,” and who calls himself a “student of grizzly bears,” said Evert had told him a week earlier he knew of the capture site.

He told his friend they used bait to lure the bears, Neal said.

That morning Evert informed his daughter of his plans to hike up the ridge east of the creek and then return via the Kitty Creek trail, Neal said.

According to Neal, that morning, the interagency team had captured and tranquilized their second bear — the 400-pound male grizzly that later attacked Evert.

The interagency team was riding horseback down the trail where it meets the dirt road to the Kitty Creek cabins when Yolanda Evert asked the group if they had seen her husband.

A rider returned to the site and found Evert's body, Neal said.

Neal said it was a very windy day and speculated the still-groggy grizzly may have been surprised by Evert.

“I think he was literally on top of the recovering bear,” Neal said.

On Saturday morning, after homing in on his radio collar, the grizzly was shot and killed from a helicopter by state and federal personnel from the interagency team, Servheen said.

The Wyoming Game and Fish Department confirmed with DNA evidence that the slain bear was indeed the one that killed Evert, he added. “We don't kill bears just because they kill people.”

But, rather, this particular grizzly was destroyed for public safety, Servheen said.

It is not likely the grizzly was bent on evening the score against human foes.

Servheen said people have a tendency to ascribe human motivations to wildlife: motivators like revenge.

However, according to Servheen, “Animals don't hold grudges.”

There were no witnesses and it is difficult to reconstruct the incident, Servheen said. Investigators do not know if the grizzly was pursuing Evert or if he surprised the bruin.

Evert was not packing a gun or bear spray.

Servheen said pepper spray is an effective deterrent.

“We recommend that people carry bear spray in grizzly bear country,” he said.

Neal described his friend as “extraordinary.”

According to Neal, Evert's recently-published book, “Vascular Flora of the Greater Yellowstone Area,” took 40 years to compile, claiming summers of 15- to 16-mile hikes and climbing 5,000 to 6,000 feet in elevation per day.

Evert's Kitty Creek cabin of nearly 40 years was his base of operations for the book's research, Neal said.

“It was a colossal book, complete with maps,” Neal said.

According to Servheen, this is the first time a human has been killed by a grizzly in a grizzly capture area. Evert's death is tragic and the ensuing death of the grizzly was tragic too, he added.

“It's a sad state of affairs,” Servheen said.

“I think there will be a review of the trapping protocol,” Neal said.

The interagency team could have better informed the public of the bear capture operation, “but the bottom line is he (Evert) simply shouldn't have gone,” Neal said.

Although the U.S. Forest Service closed public access to Kitty Creek on Friday, it was re-opened Monday, June 21, said Susan Douglas, public affairs specialist for the forest service.