Results from genetic (DNA) tests based on 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; the same bear killed hiker …
A grizzly bear sow linked to the scene of a fatal August mauling of a hiker in Yellowstone National Park’s Hayden Valley and responsible for the death of a California man in July has been euthanized by park staff.
Results from genetic (DNA) tests based on 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; the same bear killed hiker Brian Matayoshi on July 6 while reportedly defending her two cubs on the Wapiti Lake Trail near Canyon Village.
“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 Yellowstone Superintendent Dan Wenk in a statement. “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.”
Footprint analyses and DNA evidence determined that seven different bears were around Wallace’s body on the Mary Mountain Trail, Wenk said at a previously-scheduled Monday luncheon with business leaders in Cody. At least nine grizzly bears had been feeding on two bison carcasses near the Hayden Valley trail, including one carcass about 150 yards from where Wallace had been hiking alone. Seventeen bear “daybeds” also were found in the area.
Wenk made the decision to euthanize the animal.
“The bear management program in Yellowstone National Park is far too important than to risk it on one bear,” he said in Cody.
Park Service reconnaissance flights and DNA sampling and testing will continue through the fall.
“We don’t know if we will capture another bear whose DNA can be definitively linked to the site (of Wallace’s death), but we’re going to continue capture operations,” said park spokesman Al Nash.
The sow and her cubs had been tracked by regular reconnaissance flights, Nash said, as one of the cubs had a light patch of hair easily identifiable from the air.
If any other bears are captured and tied to the scene of Wallace’s death, decisions about what to do with them will be made on a case-by-case basis, Nash said.
The adult female grizzly was captured Wednesday, Sept. 28. Her two cubs were captured Thursday and placed in the Grizzly & Wolf Discovery Center in West Yellowstone, Montana. The sow was euthanized Sunday morning.
While grizzly bear cubs typically adapt to captivity, adult bears removed from the wild do not, the Park Service statement said.
Park rangers and an interagency board of review determined Matayoshi’s July death on the Wapiti Lake Trail resulted from the sow protecting her cubs, so they took no action against the bear; they found Matayoshi and his wife may have exacerbated the bear’s actions by screaming and running away from it. The bear had no prior history of violence against humans.
Two people were killed by grizzlies just east of Yellowstone last year: a 70-year-old botanist who came upon a male awakening from researchers’ tranquilizers on the North Fork and a 48-year-old camper near Cooke City, Mont., who was attacked while sleeping and partially eaten by a sow.
Hikers are encouraged to travel in groups of three or more, make noise on the trail and carry bear spray. Yellowstone 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.
(Cody journalist Ruffin Prevost contributed to this story.)