Grizzly bears, stock photo courtesy National Park Service

Grizzly bears, stock photo courtesy National Park Service

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Yellowstone Kills Grizzly Present At Different Fatal Maulings

DNA Evidence Links Sow To Separate Incidents

Written by Todd Wilkinson (Authors Bio)

On July 6, 2011, California hiker Brian Matayoshi died in Yellowstone National Park after he and his wife met a protective grizzly bear mother and cubs along the Wapiti Lake Trail not far from the Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone.  An investigation showed that Mr. Matayoshi and his wife ran away from the bears, which then gave chase.  He suffered fatal wounds and died at the scene.

Rangers determined that because the mauling resulted from a chance encounter involving a sow demonstrating normal guarded behavior for her cubs, there was no need to capture the bruins and remove them from the wild.

Late in August, along a trail in Hayden Valley several miles away from where the earlier incident occurred, the body of hiker John Wallace was found.   Evidence collected at the scene showed that he had been attacked while trekking alone.

This week, DNA tests conducted on hair and scat samples revealed that the same sow and cubs involved with the Matayoshi incident were also present at the site of Wallace's death.  In response, management specialists decided to capture and euthanize the 250-pound, 6 to 7 year old bear mother as a precaution, Yellowstone Superintendent Dan Wenk stated in a press release.  Her cubs were brought to the Grizzly and Wolf Discovery Center, a compound where the public can view bears and wolves, in West Yellowstone, Montana.

"This is the same bear that was responsible for the death of hiker Brian Matayoshi during a defensive attack on July 6 on the Wapiti Lake Trail. Rangers and an Interagency Board of Review determined Mr. Matayoshi’s death near Canyon Village on the Wapiti Lake Trail resulted from a defensive attack by the sow protecting her cubs,"  the park said in a statement from Yellowstone spokesman Al Nash.

“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,”  Wenk said.  “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.”

Matayoshi was the first park visitor to die from a bear mauling in a quarter century.

In the Wallace incident in Hayden Valley, Yellowstone officials determined that at least
nine grizzly bears were feeding on two bison carcasses in the area, including one carcass which was located 150 yards from where Mr. 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.


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