Another Bear Killed By Hit-and-Run Driver in Yellowstone National Park

The summer is not starting off well for bears in Yellowstone National Park, where for the second time in less than a month a bear has been killed by a hit-and-run driver.

Yellowstone officials say the body of a female adult black bear, which was cinnamon in color and weighed nearly 150 pounds, was found in a ditch along the Grand Loop Road in the northern portion of the park.

The bear's injuries indicate she probably darted out of the forest into the road about halfway between Mammoth Hot Springs and Tower Junction and was struck by a passing vehicle, a park release said. There were no witnesses, and no accident report has been filed with rangers.

Earlier this month a male yearling grizzly was discovered dead along US Highway 191 after another unreported accident.

More than 100 large animals a year are killed in traffic accidents in Yellowstone, according to park records. Most of these accidents happen after dark, in bad weather, or
involve vehicles exceeding the speed limit.

Drivers who accidentally strike an animal in the park are asked to report the incident at the nearest ranger station.

Comments

I am sorry to hear about the bears. We were just there and saw several grizzlies as they seem to be very active right now. One did run out into the road in front of the car in front of us by Old Faithful, but it was moving very fast. Still, if you don't exceed the speed limit and are aware of your surroundings, both the animals and drivers are less likely to have an accident. Did see some people going so fast, we had to wonder why they bothered to come to a park most people visit so they can see, (not kill) the wonderful wildlife that Yellowstone has to offer.

The problem is people speed in the park, especially locals, and feel like they are above the speed limits and laws. The speed limits are there for your protection as well as the wildlife's. I don't care if the bear darted out, Grizzlies are huge and unless you were speeding or not paying attention you probably would have seen the bear and had time to stop. Deer are a little easier to hit even for cautious drivers, but a Grizzly. Driving at night is no excuse either. You just need to be all the more aware at night and use your brights when you can. This makes me so sad. I agree with Cheryl. Why come to the park if you can't be respectful and aware of the wildlife?

"Grizzlies are huge and unless you were speeding or not paying attention you probably would have seen the bear and had time to stop" is in fact wrong. A grizzly can sprint at 30 mph, or 44 feet per second. This means if it exits the woods at top speed 20 feet from the edge of the road, it will be in the middle of your lane in about one second. Accident reconstruction experts typically use 1.5 seconds as the reaction time to a danger, such as a child darting in front of you or a grizzly or elk running out of the woods. In addition, once you hit your brakes, it takes about a third of a second for your car to significantly slow (not stop). At the posted speed limit of 45 mph in many parts of the park, this means that you travel about 120 feet after seeing and recognizing the bear darting out of the woods before significantly slowing. This would, of course, be much more exagerated if you were driving 10 mph above the posted speed limit and not alert for wildlife.

I experienced this personally last fall, when a cow elk darted out of the woods as I was driving in a long line of traffic at a little less than the speed limit (maybe 41-42 mph) around the lake near West Thumb. In this case the woods were dog-hair thick right next to the road, not 20 feet back as in my example above, and the elk was at a dead run as if escaping from a bear or wolf or an amorous bull elk. I did not even have time to lift my foot from the gas pedal and hit the elk square in the grill with my Ford F150 pickup. Believe me, the comment about substantial damage is entirely correct, that car or truck sustained considerable damage. The Park personnel were not critical (witnesses in following vehicles told them there was absolutely nothing I could have done), took a quick report, and dispatched the injured elk after I left.

It's unfortunate that this happens, but with millions of visitors per year and all of the animals in this wonderful park, it has to be expected, and we shouldn't be too quick to place blame. Wildlife-auto kills in midwest states number in the tens of thousands per year (if I remember right in Ohio in the 90s they exceeded the hunting take of about 25,000 deer per year). Most drivers don't understand that neither the Park rangers nor their insurance company will hold this against them, so they don't report it. It in fact is an accident that is unavoidable unless we slow to a few mph or stop driving in the park (BTW, we could save several hundred thousand lives per year in the world if everyone drove less than 5 mph, we've all done the cost-benefit analysis and decided it's worth the lives lost).

Denis

PS: there is a partial solution to this situation. The National Park Service should stop treating the highways like wilderness, cut the trees back about 20 yards (which would actually improve the visitor experience), and add wide berms for pulling off or recovering from an off-road excursion such as when trying to avoid hitting a large animal. This should be done park-wide.

Enforcement in the Park seems to me to be very lax. I've seen ice chests and other prohibited items left out overnight in campgrounds; parked, unattended pickups with BBQ grills, groceries, ice chests or even portable refrigerators permanently mounted in the bed; vehicles regularly running stop signs (included large groups of motorcyclists who simply drive through in a continuous line); RVs parked overnight (they were in a pull-out or campground parking space with their jacks down when I passed in the evening and in the same spot the next morning); people parking in the road and blocking traffic; people far too close to wildlife; people feeding wildlife; etc., etc. I've photographed and reported people feeding a red fox in a picnic area, but nothing was done (we saw them in the park the next day). The park's rules are obviously made to be broken, so why not? Have you ever heard of or seen someone cited for a violation?

Denis

Denis,

I have seen and heard of people being cited for violations numerous times (dogs on trails, feeding wildlife, etc). Sometimes the NPS will not cite because it is a simple case of ignorance on the part of the visitor. Usually we simply educate that person. If it is obvious that the person knew better and was still breaking the laws, then a citation is usually given. One of the major issues is that there aren't enough rangers to be everywhere at once. Trust me, we're trying.

sounds like the rangers are trying to win a popularity contest and are being treated like prize chumps by the unwashed masses. Maybe they could afford to put more rangers on staff if they handed out speeding tickets to these irresponsible (folks) driving around killing wildlife?