Yellowstone National Park authorities on Tuesday euthanized a young black bear, the second intentionally killed this summer because it had become too used to getting food from visitors.
Park officials issued a release stating that the 4- to 5-year-old bear was put down because it had been aggressive in its efforts to get human foods.
The adult female black bear had been seen frequenting the Slough Creek area in the north-central portion of the park, officials said. The bear, which weighed somewhere between 100 and 125 pounds, had been mistaken as a grizzly by some because of its brown coat.
In mid-July, the bear entered an occupied backcountry campsite in the Slough Creek drainage. Attempts to chase the bear away failed, and the bear ate the dinner the camper had prepared for himself.
Last Sunday a group of five people set up camp at the site, only the second set of campers to do so after a two-week closure. The bear returned to the occupied site. The campers left all their gear and food and hiked to the trailhead, reporting the incident to park staff.
Members of the park’s Bear Management staff hiked into the area the next day. The bear again returned to the backcountry campsite and would not leave. The animal had damaged the tent and eaten most of the food that had been left behind the day before.
Since the bear had learned to associate people with food, it posed a threat to the safety of park visitors. Relocation of habituated, food-conditioned bears has generally proven unsuccessful. Due to the Slough Creek drainages’ popularity with anglers, hikers, campers, and outfitters, the area receives such a high level of human recreational use that the risks to public safety of a live capture operation were unacceptable. Therefore, lethal removal was considered the safest method. Park staff members traveled by horseback into the area Tuesday, and put down the bear.
Overall, at least five park bears have been killed this summer. In June another black bear in the Bridge Bay area was intentionally put down because of its aggressive tactics. Previously, a year-old grizzly was a hit-and-run victim on U.S. 191 on the western edge of Yellowstone, a yearling grizzly was accidentally killed in a trapping incident, and a female black bear was killed in yet another hit-and-run accident.
Yellowstone officials continue to stress that visitors need to keep food, garbage, barbecue grills and other attractants stored in hard-sided vehicles or bear-proof food storage boxes when not in use. This helps keep bears from becoming conditioned to human foods, and helps keep park visitors and their property safe, they said.