Updated: Grizzly Kills Hiker In Yellowstone National Park

Editor's note: This updates with additional details of the attack.

A 57-year-old man hiking with his wife near the Canyon area in Yellowstone National Park was mauled to death Wednesday by a sow grizzly, becoming the first person killed by a grizzly in the park since 1986, park officials said Wednesday.

The wife also was attacked by the bear, but did not seek medical attention, park spokesman Al Nash said Wednesday night.

The victim, whose identity and hometown were being withheld pending notification of the rest of his family, was walking Wednesday morning with his wife on the Wapiti Lake Trail south of Canyon Village.

The couple had traveled about a mile-and-a-half on the trail when they spotted a bear, Mr. Nash said. The park spokesman had no details on how far the couple was from the bear, or whether the bear noticed them, but said that after seeing the bear they kept walking down the trail.

"The next time they saw the bear, it was coming at them," said Mr. Nash. "The husband told his wife to run, and she did not witness the attack."

At some point the bear came after the woman, he continued. She fell to the ground, and when the bear reached her it grabbed her daypack and lifted both the pack and the woman off the ground before dropping her and leaving the area, said Mr. Nash.

It was not immediately known if the couple was carrying bear spray, he said.

Another group of hikers heard the woman's calls for help, and they used a cellphone to call park rangers. The man was dead by the time rangers reached him, the park spokesman said.

“It is extremely unfortunate that this couple’s trip into the Yellowstone backcountry has ended in tragedy,” Yellowstone Superintendent Dan Wenk said Wednesday. “Our heart goes out to the family and friends of the victim as they work to cope with their loss.”

There were no immediate plans to go after the bear, said Mr. Nash.

"Every indication is this was a defensive attack on the part of the bear," he said. "We're not looking for the bear, we're not planning to trap it, we're not planning to take any action against the bear."

The last fatal bear attack in Yellowstone occurred in October 1986 when a 38-year-old photographer, William Tesinsky, was photographing a grizzly in the Otter Creek area of the Hayden Valley when the bear charged him, mauled him, and partially consumed him. Previous to that killing, a Swedish woman was killed in July 1984 by a grizzly that pulled her out of her tent at a backcountry campsite in the middle of the night.

After Wednesday's incident, rangers worked to "clear the area of all backcountry users. All trails and backcountry campsites in the area have been closed until further notice." Additionally, the South Rim Drive along the Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone also was closed Wednesday, although Mr. Nash expected it to reopen Thursday.

A bear warning sign was posted at the Wapiti Lake trailhead, "since it is one of the access points to the Pelican Valley area, known for significant bear activity. However, there had been no reports of bear encounters along or near the Wapiti Lake trail this season," a park release said. "There had been no recent reports of animal carcasses along or near the trail."

Park visitors were advised to stay on designated trails, hike in groups of three or more people, and to be alert for bears and make noise in blind spots. Bear pepper spray has been highly successful at stopping aggressive behavior in bears, park officials said.

Hikers and backcountry users also were encouraged to check with staff at park visitor centers or backcountry offices for updated information before planning any trips in the Canyon area. Updated information is also available by calling 307-344-2160 during normal business hours.

Despite the large number of visitors who travel to Yellowstone each year, and the hundreds of bears in the region, there are relatively few bear-human incidents, said Mr. Nash. During the past 30 years there has been less than one injury per 1 million visitors to Yellowstone, while back in the 1930s there were roughly 175 injuries per 1 million visitors, he said.

Comments

The mauling on William Tesinsky was not because he was taking pictures of grizzlies. He had no pictures on his camera of grizzly bears. Just because he had a camera with him does not mean he was taking pictures of grizzlies. There is no proof of this and in 1986 bear managment in Yellowstone was not as well organized as it is today. The bear that killed Tesinsky was a habitual bear and was tranquilized and separated from her cubs. She was repeately traquilized and moved, because she was troublesome. She was a time bomb waiting to happen, but they don't tell you that side of the story. William Tesinsky was my father. My heart goes out to this family, please be mindful of loved ones feeling when stories are wrote.

William Tesinsky did not take one picture of a grizzly bear in Yellowstone National Park. Tesinsky had his camera on a tripod in the middle of an open field, with a elk buggle. I've been there many times in the field where he was killed. In 1986 bear management was not as well organized as it is today. Lee Whittlesey, author, made sure that William Tesinsky looked like the problem in his grizzly bear attack. Mr. Whittlesey did not know Bill Tesinsky and glamorized a story by making Tesinsky out to be an arrogant outdoorsman. The real story that was never told about the Tesinsky mauling was that bear #59 was a habitual bear and had to be tranquilized and moved repeatedly because she was a troubled bear. Her last tranquilizer separated her from her cubs and she was not happy. Tesinsky was in the wrong spot at the wrong time. William Tesinsky was a very knowledgeable outdoorsman and knew better than to approach a bear too close. Tesinsky had no pictures of grizzly bears on his film and therefore saying that he was taking pictures of Grizzly bears is incorrect and rumors established by Mr. Whittlesey to sell books. Now every article and book is based on misrepresented facts. Just because Tesinsky had a camera does not mean he was taking pictures of bears. I am truely sorry for this families loss, I know how it feels.

I'm glad they're not planning to take any action against the bear". That's the way it should be.

We were visiting the South Rim trail this evening when the ranger informed us they were closing the area due to "an incident with a bear". We were finished viewing the falls and leaving anyway.
I found out about this tragedy when I got home tonight.

I am glad to hear that no action is being taken against the bear.Time and again we hear of such incidents that could be avoided if we humans didn't invade the living space of these wild creatures.I would not be surprised if it's revealed that the couple had no pepper spray, no bear bells, or were not making any noise to notify the bear they were in the area. Once they saw the bear they should have gone back the way they came.It is sad and unfortunate, but such things will happen as long as we feel the need to hike so closely to wild animals.

Dear Anonymous: [gratuitous remark removed] We have an inherit nature for being in the wild. WE HUMANS as you put it need to be in nature as much as the animals you say we are invading. These guys were on a maintained trail. If you surprise a bear you don't turn and run. Luck does favor the prepared. I do not know if they had pepper spray or not or if they had time to react. I am also glad no action is going to be taken toward the bear. It sounds like it was a defensive move. No need for another tragedy.

We were on the trail to Ribbon Lakes less than two weeks ago (about 3 miles from Wapiti trail) when we encountered and photographed front and rear bear tracks walking toward Inspiration Point. We were about 2 miles in, having to climb over some deadfall and carrying peper spray at the ready when we decided to turn around. The tracks were fresh and we had not seen anybody on the trail that morning so we decided to head back. The park was very active with bears (more than most years) in June this year. You have to be careful in wonderland, and my heart really goes out to these folks and their family.

a mans life was taken, if the bears were hunted like they are in other areas the bear would be more fearfull of humans a thing like this would never had happend.

Hey, The Grizz has been hunted in Yellowstone by the NPS and poachers: well over 100 have been killed since the earlier 1960'-70s studies by the Frank & John Craighead Brothers. Former Supt. non-biologist, Jack Anderson and other pseudo-biologists did not respect nor understand (for political reasons) the value of their scientific work with management recommendations.
Today's NPS is largely Law Enforcement-Search & Rescue-focused following the Tragedy of 9/11 with relatively little financial support for educational seminars providing an understanding and respect for scientific research.
As we read in NPT articles, each month there are new reports of corruption within the ranks of the Green & Grey NPS so how can anyone Celebrate the NPS Centennial in 2016, without major POSITIVE agency cultural changes ? which become very difficult to implement with the old managers and their friends in key positions.
Today, only a surviving Grizz remnant exists in the Lower 48 States; Have you No Memory: not only have hunters killed many Grizzly Bears, hunters and poachers have also nearly exterminated the Bison not so long ago. Have you no common sense on what has been happening to the Planet's Biota under many ecological impacts by an estimated 7 Billion Humans ? which mass kill other Humans every day somewhere on the Earth. Have you no Respect for the Earth's Creation ? Had Yellowstone Public Park Lands not been established, 1872, today Corporate America, and the wealthy Chinese would own the Natural Geyser Basins, but today's park would be a Private Reserve for the Wealthy devoid of many native predator species like wolves, cougars, coyotes, and foxes. All the ordinary lower-upper middle class Americans would be excluded from the corporate gated communities by armed security.
There are many trashed places on the Earth resulting from Humanity's Lack of Respect and Understanding of Life's Complex Biota, all its Life. Travel Europe and search for the tiny fragments of original Nature. So, your simplistic drunk hunter response, oh, let's wipe out the last of the aggressive Grizzly Bears is truly idiotic.