Updated: Hiker In Yellowstone National Park Died From Grizzly Attack

Editor's note: This update provides information on efforts to trap the bear, additional details on Mr. Wallace's itinerary in the park.

Efforts were under way Monday to try to trap a grizzly bear that fatally mauled a Michigan man on a day hike in Yellowstone National Park.

The fatal mauling was the second in the park this year.

The body of 59-year-old John Wallace, of Chassell, Michigan, was spotted along the Mary Mountain Trail by two other hikers Friday afternoon. The man apparently died earlier in the week, possibly Wednesday or Thursday, park spokesman Al Nash said Sunday.

At the time, citing the ongoing investigation, he could not say whether there were any obvious signs of trauma or attack by an animal. While there were signs of grizzly bear activity at the scene, he said, an aerial search of the area Saturday morning failed to turn up any current bear activity.

An autopsy on Sunday, however, determined that Mr. Wallace, who was traveling alone, suffered traumatic injuries that had been inflicted by a grizzly, Mr. Nash said Monday.

The Michigan man, who had camped in a front-country campground on Wednesday, was on a day hike on the Mary Mountain Trail when he was killed, the park spokesman said.
However, investigators were not immediately able to piece together whether it was a random attack or whether the man had startled a sow with cubs.

“Because there’s no witnesses, there’s a limit to what we’re able to figure out," Mr. Nash said.

The 21-mile-long Mary Mountain Trail crosses the center of Yellowstone, connecting the west and east sides of the lower portion of the Grand Loop Road. Mr. Wallace's body was found about 5 miles west of the Hayden Valley trailhead, which is off the Grand Loop Road between Mud Volcano and Canyon Junction.

Park officials have closed both the Mary Mountain Trail, the Cygnet Lakes Trail, and the section of the Hayden Valley west of the Grand Loop Road to hikers in the wake of the incident. They also were setting traps to see if they might be able to catch the bear responsible for the man's death.

"We do have some traps set out in Hayden Valley to see if it is possible to capture a bear. If we’re successful, then we’ll attempt to determine if it is 'the' bear," Mr. Nash said. Those efforts would involve taking DNA samples from any captured bear's hair, as rangers were able to recover some hairs from the site of the mauling, he said.

Visitors are advised to stay on designated trails, hike in groups of three or more people, be alert for bears, make noise, carry bear spray, and not to run upon encountering a bear.

Hikers and backcountry users are encouraged to check with staff at park visitor centers or backcountry offices for updated information before planning any trips in the central portion of the park.

In the first mauling this summer, Brian Matayoshi, 57, of Torrance, California, was killed by a sow grizzly that had two cubs nearby. Mr. Matayoshi and his wife had been hiking along the Wapiti Lake Trail, which is located off the South Rim Drive south of Canyon Village and east of the park’s Grand Loop Road, when they encountered the bears in early July.

"It appears that the couple spotted a bear approximately 100 yards away and then began walking away from the bear. When they turned around to look, they reportedly saw the female grizzly running down the trail at them," a park release said at the time. "The couple began running, but the bear caught up with them, attacking Mr. Matayoshi. The bear then went over to Mrs. Matayoshi, who had fallen to the ground nearby. The bear bit her daypack, lifting her from the ground and then dropping her. She remained still and the bear left the area."

A Board of Review convened to examine that incident has yet to file its report.

Mr. Nash could not recall the last time, if ever, that there were two fatal bear maulings in the park in one summer.

“We don't normally have two people injured by a bear in a year," he said.

Comments

Dave and I hiked a small portion of the Mary Mountain Trail last month on our vacation. In our guide book they list Bear sightings, as "very likely". While I am sorry for this gentleman's family for their loss why anyone would hike alone and apparently without bear spray is beyond me!

You are assuming this man read the same thing you did. Never fails, there will always be at least one comment seeking to lay blame on the human.

The blame game has been/is very much in vogue now days. Taking the place of something much more productive.

What I'm assuming, is that Park visitors need to take responsibility for their own actions! I'm certain that many people NEVER read the materials handed out to them as they enter the Park. We were there just last month and if we hadn't have already heard about the Grizzly fatality (in July) before we got there, we certainly would have known once we entered the Park! The recommendation is very clear that hiking in groups and with pepper spray is encouraged.
As a back country hiker along with my husband we ALWAYS hike with bear
spray (proven to be a reliable deterrent) as well as making a lot of
noise and never hike alone. In my opinion, our National Parks provide
ample information as to visitor safety. However, it is the personal
responsibility of each individual to follow these rules and regulations.
There aren't enough government funds to "police" every single person
who enters our Parks. I think too many people enter our wild places, and
have a zoo mentality, ( let's face it, 1/4 mile off the main roads in
Yellowstone and you are technically in the back country) they have no
real concept that nature, at its most basic, can be very unforgiving! There are steps one can take to lower the risk factor but they can never be eliminated.

Pointing out the poor decisions this unfortunate hiker likely made is quite productive if even one person that reads this thinks twice about making the same mistakes. It's not about blame, it's about pointing to the apparent facts. Sometimes humans do dangerous things, either with full knowledge or abject ignorance of the peril. When they perish in said pursuits it's a worthy expenditure of time to ask why.

Well said, Kirby.

Folks: Please don't assume that John Wallace made any mistakes that were responsible for his death, at least until the full investigation is complete. I knew John: he is from our local area here, was a friendly acquaintance, and worked at our local library. He was a very experienced outdoorsperson and hiked often. Yes, he liked to hike alone, and we all know (and I'm certain John knew) that that poses a higher risk, but nonetheless that in itself is not a "poor decision" (especially on a day hike). If he had had a partner, or even had been in a large group, the outcome may not have been different.
It's a heartbreaking situation. Leave it at that until all the facts are in (and of course I agree that a full investigation, including disclosure of any mistakes John may have made, is always valuable.)

NBC News and the Today show this morning were sounding the alarm about evil bears. It's a shame the parks have such a difficult time getting the full story out to the public. But they did show the clip of the griz encountering a whole road full of humans that was featured a day or so ago on Traveler. It was a great opportunity for the news crew to do a little educating, but they let it pass.

It almost seemed that they were presenting that vid clip as an example of what's normal and to be expected in Yellowtone.

well said dave harmon.

The park service was very careful on this case not to assign blame until after the autopsy, interesting...It would appear from their posturing that they were not sure why Mr. Wallace died or what caused his injury. It would fascinating to see what the autopsy revealed versus what were obvious signs of injury.