Updated: Investigation Continues Into Yellowstone National Park Bear Mauling
Editor's note: This updates that a bear has been trapped, but officials unsure if it was responsible for the mauling.
An investigation continued Friday into the fatal mauling of a Michigan man in the backcountry of Yellowstone National Park. While a grizzly has been trapped, officials were not immediately sure if it was the one responsible for the mauling.
The 420-pound boar was trapped Friday near the site of the mauling, according to park spokesman Al Nash.
The plan was to take hair samples from the grizzly for DNA analysis to see if there's a match with hair found near the site of the mauling of 59-year-old John Wallace, of Chassell, Mich. The grizzly was to be released wearing a radio collar so it could be tracked if a match is made, said the park spokesman.
It was a week ago that the body of Mr. Wallace was found along the Mary Mountain Trail in the central portion of the park. An autopsy confirmed that Mr. Wallace died on August 25 from traumatic injuries incurred by a grizzly attack.
Park officials have decided that if they are able to catch the bear responsible for Mr. Wallace's death they will kill it. Back in July, when another park visitor was killed by a grizzly, officials decided to let it live because that attack was deemed to be defensive in that the sow had cubs nearby.
"Our investigation into the July attack, which included an eyewitness account, led us to determine that it involved a bear with no history of aggression toward people, and whose actions were consistent those a sow would take in response to a perceived threat to her cubs. This led to our decision not to capture and kill the bear," Mr. Nash said Friday. "We know less about the circumstances surrounding the most recent attack. We can't rule out the possibility that it was conducted by a predatory or aggressive bear."
Yellowstone hosts over 3 million visitors a year, with an average of just one bear-caused human injury a year. To the best of anyone's knowledge, this is the first time in the park's history that there have been two fatal bear attacks in one year. Since the park was established in 1872, there have only been seven recorded fatal maulings, according to Mr. Nash.
Sunny skies with daytime highs in the 60s could result in a large number of visitors to Yellowstone during the Labor Day holiday weekend. With such a favorable forecast, campground and lodging in the park could fill very early in the day.
All roads to and inside the park are open. There are no construction-related delays or closures associated with the Lamar River Bridge project scheduled over the weekend.
The fire danger rating in Yellowstone is currently “High.” Visitors are encouraged to be careful with campfires, grills, camp stoves and smoking materials. When actively burning, smoke may be visible from park roadways.
With bison mating season ending, the elk mating season beginning, and bears focused on eating to gain weigh before winter arrives, visitors are encouraged to educate themselves about wildlife safety utilizing the many resources available including the park web site, the newspaper handed out at park entrances, and the signs posted at every trailhead.
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. Hikers are encouraged to travel in groups of three or more, make noise on the trail, and carry bear spray.
Some trails and backcountry campsites are temporarily closed due to fire or wildlife activity. The latest information on backcountry access is available by contacting Visitor Centers or Backcountry Offices.