On June 17th a hiker's dead body was found along the Kitty Creek Trail in Wyoming, just 10 miles east of Yellowstone National Park. Authorities discovered the body while responding to an unconfirmed fatal bear mauling.
A few days have passed since I started this article, and as much as it pains me to tell you this, it is now confirmed a Grizzly Bear is to blame. Or is it?
Seventy year-old Botanist Erwin Evert of Cody, Wyoming was attacked and killed by a large male grizzly in a remote section of the Kitty Creek Trail, approximately two miles from the road. Mr. Evert was either unaware of the fact that a group from the Interagency Grizzly Bear Study Team had recently left the area after tranquilizing and collaring a large male, or he blatantly ignored posted warning signs. Who knows if we'll ever get all the details, or if the suspected Grizz is even the culprit. I can't help, but sit here and think about how this bear got darted, was pissed off, could hear, smell, possibly see the study team before he passed out. The team gets their samples, collars the bear, and departs from the area. Later that afternoon/evening the bear wakes (how would you feel if you were just hanging out at your local spot and all of the sudden you get tranquilized) and soon sees Mr. Evert moseying down the trail. The last encounter with people didn't work out so well for the big furry quadruped, and it now has an unfashionable collar and the sting from a dart as a reminder. I'm not saying it went down like this at all, but I'm not saying it didn't either. Could the Study Team have done more for Mr. Evert. Were trails really closed? Was Mr. Bear monitored waking up? Was Erwin Evert rolling the dice? Maybe the team did everything right, maybe it's just a case of being in the wrong place at the wrong time. The facts don't change though, and a man is dead.
There are signs like the one pictured above in areas where it is deemed unsafe. There are other kinds of signs also, like the seasons for example. Bears just recently woke up from hibernation, and are hungry. What do bears eat, is it in the area? Keep an eye out for tracks as well as scat. Bear predation upon humans is very rare however, it's survival of the fittest out there. The strongest survive and they do it well, hunting, foraging, mating, and being territorial. The old, the sick, and the injured can't keep up, they're starving and you're fair game. If you're looking for an example of this Google Timothy Treadwell, or check out the movie The Grizzly Man .
Only Timothy Treadwell knows what Timothy Treadwell was doing with the brown bears in Alaska, and it's questionable that he even knew. He was something of a different kind, and would deliberately put himself in dangerous situations. As for Yellowstone, the last predatory incident amongst bears and people in the region occurred in 1984. Brigitta Fredenhagen of Switzerland was soloing in the backcountry. She was dragged from her tent sometime during the night and killed. The last fatal mauling took place in 1986, when photographer William Tesinsky got a little too close to a female grizzly in Hayden Valley. If you've ever been to Yellowstone, you've witnessed how dumb people can be, how close they get to the wildlife, and what a great job the Rangers, the DOW, and other agencies like the Interagency Grizzly Bear Study Team are really doing. Hats off to them! Warning signs are posted for a reason, please respect them. If you see someone doing something wrong correct them, or you're just as wrong. Be good to yourself and each other.