A 57-year old man out for a hike along a popular trail in Yellowstone National Park was attacked, and killed by a grizzly bear on Wednesday. It was the first fatal bear attack within the park in 25 years.
The man, who has yet to be named, and his wife set out to hike the Wapiti Lake Trail, located inside Yellowstone’s Grand Canyon. They reportedly had only walked a mile and half when they came upon a female grizzly bear with her cubs. The bear reacted to the surprise encounter by attacking the couple, fatally injuring the husband, while his wife looked on. Other hikers, hearing her cries for help, rushed to the scene and dialed 911, but the man passed away before park rangers could reach his location.
Summer is a very busy time in Yellowstone, and the trails are often crowded with hikers. Despite that, rangers say that there were no reported bears sightings in the area prior to the attack. As a precaution however, they’ve closed several campsites and hiking trails close to where the encounter took place, and have posted warning signs as well. A search was also underway to locate the bear, and if found, she and the cubs would most likely be relocated to a more remote location. Because the attack was in defense of her young, rangers say that the bear would not be put down. So far, the search has turned up no sign of the bears.
Despite the fact that both black bear and grizzly bear call Yellowstone home, there has not been a fatal encounter with those creatures in the park since 1986. However, last year a bear wandered into a campsite not far from the park and killed a camper in his tent. It was a grim reminder of how dangerous these animals can be when encountered in the wild.
If you are planning a trip to Yellowstone, or some other backcountry destination this year, officials from the park offered up some helpful hints to keep you safe. They recommend traveling in groups of three or more and making plenty of noise while walking. That will give animals advanced warning of your approach and time to get out of your way, making it a safer environment for you and them.
It is also highly advisable that hikers carry bear spray, which is a bit like Mace for animals. Bear spray can be purchased in most outdoor gear stores in states inhabited by the creatures, although you’ll wan to buy it once you’ve reached your destination. The TSA frowns on a giant can of extra-powerful pepper spray in your carry-on. The spray is a good investment for anyone planning a wilderness hike however.