Grizzly Bear That Killed Hiker Is Euthanized After Breaking Into Home for Food

From a Washington Post story by Timothy Bella headlined “Grizzly bear that killed hiker is euthanized after breaking into home for food”:

A grizzly bear that killed a woman on a trail near Yellowstone National Park in July and injured someone else in 2020 was euthanized after the bear and her cub broke into a person’s home in search of food, officials said.

The Montana Department of Fish, Wildlife and Parks (FWP) said a homeowner in West Yellowstone, Mont., reported Saturday that a 10-year-old female grizzly bear and her cub “broke through a kitchen window of an occupied home and removed a container of dog food from inside the house.” Officials identified the grizzly as the same bear that killed Amie Adamson, 48, of Derby, Kan., on a trail in the Custer Gallatin National Forest on July 22.

Hours after the homeowner’s report, FWP officials and local law enforcement shot the adult bear and captured the cub “due to an immediate public safety threat from the bear’s food-conditioned behavior,” the agency said. Officials said they were given authorization to euthanize the grizzly from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service based on the mother bear’s “history of conflict with people.” Officials confirmed it was the same bear through genetic analysis and other identifying characteristics, FWP officials said.

“This bear was euthanized because it entered somebody’s home, which is very unsafe behavior, very unnatural behavior for bears,” Morgan Jacobsen, a spokesman for Montana FWP Region 3, told KBZK, a CBS affiliate in Bozeman, Mont.

The cub, a 46-pound male, is being held at FWP’s wildlife rehabilitation center in Helena, the agency said Wednesday. The cub will be transferred to a zoo in the coming weeks, officials said.

The mother bear had been captured in 2017 for research purposes, but was released, according to the department. In 2020, the grizzly injured a person during an encounter near Henrys Lake State Park in Idaho.

Then, in July, Adamson was found dead “following an apparent bear encounter” on the Buttermilk Trail, which is about a mile west of Yellowstone. Adamson was believed to be alone during the encounter, officials said, and no bear spray or firearms were found at the scene.

Without elaborating on why, FWP officials said the bear’s actions toward Adamson, as well as in the 2020 incident, were evaluated and “deemed to be defensive responses.” Even so, FWP officials said Wednesday, they attempted to capture and euthanize the bear following the July death.

“Multiple efforts to trap and remove the bear were made after the fatal attack in July due to the incident’s proximity to residences, campgrounds, and high-use OHV trails,” the agency said. “These efforts were unsuccessful.”

The estimated grizzly bear population has increased inside the Yellowstone ecosystem in recent years. It rose from 136 in 1975 to a peak of 1,063 in 2021, according to the National Park Service. A federally protected subspecies of brown bear that once roamed large swaths of the mountains and prairies of the American West, the grizzly bear now remains in a few isolated locations in the Lower 48 states, including Yellowstone.

The grizzly bear population has “expanded in abundance and distribution in Montana in recent years,” which has proved to be a challenge for residents, according to the Montana DWP.

“This [expansion] enhances the long-term prospects for population sustainability by increasing the likelihood of connectivity between recovery zones,” the department said on its website. “However, because grizzly bears can damage property and injure people, their closer proximity to human habitation poses new challenges for Montanans.”

Even with the increased population, grizzly bears are still faced with danger. A grizzly in Wyoming was found dead near Yellowstone in May in a case that sparked outrage among bear watchers and environmental activists concerned about how the animal was found with a disfigured face. The case remains under investigation by federal and state officials.

Grizzly bears can weigh between 200 to 700 pounds and adults are about 3.5 feet at the shoulder when standing on all fours, according to the Park Service. The bears can climb trees, swim, and run up and downhill up to 40 mph. They are typically larger and have a “much more aggressive behavior” than black bears, the Park Service says.

While bear attacks at Yellowstone are rare, the park averages about one bear attack per year, officials say. Eight people have been killed in bear attacks at Yellowstone since the national park was established in 1872, data shows. Three visitors were killed by grizzly bears inside the park in separate incidents in 2011 and 2015. More than 40 people have been injured in bear attacks since 1979, the park says.

“More people have died by drowning or suffering thermal burns from hot springs than aggressive bears,” the Park Service said. “For all park visitors combined, the chances of being injured by a grizzly bear are approximately 1 in 2.7 million visits. The risk is significantly lower for people who don’t leave developed areas or roadsides, and higher for anyone hiking in the backcountry.”

This time of year is when bears are more active for longer periods, as they are consuming more food in preparation for hibernation, according to the FWP.

The Park Service recommends that people “keep at least 100 yards away from bears at all times and never approach a bear to take a photo.” In addition, Yellowstone park officials have urged visitors to never feed bears and to honk your horn and drive away to discourage a bear from approaching or touching your car. Officials have also recommended that people make noise to scare a bear away and carry bear spray, a nonlethal deterrent used to stop aggressive behavior in the animals that has been proved to “reduce human injuries caused by bears and the number of bears killed by people in self-defense.”

“Be prepared to use it immediately,” the FWP said in a news release.

After the grizzly was euthanized, officials have stressed to residents in the Yellowstone area to be vigilant in preventing an unwanted house guest.

“Montana is bear country,” the agency said. “Grizzly bear populations continue to become denser and more widespread in Montana, increasing the likelihood that residents and recreationists will encounter them in more places each year.”

Timothy Bella is a staff writer and editor for the Post’s General Assignment team, focusing on national news. His work has appeared in outlets such as Esquire, the Atlantic, New York magazine and the Undefeated.

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