Park rangers at Yellowstone National Park recently captured a grizzly bear that killed a hiker at the park. Rangers found the partially consumed body of Lance Crosby, 68, an experienced hiker and seasonal employee of a company that manages urgent-care clinics at the park. Regrettably, he was not carrying bear spray.
Grizzly bear attacks are rare at Yellowstone. When people are attacked, it is usually by a mother bear defending her cubs. In this case, however, the adult female bear had eaten part of Crosby’s body and hid the rest under dirt and pine needles. This type of predation is not typical behavior for a female bear defending its young.
Bears are creatures of habit and can adapt when they figure out a new food source, so park officials were not willing to risk the possibility of the bear killing and eating other people, so the decision was made to take it out.
Park rangers set up traps in the area and captured a female grizzly bear, but did not initially find her cubs. Park officials completed several tests to ensure that they had the correct bear. It took several days, but DNA tests confirmed that samples of bear hair collected next to the body matched those from the grizzly bear. Also, teeth wounds found on Crosby matched the bear. Despite some public outcry, park rangers quickly euthanized the bear after obtaining the test results.
The two bear cubs that were found later had fed on the body, too, but they were sent to an accredited facility before going to the Toledo zoo in the fall. If no zoo had been willing to take them in, they would also have been killed. Cubs adapt to a facility much easier than adults, and there is no risk of them learning that humans are food.
Given the prevalence of bears in Yellowstone, park officials strongly encourage hikers to carry bear spray, travel in groups of three or more, and make noise while hiking to scare away bears.