Accident Claims Life of Young Grizzly Bear During Capture Attempt
Contact: Al Nash, 307-344-2013
National Park Service
Yellowstone National Park
(Complete write-through to correct that the animal was a grizzly bear, not a black bear. The Public Affairs Office regrets the error.)
The small yearling bear had been seen roaming around the Old Faithful area for a couple of weeks. The bear appeared to be injured and blind in one eye, and looked small and malnourished.
Due to concerns for the bear’s safety, a decision was made to capture the animal. After capture, the plan was to examine the bear to determine if it was healthy enough to be relocated to a remote section of the park. Other options under consideration were to send the animal to a captive facility to be nursed back to health or to euthanize the bear if it was determined it was unlikely to survive.
On Friday, the yearling bear was successfully lured into an aluminum culvert trap. However, the bear made a dash for the door as it was coming down to close. The trap’s door came down on the back of the neck of the animal, killing it instantly.
An examination of the bear after the accident showed the animal weighed just 21 pounds, compared to the 45-70 pounds it should weigh at this time of year. The animal had severely infected canine wounds to the head, some of which appeared to have penetrated the bear’s brain. It had lost one eye, and had a large hole in one cheek. Park staff members believe if left in the wild the animal would have slowly starved to death, and if the accident had not claimed the bear’s life, the decision would have been made to euthanize the animal.
Yellowstone’s current bear traps are designed for adult grizzly bears. In light of this accident, a decision has already been made to design a trap specifically to capture bear cubs and yearlings.
This is the second, documented accidental death of a bear in Yellowstone National Park this year. Earlier in the month, a young grizzly was struck and killed by a vehicle along US-191 in the northwest corner of the park.
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Did You Know?
The 1988 fires affected 793,880 acres or 36 percent of the park. Five fires burned into the park that year from adjacent public lands. The largest, the North Fork Fire, started from a discarded cigarette. It burned more than 410,000 acres.