A grizzly bear mauled and killed a hiker in the Custer-Gallatin National Forest of southwest Montana over the weekend, near the state’s border with Idaho. The attack occurred about 8 miles from the town of West Yellowstone, the gateway community for Yellowstone National Park’s western entrance. The woman’s body was discovered by another hiker who alerted wardens with Montana, Fish, Wildlife & Parks (FWP) around 8 a.m. on the morning of Saturday, July 22.
“FWP wardens and bear specialists, along with staff from other agencies, found that the woman had wounds consistent with a bear attack,” the state agency reported in a press release issued this morning. “They also found tracks from an adult grizzly bear near the site. They did not see any bears or signs of a day bed or animal carcass during the investigation.”
After investigating the scene, game wardens and bear specialists notified residents and visitors about the dangerous bear activity in the area. The U.S. Forest Service closed down the popular Buttermilk Trail in the Custer-Gallatin where the attack took place and began efforts to capture the bear. According to FWP, game wardens scoured the area via aircraft but were unable to locate any bears. As of this writing, no bears have been captured, FWP spokesman Morgan Jacobson told Field & Stream.
The woman was alone at the time of the attack and was not carrying any bear spray, according to the FWP press release. Jacobson said that the investigation is still ongoing. “FWP is on the ground leading those efforts,” he said. “We’re working in close collaboration with the Forest Service and the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service.”
Details pieced together at the scene seem to suggest that an adult grizzly was defending a cub at the time of the attack. “There is some evidence that it could be [a female bear]. We don’t know for sure. But there was a grizzly bear track there on the scene as well as tracks from at least one cub,” Jacobson said. “Our investigation did not find any evidence that the body was consumed.”
Just last week, two different Montana grizzlies were euthanized after coming into conflict with people in the northwestern part of the Big Sky State. One of those incidents involved what officials described as an “aggressive, food-conditioned bear” that charged a picnicking family in Glacier National Park. Another grizzly was put down after it approached people and damaged boats on the east side of the Hungry Horse Reservoir.