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Yellowstone Responds To Bear Killing Policy Criticism

Eric Whitney
A closure sign at Elephant Back Loop trail in Yellowstone

Yellowstone National Park posted the response below on its Facebook page after receiving criticism over after it said it plans to trap and kill the bear involved in the death of a hiker in the park late last week. The park says they captured a suspect bear in the area Friday. 

We've read all of your comments and appreciate everyone taking the time to voice their concerns about this tragic event. Many questions touch on similar themes and we'd like to provide more information on those themes:

Why kill the bear: it wasn't doing anything wrong?

Deciding to kill a bear is difficult. We don't know what led to the attack and probably never will. However, we do know that the bear fed on the body and cached it with the apparent intent of returning. We do not want bears considering humans as food. As a result, we decided that the bear, if identified, must be euthanized.

If trapped, how will we know that this particular bear was involved in the attack?

Traps have been set near the site of the cache. If an adult female bear with a cub of the year is captured, then it will likely be the same bear returning to the cache. We'll compare foot sizes of captured bears to track measurements from the cache site. If time allows, DNA evidence from hairs and scats collected at the scene will be compared to those from trapped bears.

Why can't the bears be relocated?

We don't want to shift a management issue from one area to another. As mentioned previously, the bear fed on the body and we do not want bears considering humans as food. Also, adult bears usually don’t do well when moved to zoos because of the drastic change in lifestyle and habitat. Many zoos aren’t willing to take adult bears due to limited space and the difficulty of adapting wild bears to confined spaces.

What will happen to the cub?

We will attempt to place the cub in a zoo. However, most zoos have all the bears they want so placement may be difficult.

Why doesn't the park euthanize bison or elk when they attack people?

Most bison and elk attacks are defensive and occur when people approach too closely. If a bison or elk demonstrated unprovoked behavior, including making a "premeditated" charge from a distance with the apparent intent of injuring a visitor, then we would consider euthanizing it.

Thanks again to everyone for contributing to this difficult conversation.

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