Yellowstone National Park Officials have released more details into a fatal bear attack that occurred late last Summer. The death of 59 year old Michigan man John Wallace was the second bear caused fatality in the park in just a couple of months. This ended a 25 year period without a single bear-related death in Yellowstone. The park does not feel those deaths are enough to seriously change bear management policy.
The latest report on the August killing of John Wallace releases a lot of details previously unavailable to the public. And they are pretty gruesome. Two hikers discovered Wallace’s body on the morning of Friday, August 26th. What they found was a man partially consumed and partially buried near the park’s Mary Mountain trail. The report says the bear was attempting to cache the body by covering it with dirt, grass and some of Wallace’s belongings.
Wallace had arrived in the park two days earlier. A concession worker at his campground says the two talked about bears. The concession worker says Wallace seemed knowledgeable about them. His family also says he was a competent, experienced backcountry hiker. Yet Wallace did several things the park advises against.
“We do know that he chose to hike alone and he did not choose to carry bear spray with him,” Yellowstone National Park Spokesman Al Nash said.
Yellowstone suggests backcountry hikers travel in groups of at least three, with bear spray at the ready. Evidence suggests Wallace was killed late in the morning the day before his body was discovered. But Nash says it’s impossible to know the exact circumstances behind the attack.
“Absent that eyewitness account we’re never going to know why a bear or bears attacked Mr. Wallace or all of the particulars of what occurred on that late August day,” Nash said.
Park Officials euthanized a bear last fall believed to be responsible for the incident. DNA was collected at the Wallace scene matching the Wapiti Sow. That bear was responsible for killing 57 year old Brian Matayoshi in July last year.
“We know this bear was involved in the July fatal incident and this same bear was at the scene of another fatal incident,” Nash said.
Nash says that provided enough evidence to kill the Wapiti sow. Her two cubs were taken to the Grizzly and Wolf Discovery Center in West Yellowstone. The fatal maulings made national headlines for being the park’s first since 1986. Nash says they are looking into improving public outreach about bears, like adding more information to park signs or brochures.
“But I hate to draw or have anyone attempt to draw some sweeping generalizations about bear management based on what come across as two isolated and unfortunate incidents,” he said.