Grizzly killed hiker near Yellowstone, officials say. Then it broke into home for food

A grizzly bear with a history of conflicts with people struck again — and this time she paid the price for it, officials said.

The very grizzly bear that was linked to the death of a solo hiker near Yellowstone National Park in July broke into a Montana home to steal dog food Saturday, Sept. 2, Montana Fish, Wildlife & Parks said in a Sept. 6 news release.

The bear’s cub was with her when she broke in through the kitchen window — while at least one homeowner was inside — and took a container of dog food with her, officials said in the release.

Montana Fish, Wildlife & Parks and local law enforcement captured her cub that night, and shot the mama bear, officials said. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service authorized officers with the agencies to kill the food-conditioned bear because they said she had become an “immediate public safety threat.”

The 10-year-old grizzly had been captured for research in 2017, and officials were able to confirm she was the bear involved in the death of a solo hiker on a trail west of Yellowstone in July, officials said. They used genetic analysis and “other identifying characteristics” to confirm her identity.

Grizzly bear tracks were found at the scene of the attack, McClatchy News previously reported.

This bear was also linked to an encounter that injured someone near Henrys Lake State Park in Idaho in 2020, officials said.

Officials determined she was acting defensively in both encounters and tried multiple times to trap and remove her after the solo hiker’s death in July, officials said. The attack happened close to homes, campgrounds and a popular trail system.

Wildlife officials failed to trap her, so they took their shot to capture her cub and kill her after she broke into the home, officials said.

The 46-pound male cub is being held at the Fish, Wildlife & Parks rehabilitation center in Helena while officials make arrangements to take him to a zoo, officials said.

How to avoid negative bear encounters

“Montana is bear country,” officials said in the release. “Grizzly bear populations continue to become denser and more widespread in Montana, increasing the likelihood that residents and recreationists will encounter them in more places each year.”

Bears are more active in late summer and autumn as they eat as much as they can to prepare for their winter hibernation — which also overlaps with hunting season and other fall recreation activities, officials said.

To avoid negative bear encounters, Montana Fish, Wildlife & Parks experts advise people outdoors in bear country to:

  • Carry bear spray, and have it out and ready to use at the first sight of a bear.

  • Travel in groups, and make a lot of noise to alert bears to your presence.

  • Stay far away from animal carcasses that attract bears.

  • Mind food storage orders from local land management agencies.

  • Never approach any bear you encounter, and leave the area when it’s safe.

  • Keep garbage, bird feeders, pet food and other smelly items that attract bears in a secure building where bears can’t access it. Keep garbage locked away until the day it’s collected, or use certified bear-resistant garbage containers.

  • Don’t feed wildlife — ever. It’s illegal to feed bears in Montana. Bears that become conditioned to human food lose their instinctual foraging behavior and become a threat to people’s safety.

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