YELLOWSTONE NATIONAL PARK — A 57-year-old hiker was killed Wednesday morning in Yellowstone National Park when he and his wife encountered a sow grizzly bear with cubs.
Torrence, California native Brian Matayoshi and his wife Marylin were hiking along the Wapiti Lake Trail, which is a 32-mile round trip hike that starts at the Upper Falls trail head just south of Canyon Village and spans east to Wapiti Lake.
According to NBCMontana.com, the couple were a mile and half away from the trailhead, hiking west towards their vehicle mid-morning when they arrived at an open meadow after traveling through a forested area. Matayoshi spotted the bear and her cubs 100 yards away and immediately started to back track away from the bear. When the couple turned around to look, they saw the horrifying site of the sow running down the trail after them.
The couple immediately started running, but the bear caught Brian, savaging the hiker with multiple bite and claw wounds. The bear then turned her attention to Marylin who was now laying down near her fallen husband. The bear chomped down on her day pack, lifting her up, before slamming her back to the ground. As Marylin lay still, the grizzly sow eventually left, leaving Marylin frantically calling 911 and screaming out to other hikers.
When park rangers arrived, Brian Matayoshi was pronounced dead at the scene.
“It is extremely unfortunate that this couple’s trip into the Yellowstone backcountry has ended in tragedy,” said Dan Wenk, Superintendent of Yellowstone National Park. “Our heart goes out to the family and friends of the victim as they work to cope with their loss.”
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This is the first bear fatality in Yellowstone since 1986 and the National Park Service has gone out of its way to make sure backcountry hikers are well prepared for traveling in bear country. The Backcountry Trip Planner — available to all visitors to Yellowstone — includes multiple pages on how to stay “bear safe” while hiking.
According to the literature, if hikers encounter bears in the backcountry, there are several things you can do to hopefully come out unscathed.
- Stay calm
- Do not run or make sudden movements
- Back away slowly
- Talk quietly to the bear, do not shout
- Do not drop your pack
- Avoid looking directly at the bear
In bear country, hikers are encouraged to carry bear pepper spray, as it has been shown to be an effective deterrent. Another back-up option is a lightweight large-caliber handgun like a Smith & Wesson 460ES. The Matayoshi’s were carrying neither.
Only bears that have shown to be problems in the past through tagging/releasing efforts are destroyed as a result of attacks on humans. This bear has never shown prior aggression and it’s believed the sow was acting purely in a defensive manner towards her cubs when the Matayoshi’s encountered her.
All hiking trails in the area have been closed and will remain so for several days.