Authorities from the Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks are investigating an apparent grizzly bear attack the led to the death of a woman near the town of West Yellowstone, just outside of Yellowstone National Park.
According to a press release from the Montana FW&P, wardens were alerted to a body found along the Buttermilk Trail approximately 8 a.m. Saturday morning, July 22.
“FWP wardens and bear specialists, along with staff from other agencies, found that the woman had wounds consistent with a bear attack,” stated the release. “They also found tracks from an adult grizzly bear and at least one cub near the site. They did not see any bears or signs of a day bed or animal carcass during the investigation.”
The Buttermilk Trail is located eight miles west of town inside the Custer-Gallatin National Forest, and not far from the border of Yellowstone National Park. The grizzly bear population in Montana and the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem continues to increase, as do human-bear conflicts, which have proven to be fatal to both people and bears. Despite efforts by Montana and surrounding states pushing for local management of grizzly populations, including dedicated, managed hunting seasons, grizzly bears in the lower 48 are still listed as threatened under the Endangered Species Act, with management in the hands of the U.S Fish and Wildlife Service.
The deceased hiker, whose identity authorities have not yet released pending notification of family members, was apparently alone during the encounter and not carrying either bear spray or a bear-defense-capable firearm. Local residents and visitors were warned of the incident and the Buttermilk Trail and surrounding area were closed under an emergency order. As of Monday afternoon, no bears have been located or captured in the area, despite ongoing investigations, including ground and aerial searches.