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Grizzly bear kills hiker near Yellowstone

June 21, 2010 |  8:52 am

Grizzly bears

A man hiking near Yellowstone National Park on Thursday was killed by a grizzly bear, the same animal that researchers had tranquilized, captured and released earlier in the day.

Erwin Frank Evert, 70, of Park Ridge, Ill., was reported missing by his wife, Yolanda, to a member of the Interagency Grizzly Bear Study Team, which had been conducting research in the Kitty Creek drainage, about seven miles east of Yellowstone.

The Everts own a cabin in the area, where Erwin, a botanist, often hiked to research the region’s plants and animals.

When her husband didn't return from an afternoon hike, Yolanda went looking for him and met one of the bear researchers returning from the capture site. The study team member returned to the site, where Evert's body was discovered.

According to the Park County, Wyo., sheriff's office, which was called to the location, Evert was not armed or carrying bear spray.

Chris Servheen, grizzly bear coordinator for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, said the adult male grizzly was located Saturday morning by trackers following a signal from a radio collar that had been placed around the bear's neck.

The animal was shot and killed from a helicopter, and died about 2 miles from where Evert's body was found. A lab analysis confirmed that it was the same animal that mauled Evert.

Concern has been raised that area residents weren't well informed of the possible risks, but according to the Billings Gazette, Evert was aware of the possible dangers. Family friend and professional colleague Chuck Neal said that he spoke with Evert before his death, having received a call from him last week about the signs posted in the area, and that his friend was "absolutely aware" of the risks of hiking in the area.

"We try to do everything we can to minimize the risks. But we can't protect ourselves against people that ignore every warning we give, and we can't protect people against themselves," Servheen said. "The whole thing is regrettable; just one tragedy followed by another."

The incident is the first fatal mauling by a grizzly in the area in 25 years, and the first such fatal attack to take place at a site where researchers had recently trapped and released a bear.

-- Kelly Burgess

Photo: Grizzly bears. Credit: U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service

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