Lance Crosby, a 63 year old experienced hiker, was hiking alone without bear spray in Yellowstone National Park. Crosby worked as a nurse and had lived in Yellowstone for five seasons. His body was found a half-mile from the Elephant Back Loop Trail, a popular hiking site. His body was half consumed and covered with leaves and dirt, with wounds consistent with a bear attack. When the bear was found, it was captured and then euthanized.DNA tests around the site confirmed the bear who killed Crosby. An examination of the site showed that Crosby tried to fight back against the 259 pound bear. The body was found with a “significant portion” consumed “with the intent to return for further eating.”
“Normal defensive attacks by female bears defending their young do not involve consumption of the victim’s body.” the park said.
However, while this was a tragedy, it could have been avoided if the hiker had followed Yellowstone’s guidelines. Yellowstone park rules say that hikers should always hike in groups and carry bear spray. They should make noise on the trail, and be alert for bears. Hikers are required to stay at least 100 yards from bears and wolves. It is almost certain that Crosby violated two of these rules. He traveled alone and without bear spray. Given these facts, the park could have considered other options for the bear, but instead decided to kill her.
“Our decision takes into account the facts of the case, the goals of the bear management program, and the long term viability of the grizzly bear population as a whole, rather than an individual bear,” said Dan Wenk.
The bear had two cubs, both 50 pounds and less than a year old. Cubs this young are too helpless to survive without a mother. In the fall, they are going to be sent to the Toledo Zoo. “Cubs can adapt to a facility much easier, and there is no danger of them learning humans are food,” says Amy Bartlett.
Many people strongly disagree with the decision the park made. Before the bear was killed, hundreds of calls and emails to save the bear were sent to the park offices. Over a dozen were sent to the Montana government. Some comments on Facebook read,
“Please don’t kill this bear. If there’s a cub, you just orphaned it.”
“I would say nature ran its course eliminating an idiot”
Grizzly bears by nature are more aggressive than other bears. They can’t climb as well and give birth to fewer cubs. On average, a black bear gives birth to 1-6 cubs, whereas a grizzly bear gives birth to 1-4. Grizzlies may have evolved to be aggressive and protective because of humans. Humans have always killed bears through habitat destruction and mass hunting. In 1975 there were only 136 in the park and 550 in the US. The scientific name of the grizzly, Urus arctos horribilis (horrible bear) also demonstrates the mindset humans have towards bears.
Even though it is terrible that Crosby died, the park did not need to kill the bear. According to the park, two wrongs make a right.
Please comment with your opinion on this controversial decision.