A hiker in Yellowstone National Park was mauled and killed by a grizzly bear Wednesday morning, the first bear-caused human fatality within the park in about 25 years, according to park officials, the Los Angeles Times reported. The attack occurred after the man and his wife surprised a female bear and her cubs on the Wapiti Lake trail. The woman wasn't hurt.
According to BBC News:
"In an apparent attempt to defend a perceived threat to her cubs, the bear attacked and fatally wounded the man," said the park in a statement. "Another group of hikers nearby heard the victim's wife crying out for help, and used a cell phone to call 911."
Campsites and hiking trails in the isolated area in the middle of the park where the attack took place were closed, ABC News said. The identities and hometown of the couple aren't being released at present.
Al Nash, a spokesman for the park, said that no grizzly encounters had been reported in the park recently, he Los Angeles Times said. But wildlife specialists in the area believe that shrinking habitat and food sources might result in grizzlies being more likely to attack humans.
Park officials and wildlife specialists were looking into the details of Wednesday's attack, Reuters said. It appeared that the sow, which left the area with her cubs after killing the 57-year-old man, was behaving normally as she defended her cubs against what she perceived as a threat, and so it was likely she wouldn't be killed, said Linda Miller, a spokeswoman for the park. The bear hadn't been located.
Several hundred grizzly bears, which can weigh as much as 600 pounds each, call Yellowstone and the surrounding area home, BBC News said. The bears are a popular tourist attraction in the park.
In October 1986, the mauled body of a man was found near Otter Creek inside the park, the Los Angeles Times reported. Park officials also found a camera and a tripod near the scene and concluded that the man had been trying to photograph a bear when he was killed. That was the last fatal bear attack on a human in the park until the killing on Wednesday.
Tourists in Yellowstone are encouraged to hike in groups of three or more people, carry special bear pepper spray and make a lot of noise as they move around, officials said, according to ABC News.