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Yellowstone euthanizes habituated black bear

MAMMOTH HOT SPRINGS, Wyo. — Yellowstone National Park wildlife managers killed a black bear after it entered an occupied campsite and bit a camper last week.

The adult female black bear entered a backcountry campsite roughly three miles from the Helloroaring trailhead at approximately 5 p.m. July 6. Five backpackers, three adults and two children, were sitting outside their tents.

The bear first walked up to an adult woman and bit her on the right arm and head, inflicting bruises and minor abrasion. The bear also nipped at the right hand of one of the children. She then walked up to the campers’ food, which was under a storage pole but not yet hung, and started eating it.

When rangers arrived on horseback, the bear was still at the campsite eating the backpackers’ food.

Because the bear entered an occupied campsite, bit a camper, and received considerable food rewards after exhibiting this behavior, a decision was made to kill her in the interest of human safety.

“The risk of being injured by a black bear while in backcountry campsites in Yellowstone National Park is approximately 1 in 850,000 overnight stays,” said Yellowstone Bear Management Biologist Kerry Gunther. “Although the risk is low, the park recommends that backcountry campers carry bear spray while hiking and when in camp. Hang food from the food pole at all times except when cooking or eating.”

In Yellowstone, injuries to humans by black bears are very rare, and occur about once in every seven years. Visit the park website to learn more about black bears.

In 2019, park staff responded to multiple incidents involving bears exhibiting habituated behavior.

Wildlife in Yellowstone National Park is wild and unpredictable. Be aware of your surroundings. Never feed wildlife. Animals that become dependent on human food may become aggressive toward people and have to be killed. Keep all food, garbage, or other smelly items packed away when not in use. Stay 25 yards (23 m) away from all large animals – bison, elk, bighorn sheep, deer, moose, and coyotes and at least 100 yards (91 m) away from bears and wolves.

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