(June 19) -- Authorities say a grizzly bear that killed a 70-year-old hiker near Yellowstone National Park is still on the loose, and are cautioning residents to beware.
The attack happened Thursday in the same area where researchers had trapped and tranquilized a huge adult male grizzly earlier in the day, in the Shoshone National Forest about six miles east of Yellowstone. Scientists with the Interagency Grizzly Bear Study Team had put a radio collar on the bear and are now trying to trap it again, then use DNA testing to see if it was indeed responsible for the attack.
Erwin Frank Evert went hiking around 12:45 p.m. in the forest's Kitty Creek area, and when he didn't return, his wife went looking for him and met one of the bear researchers. They went back to the spot where they'd left the bear to wake up after it was tranquilized, and found Evert's body. Details were reported by several news outlets.
Officials have closed off the Kitty Creak area indefinitely. "There have been Forest Service people in the area talking to people who live in those cabins, and at the lodges around there, letting them know what's going on," forest spokeswoman Susan Douglas told reporters on Friday.
In 1983, a grizzly bear that had been captured 20 times and drugged 12 times dragged a man out of his tent at a campground near Yellowstone and killed him. After that attack, there was speculation that bears can sometimes become more aggressive after they've been trapped and tranquilized.
The head of the grizzly study team, Chuck Schwartz, said an investigation is being launched into whether researchers followed correct procedures, like posting warning signs about the grizzlies they were studying.
"My heart goes out for the victim and the family involved in this. Nobody would want anything like this to happen," Schwartz, who is based in Bozeman, Mont., told The Associated Press
The team is made up of state and federal biologists who study the habitats of grizzly bears in U.S. parks. Grizzlies have been on the U.S. government's list of threatened species since last year.