Yellowstone National Park staff on Sunday euthanized a grizzly sow that in July killed a Torrence, Calif., man after they found DNA evidence that linked her to the site of a second hiker killed in late August by a grizzly.
The sow killed 57-year-old Brian Matayoshi on July 6 about a mile and a half along the Wapiti Lake trail after he and his wife, Marylyn Matayoshi, surprised the animal from about 100 yards.
Marylyn Matayoshi escaped without serious injuries.
The sow was not killed at the time because park staff said she was acting naturally to protect her cubs.
Sometime between Aug. 24 and 26, a grizzly killed a second hiker, John Wallace, 59, of Chassell, Mich. Two hikers found Wallace’s body Aug. 26 on the Mary Mountain trail about five miles west of the Hayden Valley trailhead, which begins north of Mud Volcano.
The sites of the two attacks are about eight miles apart.
Since the August attack, park staff have set numerous traps hoping to catch the bear responsible.
“We are confident, based on DNA testing, that this sow was present at [the second] attack site,” Yellowstone spokesman Al Nash said.
While the sow’s scat and hair were located at the site where Wallace died, it’s unclear whether the sow actually killed Wallace.
“We have no way of knowing whether this bear made any physical contact with Mr. Wallace’s body,” Nash said. “We think it’s impossible to know definitively the identity of a bear that attacked and killed Mr. Wallace.
“We had an eyewitness in the first attack, so we’re very confident of what occurred there,” Nash said. “There were no witnesses to the second attack, and so we have to rely on what our rangers and investigators can gather from the scene.”
Officials say at least nine bears were feeding on two bison carcasses in the vicinity of the site where Wallace died. One bison carcass was located roughly 150 yards away from where the hikers found Wallace’s body. Wildlife managers also located 17 bear day beds in the area.
Nash confirmed that a bear or bears partially consumed Wallace’s body.
“It certainly appears there was more than one bear at the site [where Wallace died],” Nash said. “I don’t know how many bears there were at the site.”
Nash said it’s unclear whether the other bears at the site were adult grizzly bears or the sow’s two cubs.
For now, the investigation into Wallace’s death is ongoing, Nash said.
“We know that there were several bears in that area prior to the attack,” he said. “We’re continuing to put traps out in the area, and we’ll continue to trap bears to see if we might link another bear to this incident site.”
The sow was euthanized Sunday morning. Her two cubs are currently being kept at the Grizzly and Wolf Discovery Center in West Yellowstone, Mont. It is unclear whether the cubs will remain at the center.