Grizzly Bear Death Near Yellowstone National Park Under Investigation

Authorities search for evidence of poaching

A grizzly bear was found between Cody and the East Entrance of Yellowstone National Park on May 1. The grizzly’s death is under investigation by the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service and the Wyoming Game & Fish Department. (Courtesy photo from Amy Wells)

By Melissa Thomasma

Special to the Wyoming Truth

The body of an adult grizzly bear was discovered Monday among clusters of sage on a hillside flanking the Northfork Highway, 14 miles from the East Entrance of Yellowstone National Park.

Wildlife photographer and bear advocate Amy Gerber shared early word of the bruin’s death via Facebook. Gerber’s work, published under the moniker Cub Creek Photography, often features the wild creatures of the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem around her hometown of Cody. 

Gerber recalled observing two grizzlies—one small, the other large—browsing in the willows along the river in the area during the past two weeks. It was the bigger of the two she saw again on Monday. “This morning I saw him again….” she wrote on Facebook. “He was within a mile of where I had seen him last week. Except today, he was dead.” 

Gerber told the Wyoming Truth that when she stopped along the roadside near the animal’s carcass to find out whether it had been struck by a vehicle or suffered some other fate, representatives from the Wyoming Game & Fish Department were “walking the hills in search of evidence.”

Gerber said a uniformed warden told her that the bear had been gunned down, not hit by a vehicle. “I drive that stretch of road daily this time of year, and if a bear that size had been hit by a car, there would have been evidence,” she said. “On the roadway, there was nothing. Thirty yards away, there was a large dead bear.” 

But Mish Goicolea, communications chief for the Wyoming Game & Fish Department, declined to state how the bear died, telling the Wyoming Truth that the incident is “currently under investigation by the Wyoming Game & Fish and the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service.”

Though the debate about grizzly bear management is ongoing in the West, grizzlies in the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem are still protected by the Endangered Species Act and illegal to hunt. Killing a grizzly — outside of self-defense — is punishable by a fine of up to $50,000 and one year in prison. If a bear is killed in self-defense, it must be immediately reported to Wyoming Game & Fish.

The nonprofit Wyoming Wildlife Advocates is monitoring developments.

“We’re keeping a close eye on this developing case and will update the public as information becomes available,” said executive director Kristin Combs.

According to the Interagency Grizzly Bear Study Team, the group tasked with ursine management decisions in the region, 48 bears were suspected or confirmed dead in 2022. Forty were confirmed to have been caused by humans or remain categorized as under investigation.

Said Combs: “Typically when cases are ‘under investigation,’ there’s at least some concern that the cause was humans.”  

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