Investigation into dead Yellowstone grizzly ongoing

By 
Hayden Blackford — Enterprise Intern
Monday, July 5, 2021
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Bear No. 394, lies dead early June on the banks of the Yellowstone River near Corwin Springs. (Photo by George Bumann/www.ayellowstonelife.com)

When high water on the Yellowstone River receded in early June, it revealed more than a few rearranged river stones — it also showed a dead grizzly bear, tagged No. 394, on a small island near Corwin Springs. The bear could be seen easily from rafts, the highway and several riverside homes. 

The bear was scheduled to be removed by Fish, Wildlife, and Parks. But before the bear could be removed, paws and skull of the grizzly were cut off. This prompted the Fish and Wildlife service to open an investigation, said Morgan Jacobsen the FWP Information and Education Program Manager. Jacobsen also confirmed that the bear was a 25-year-old male. 

“It is believed to be a natural cause of death,” Jacobsen said. 

Kerry Gunther, Yellowstone Bear Management Biologist, said that there was not much monetary value in bear paws, and that it is more likely that someone would have taken them as a souvenir, or trophy. 

Gunther said that the bear was first captured in 2001 in the Bridger Teton Range, and was removed because the bear had been killing sheep. Bear 394 was relocated to the Shoshone National Forest to remove the bear from sheep, and this relocation worked at keeping the bear out of conflict, said Gunther. 

“It was kind of a Hayden Valley, Lamar River kind of bear,” Gunther said. 

The Yellowstone grizzly would venture out to the Gallatin National Forest, but it was not a town bear, Gunther explained. Grizzlies are a federally threatened species, and the removal of the paws is illegal, said Gunther. 

George Bumann, a Gardiner area resident, was one of the first people to document the bear, and wrote about it in Mountain Journal before the mutilation. “I heard about it from a raft guide in Gardiner,” said Bumann.

Authorities arrived with plans to remove the carcass, but found that overnight the paws were removed, said Bumann.

After the mutilation the situation was turned over to the Fish and Wildlife service, and for now the bear remains on the bank of the river.

“He may have drowned in the river as a result of being in a fight with another bear” Bumann said, “He still had blood on his face.”

Anyone with information regarding the removal of 394’s head and claws is encouraged to call 1-800-TIP-MONT (800-847-6668).

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