CHEYENNE — The daughter of a hiker killed by a grizzly bear shortly after the animal awoke from tranquilizers says researchers may have taken down signs warning passers-by of their work near Yellowstone National Park.
A 430-pound grizzly bear killed Erwin Frank Evert, 70, of Park Ridge, Ill., on June 17. Earlier that day, two members of the Interagency Grizzly Bear Study Team, which studies the animals in Yellowstone, had examined the bear after it was caught in a baited snare.
Mara Domingue, of Ventress, La., said her father had seen a sign days before the attack warning people about the research. But the Park County sheriff’s deputy who recovered Evert’s body reported seeing no signs in the area, Sheriff Scott Steward said.
Domingue said she believes researchers removed the signs as they left, leading her father to believe there was no longer any danger. Except for an area a couple hundred yards off the trail, no other places were marked with warning signs and the trail remained open, she said.
Evert was attacked by the bear not long after it woke from tranquilizers. He was neither armed nor carrying bear spray, the sheriff’s office said.
Evert, a botanist, often went hiking in the forest south of the cabin, typically following a trail a mile or two up Kitty Creek before bushwhacking to a ridgetop overlooking the cabin he owned with his wife, Domingue said.
“I’ve been on every single mountain in that whole drainage with my father. We’ve encountered bears many, many, many, many, many times,” she said. “We’ve never had any incidents with bears, because none of the bears have been harassed, or baited or snared.”
Grizzly team leader Chuck Schwartz, with the U.S. Geological Survey in Bozeman, declined to comment on the mauling circumstances, saying they will be investigated. Federal wildlife authorities outside the team will conduct the investigation, he said.
Team policy requires grizzly researchers to tape warning signs to trees, Schwartz said.
“We have a printed sign that essentially warns people that there is grizzly bear trapping in the area. That sign basically says the area behind the sign is closed,” he said Tuesday.
The signs are marked with the dates during which the area remains closed, he said.
Domingue said signs should have been posted at the trailhead and cabin owners in the area notified.
“Nobody was informed what the heck was going on up there,” she said.
The nearby Crossed Sabres Guest Ranch was aware of the work, said Linda McCoy, manager of the dude ranch across U.S. 14-16-20 from the Evert cabin.
“We were notified that they were snaring bears in two areas that they used. They asked us to quit using one of the trails for two weeks, which we did,” she said.
The ranch has since resumed pack trips up the trail.
Two days after the attack, trackers following a signal from a radio collar on the grizzly shot the bear from a helicopter. DNA tests confirmed that the bear killed was the grizzly that attacked Evert.
McCoy said she has had to field question from people who’ve booked visits to the dude ranch and heard about the attack.
“It was an accident, and we don’t anticipate future problems,” she said.