CHEYENNE, Wyo. — The judge in a lawsuit filed by the widow of a man killed by a grizzly bear has decided not to view the mauling site near Yellowstone National Park in person on the advice of the U.S. Marshals Service, which has deemed the area too risky because of recent bear activity.
U.S. District Judge Nancy Freudenthal of Cheyenne had been planning to visit the site this past Monday. Freudenthal heeded the advice and changed her mind.
"The United States Marshal expressed his concern about the safety of all parties involved in the potential site visit, based both on bear activity and the remoteness of the terrain in the event of a personal injury or other issue," Freudenthal wrote July 25.
A 430-pound grizzly killed Erwin F. Evert, of Park Ridge, Ill., six miles east of Yellowstone in June, 2010. The male grizzly had just reawakened after being trapped, tranquilized and studied by members of the Interagency Grizzly Bear Study Team, which is tasked with researching grizzly bears in the Yellowstone region.
Evert's widow, Yolanda Evert, has filed a $5 million wrongful death lawsuit against the federal government, saying the researchers should not have trapped the bear so close to a trail and cabins. She also alleges they prematurely took down signs that warned passers-by of their work.
Trial is scheduled to begin Dec. 3.
The Everts owned a cabin about a mile from where Erwin Evert was killed. They lived there seasonally.
Attorneys for both sides had filed a joint motion asking Freudenthal to visit the mauling site. While the attorneys could present photos and videos, "such evidence is no substitute for a site view," the joint motion said.
Each side characterizes the site differently in court filings. Federal attorneys call it a "remote area" almost three-quarters of a mile from the nearest cabin.
Evert's attorneys describe it as an "an open recreational area with extensive trails and decommissioned roads knowingly used by the public" and say the trap site was "on a well-defined road just three-quarters of a mile from the cabin where Mr. Evert lived."
A deputy marshal had checked out the site for a potential visit by Freudenthal, said Doug Lineen, a spokesman for the Marshals Service.
"There's no sense in bringing in another 20 people for the case and putting others in harm's way," Lineen said of the marshals' advice.