Man mauled to death by grizzly bears while cleaning enclosure at Montana wildlife park

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BILLINGS, Mont. (AP) — A trainer who was mauled to death while cleaning the pen of two, 500-pound brown bears at a Montana wildlife casting agency suffered extensive wounds that make it impossible to determine if he was conscious before the attack, authorities said Monday.

Best friends: Animals of Montana owner Troy Hyde had to put down the attacking bear
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There were no defensive wounds on the hands or arms of 24-year-old Benjamin Cloutier when his body was pulled from the pen on Sunday, and he apparently had not used the bear spray he was carrying, said Demetri Price, head trainer at Animals of Montana near Bozeman.

As a result, Price has speculated that Cloutier might have fallen and hit his head before being killed.

Gallatin County Sheriff Brian Gootkin confirmed the absence of defensive wounds and the non-use of the spray. But he said there was no way to prove Cloutier was unconscious when the attack began.

The body had been attacked so fiercely, there were so many injuries that there was no way — that’s why we’re not going to speculate,” Gootkin said.

However, he said it was clear that Cloutier died of bite and claw wounds that hit major arteries.

The death remains under investigation by the sheriff’s office and wardens from Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks. It has been listed as accidental and is not considered a criminal matter.

Animals of Montana provides captive-bred animals for photography shoots and motion pictures, ranging from African lions and minks to badgers and bobcats. The company says the bears have been used in “attack re-enactments” for films in which trainers are used as stuntmen.

Cloutier had worked as a trainer at the company since 2008 and had been in the bear enclosure hundreds of times, Price said.

Price was the first person to arrive at the pen after the mauling. He described Cloutier’s death as a “tragic accident” and insisted it was not an attack. Cloutier did not scream for help, and none of the other animals at the facility showed any signs of alarm before the discovery, Price said.

“I believe, given all things accounted for, that (Cloutier) was somehow rendered unconscious, whether it be he slipped and hit his head or something” else, Price said. “The bears we believed killed him, but we don’t believe it was an attack scenario.”

Price said he was approaching the enclosure when he saw the victim on the ground with two captive-bred, 8-year-old male bears nearby. One of the bears, nicknamed Griz, was behaving as though he had taken possession of the victim, and Price said he had to kill the animal so he could get to Cloutier.

When he did, Cloutier was dead, with wounds inflicted by Griz or the other bear in the enclosure, nicknamed Yosemite.

Cloutier was originally from York Haven, Pa. Price said the staff at Animals of Montana had suffered “a double loss” with the death of Cloutier and the loss of Griz, which he called the favorite animal of the victim.

Cloutier’s family could not be immediately reached for comment.

Animals of Montana had three bears prior to Sunday that were identified on the company’s website as grizzly bears.

However, the facility’s permit for the two involved in the mauling lists them as Syrian brown bears, a subspecies of brown bears that are different from grizzlies, said Fish, Wildlife and Parks spokeswoman Andrea Jones.

The company had the necessary state and federal permits to keep the bears. But its license is being reviewed in the wake of the death, and the company’s permit to exhibit Yosemite has been suspended pending the investigation, Jones said.

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Close to nature: Workers at Animals of Montana are used to being on close terms with a number of dangerous animals like grizzlies, leopards, and coyotes
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Coastal First Nations declare ban on controversial bear trophy hunt

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For millennia, aboriginal people have hunted wildlife for food, traditional purposes and trade.

But coastal First Nations in British Columbia argue that killing a threatened animal simply for the thrill of it is foreign to their culture.

“It’s not a part of our culture to kill an animal for sport and hang them on a wall,” said Jessie Housty, a councillor with the Heiltsuk Nation. “When we go hunting it’s for sustenance purposes not trophy hunting.”

After seeing grizzly and other bears slaughtered for sport for years, First Nations on B.C.’s North and Central coasts have done what the provincial government has long refused to do: they have banned trophy hunting for bears across their traditional territories in the globally renowned Great Bear Rainforest.

Grizzlies are officially designated as a threatened species, and black bear subspecies on the B.C. coast are among the most diverse in North America, ranging from the spirit or kermode bear to the Haida black bear. Yet, the B.C.government has ignored pleas from First Nations and conservation groups and has continued to allow these majestic animals to be killed for sport, even in many parks and protected areas and in the Great Bear Rainforest.

For this reason, the David Suzuki Foundation has been asking the government to protect grizzly bears for many years, including setting aside large areas of their wilderness habitat, such as in the Great Bear Rainforest, where trophy hunting would be prohibited. Grizzlies have already been eliminated or are currently threatened in 18 per cent of the province, including the Lower Mainland and most of the Interior.

“Although the Coastal First Nations admit to having few enforcement tools at their disposal, this is an important step and will put pressure on the government to implement a comprehensive ban on the killing of bears on B.C.’s coast,” said Dr. Faisal Moola, David Suzuki Foundation Terrestrial Conservation and Science Program director. “We fully support the Coastal First Nations in their efforts to protect bears, which are crucial to sustaining the ecological health of their lands and waters.”

Killing bears for sport makes no sense scientifically, but it is also unethical and immoral to hunt these animals so they become a head on a wall or rug in front of a fireplace when tourists are willing to pay for the chance to photograph them alive and in the wild. Most British Columbians agree. A 2008 McAllister Research poll found that 79 per cent of B.C. residents believe that to kill a bear simply for the thrill of it is reprehensible and that the practice should end.

Today, the only place you’ll find a grizzly bear south of Wyoming is on California’s state flag. It would be more than a shame if all we had left to remember these magnificent animals in B.C. were a few films and First Nations carvings.

In the coming months the David Suzuki Foundation will be releasing a number of scientific and policy studies that make the case that grizzly bears should be legally protected in Canada. We’ll be urging government to follow the courageous direction taken by the First Nations on B.C.’ s coast and save Canada’s great bears.

Read the Coastal First Nations news release here:

View a map of grizzly mortality in Great Bear Rainforest. Data shown on this map are approximate representations only. We will update the boundaries for the Coastal First Nations and the Great Bear Rainforest as it becomes available. The kill locations for grizzly bears range from 1976 to 2011 and are from the BC Ministry of Environments Compulsory Inspection Database [accessed Dec 2011] .

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Horror as hiker killed by grizzly bear after taking photos of animal for eight minutes in Alaska’s Denali National Park

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  • It is the first bear mauling fatality at Alaska’s Denali National Park
  • Officials yet to release identity of lone hiker, whose backpack was discovered by a trio of fellow hikers on Friday
  • Rangers spot lone bear scurrying away during search

A hiker in Alaska’s Denali National Park photographed a grizzly bear for at least eight minutes before the bear mauled and killed him in the first fatal attack in the park’s history, officials said Saturday.

Grim Discovery: Evidence of the attack was found Friday afternoon by a trio of hikers, who came upon a lone backpack lying near a park river

Investigators have recovered the camera and looked at the photographs, which show the bear grazing and not acting aggressively before the attack, Denali Park Superintendent Paul Anderson said.

A state trooper shot and killed the bear on Saturday, and investigators will examine its stomach contents and use other tests to confirm it’s the animal that killed the hiker. 

The hiker was backpacking alone along the Toklat River on Friday afternoon when he came within 50 yards of the bear, far closer than the quarter-mile of separation required by park rules, officials said.

‘They show the bear grazing in the willows, not acting aggressive in any form or manner during that period of time,’ Anderson said.

Investigators have identified the man but won’t release his name until they’ve notified his family. They said he’s a U.S. citizen but declined to release any other information about him.

Rangers were hoping to recover his remains later Saturday after ensuring the scene was safe. Several other bears have been seen in the area.

Officials learned of the attack after hikers stumbled upon an abandoned backpack along the river about three miles from a rest area on Friday afternoon. The hikers also spotted torn clothing and blood. They immediately hiked back and alerted staff park.

A Fateful Search: Park officials launched a rescue helicopter around 8 p.m. Friday, or about two-and-one-half hours after the hikers came upon the lone backpack

Rangers in a helicopter spotted a large male grizzly bear sitting on the hiker’s remains, which they called a “food cache” in the underbrush about 100 to 150 yards from the site of the attack on Friday.

There’s no indication that the man’s death was the result of anything other than a bear attack, investigators said, adding that it’s the first known fatal mauling in the park’s nearly century-long history.

‘ ‘Over the years, and especially since the 1970s, the park has worked very diligently to minimize the conflict between humans and wildlife in the park.’

A wallet was later found near the site of the attack with probable identification. However, officials are yet to name the unfortunate hiker, as they work to identify the next of kin

‘We have some of the most stringent human-wildlife conflict regulations in the National Park system, and I think those are largely responsible for the fact that there hasn’t been a fatal attack.’

Park officials said they don’t believe other registered backpackers are in the immediate area. That portion of the park is closed but other wilderness areas remain open, officials said.

Prior to receiving a permit to hike in the area, all backpackers in the park receive mandatory bear awareness training that teaches them to stay at least a quarter-mile away from bears, and to slowly back away if they find themselves any closer. Investigators confirmed that the hiker had received that training.

Denali is located 240 miles north of Anchorage, and is famously home to Mt. McKinley. It spans more than 6 million acres and is home to numerous wild animals, including bears, wolves, caribou and moose.

Too-Close-For-Comfort: It was later discovered that the hiker had violated the quarter-mile berth that hikers are mandated to give bears roaming the wilderness

 ‘(The photos) show the bear grazing in the willows, not acting aggressive in any form or manner during that period of time.’

The attack was discovered Friday around 5:30 p.m., when a trio of other hikers came upon a lone backpack lying along the Tolkat River about three miles from a rest area.

‘Upon further investigation, they saw evidence of a violent struggle, including torn clothing and blood,’ a Park Service spokesman told The Anchorage Daily News.

The backpackers alerted park officials, who launched a helicopter around 8 p.m., the Alaskan paper reported.

The helicopter-borne rangers discovered the backpack about 30 minutes later, but were forced to return empty-handed because of the coming nightfall.

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Hunter accused of shooting at grizzly bear near lodge

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A trophy hunter who tried to shoot a grizzly bear in front of a fishing and wildlife-viewing lodge put lives at risk, says the son of the lodge’s 80-year-old owner.

Grizzly bears often lounge around on the beach in front of Forward Harbour Lodge and are watched by owner Isabel Hindbo and guests who rent the rustic cabins.

Last Tuesday, a licensed hunter turned up at the dock in front of the lodge and asked if it would be all right to shoot one of the bears on the beach, said Hindbo’s son, Marv Minty.

“I explained that we are a licensed tourist lodge and the owner . . . did not like the idea at all and could he please find somewhere else to hunt,” Minty said.

“Disregarding our request, he returned, shooting and probably leaving a large, wounded, pissed-off grizzly for two disabled seniors and an 80-year-old woman to deal with.

The hunter said he fired two high-powered rifle shots into the bear from about 100 metres, but then could not find it and left two hours later without establishing whether the bear was injured, Minty said.

A grizzly bear with cub in front of the Forward Harbour Lodge.

“As he was leaving he said ‘I don’t know how I could have missed,‘ ” Minty said.

Under provincial rules, a hunter cannot discharge a firearm within 100 metres of a building — about the distance from which the shots were fired — and the hunter was on Crown land, not private property.

Under the Wildlife Act, if someone kills or injures an animal they must make every reasonable effort to retrieve it.

Forward Harbour is on the Central Coast, but can be reached only by boat from Sayward or by float plane from Campbell River.

Minty reported the shooting to Sayward RCMP and conservation officers.

The matter is under investigation, said Sayward RCMP Cpl. Rod Pick. “A grizzly bear can be quite aggressive and an injured bear is more likely to go into the community where there’s an easier food supply,” Pick said.

“Most responsible hunters will go to extreme measures. If they believe they have shot an animal, they will do their best to track it down and find that animal,” he added.

However, Hindbo believes the 500-kilogram grizzly might have escaped the bullets as a similar bear reappeared on the beach the next day.

“He didn’t seem to be hurt, but he was very agitated the next day. He was running around and wouldn’t settle down. He seems to have settled down now,” she said.

The bears have never bothered Forward Harbour residents, but, when new people arrive, they usually disappear into the woods for a couple of days, Hindbo said.

The hunter watched the beach for a day, Hindbo said.

“Then at 5 a.m. the next morning, he kayaked on to the beach and snuck into the trees and fired two shots,” she said.

Hindbo said she is not against all hunting and some family members hunt deer for food.

However, she cannot understand why someone wants to shoot grizzlies.

“I don’t see any sense to that. Live and let live,” she said.

The spring grizzly bear hunt runs from April 1 to May 31 in the Vancouver Island region, which includes the Central Coast.

The province estimates there are 15,000 grizzly bears in B.C., but the number is disputed by groups opposed to the trophy hunt.

This year, 3,716 tags were issued for the spring and fall hunts. Last year, 3,773 tags were handed out.

In both 2009 and 2010, just under 3,000 licences were issued.

An average of 300 bears are killed each year by legal hunters. “That’s still 300 bears too many!”

Chris Genovali, executive director of the Raincoast Conservation Foundation, said coastal grizzlies are often sitting targets.

Allowing the hunt “is not only anachronistic from a wildlife management perspective, it is ethically deplorable as well,” he said.

“Killing these magnificent animals for sport, trophy and profit has no place in today’s society.“I couldn’t agree more, so let’s do something about it, it is a sport, pleasure a hobby; people won’t die of hunger if there are no bears killed!”

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Please read this extremely informative petition & then sign to help protect the bears

Trophy Hunting

by Ian McAllister, founding director of Pacific Wild

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