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Bear mauling prompts forest closure near West Yellowstone

Bear mauling prompts forest closure near West Yellowstone

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BILLINGS — A West Yellowstone resident mauled by what Montana Fish, Wildlife & Parks suspects is a grizzly bear was hospitalized Thursday in Idaho to be treated for severe injuries. The incident has led to an emergency public safety closure for part of the Custer Gallatin National Forest.

The mauling happened near Bakers Hole Campground, north of West Yellowstone.

The closure includes all forest lands on the east side of Highway 191 from the boundary with the town of West Yellowstone to Transfer Station Road #6794. The area closure is bounded on the east by Yellowstone National Park. The area is closed to all human entry and includes the popular Boundary Trail and Bakers Hole Campground. The campground opens for public use on May 1.

Details were still limited Thursday evening, though investigators with Montana FWP had visited the scene. Montana FWP did not have an estimated time for when the mauling occurred, but the agency was contacted about the incident at 4 p.m. Thursday, according to Morgan Jacobsen, a Montana FWP information officer for Region 3.

As of Thursday night investigators believed that a grizzly bear had mauled the person. A grizzly’s involvement had not yet been visually confirmed and investigators had also not yet met with the injured person, according to Jacobsen.

Important questions the investigation will seek to answer include how the encounter played out, what led to the mauling, and whether or not the bear is hanging around or passing through the area, according to Jacobsen.

“Our investigation will continue into tomorrow and hopefully we’ll have more information then,” he said.

FWP will also be monitoring bear activity in the area, according to Jacobsen.

The injured West Yellowstone resident was taken to Idaho Falls for treatment. Jacobsen said he did not have additional details available, like if the person is an adult.

The area closure will remain in effect until investigators determine it is safe to re-open.

Bears are awake and active. Male grizzly bears typically start emerging in early March, followed by females without newborn cubs typically in late March to mid April. Females with newborn cubs tend to emerge in mid-April to early May, Jacobsen said.

“Bears are certainly active this time of year. Coming out of hibernation they’re resuming their quest for calories,” he said. “Carcasses of winter killed animals are very, very popular food source for bears this time of year and really they’re just moving around to start consuming calories again.”

As bears become more active this spring people are urged to remember to carry bear spray and have it readily accessible, hike or travel during the daylight hours, travel in groups if possible, make lots of noise, stay alert for signs of bears in the area. Anyone who encounters a bear should not approach it.

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