Fly fishing

Hiker died in suspected grizzly bear attack near Yellowstone National Park

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A Montana hiker died near Yellowstone National Park last week in what authorities believe was a rare fatal grizzly bear attack.

Craig Clouatre disappeared on the morning of March 23 after a day hike with a friend in the Six Mile Creek area of ​​the Absaroka Mountains. According to Park County Sheriff Brad Bichler, the couple separated and when the friend returned to his vehicle and saw that Clouatre had not yet returned, he contacted authorities to report Clouatre missing. .

After a two-day search with ground crews combing the thick forests and helicopters scanning from above with thermal cameras, authorities located Clouatre’s remains. Bichler said tracks at the scene and other physical evidence suggested a grizzly bear was responsible.

Clouatre, 40, was an avid ice climber and hiker, married with four children. Speaking to The Associated Press, his father, David Clouatre, said he moved from Massachusetts to Montana more than 20 years ago and met his wife, Jamie, there.

“It was a joy to have a son all along,” David Clouatre told the press service. “He was a good man, a good and hard-working family man.”

Bichler said the evidence suggested Clouatre had a chance encounter with the bear rather than succumbing to a predatory attack, and authorities had no intention of looking for the animal. In a Facebook post on Sunday, Bichler wrote that he visited Clouatre’s wife and she told him “she and the family [understood] that Craig loved being in wild places and was well aware of the risks involved.

Wildlife officials estimate there are about 727 grizzly bears living in the Greater Yellowstone ecosystem, up from just 136 in 1975. Animal management has been a flashpoint between conservationists, hunters and their respective allies in government. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service said grizzly bears in the area reclaimed and removed their Endangered Species Act protections in 2017, but a series of lawsuits and a subsequent court order forced it to withdraw. re-enroll the animals. As of 2022, grizzly bears in the lower 48 states still have protections under the law.

Despite increasing grizzly bear populations, fatal attacks are rare. While Yellowstone National Park attracted 4.86 million visitors in 2021, only eight people have died in confirmed grizzly bear attacks since 2010. The last, wilderness guide Charles Mock, died during a on a fly-fishing trip after being mauled by a 400-pound male bear. last April.