Results from an autopsy conducted on Monday afternoon concluded that Lance Crosby, a 63 year old Billings man, died as a result of traumatic injuries sustained from a bear attack. Results from genetic (DNA) analysis of bear hair samples collected next to Crosby’s body confirmed the adult female grizzly bear that was captured at the scene on the night the body was discovered was the bear involved in the fatal attack. Additional support beyond the DNA evidence that this female was the bear involved in the attack include: the bear and cubs were at the attack site when Crosby’s body was found by park rangers; bear tracks of a female with cubs were found at Crosby’s body; this bear was captured at the fatality site within 24 hours of the body being found; and canine puncture wounds inflicted on the victim are consistent with the bite size of the female captured at the site.
Based on the totality of the evidence, this adult female grizzly was the bear involved in the fatality and was euthanized today. An important fact in the decision to euthanize the bear was that a significant portion of the body was consumed and cached with the intent to return for further feeding. Normal defensive attacks by female bears defending their young do not involve consumption of the victim’s body.
Arrangements have been made to transfer the bear’s two cubs to a facility accredited by the Association of Zoos and Aquariums (AZA). The AZA sets strict standards for facilities with regard to animal handling and care. Details of this placement are still being finalized. The facility is expected to make an announcement on Friday.
“As managers of Yellowstone National Park, we balance the preservation of park resources with public safety,” said Yellowstone National Park Superintendent Dan Wenk. “Our decision takes into account the facts of the case, the goals of the bear management program, and the long term viability of the grizzly bear population as a whole, rather than an individual bear.”
The area closures, including the Elephant Back Loop Trail and Natural Bridge Trail will be lifted on Friday, August 14.
All of Yellowstone is bear country. Hikers are encouraged to travel in groups of three or more, always carry bear spray that is readily accessible, make noise on the trail, and be alert for bears. Per park regulations, people are required to maintain a minimum distance of at least 100 yards from bears and wolves and at least 25 yards from all other large animals. For more information on hiking in bear country and how to minimize the dangers associated with a bear encounter, visit: http://www.nps.gov/yell/planyourvisit/bearsafety.htm.