Officials at Yellowstone National Park say they euthanized the grizzly bear who killed and partially consumed a hiker. It was more like an execution.

The bear was killed last Thursday, six days after the body of veteran hiker Lance Crosby, 63, was found partially consumed, with the mother bear and her two cubs nearby. The cubs, which are thought to be 7 or 8 months old, too young to survive on their own in the wild, will be spared and moved to the Toledo Zoo this fall. Their mother, who was still nursing the cubs, was sedated, then shot in the head with a captive bolt pistol, a Yellowstone spokeswoman said.

Park officials say it was necessary to kill the bear because “a significant part of the body was consumed and cached with the intent to return for further feeding.” While grizzlies are omnivores, they do not typically attack and eat humans. Since the first fatality was recorded in 1916, there have been just seven other fatal bear attacks within the famed park’s 2.2 million acres. Visitors have more violent altercations with bison than bears.

The spokeswoman said Yellowstone does not like to euthanize its animals but can’t afford to let bears live when they come to “equate people with food.”

The threat of lawsuits also may enter into the park service’s thinking. In 2010, the family of a man fatally gored by a mountain goat sued Olympic National Park in Washington state, saying it was negligent for not killing or relocating an animal known to be aggressive.

Exterminating the grizzly was a tough decision, but Yellowstone officials made the wrong call. In doing so, they have perpetuated a dangerous idea: that humans can obliterate risk when they wander through the woods.

Yellowstone is not Disney World, but a majestic, wild preserve where dangerous animals, including an estimated 800 to 1,000 grizzlies, roam freely. It’s their home, and humans encroach upon their territory when they visit.

The death of Crosby was a tragedy. So, too, was the death of the bear.

Editorial by the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette


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