Authorities not looking for bear suspected in fatal attack
BILLINGS, Mont. (AP) — Authorities in Montana have not tried to track down a grizzly bear suspected in the fatal mauling of a hiker last week because it did not appear to be a predatory attack, state and local officials said Monday.
Craig Clouatre, 40, was found dead Friday, two days after he failed to return from an off-trail hike in densely forested mountains north of Yellowstone National Park. He was from the small city of Livingston, about 30 miles (48 kilometers) from the mauling site.
Tracks left at the scene and the nature of the attack suggest that a grizzly killed him, Park County Sheriff Brad Bichler said. But Bichler said there was no indication the bear sought out Clouatre, meaning it could have been simply an unlucky encounter.
”This doesn’t appear to be an attack where the bear sought out the person,” Bichler said. “It wasn’t like the bear came down into a campground and nabbed someone.”
Fatal grizzly bear attacks on people are rare. Predatory attacks — such as a 2010 attack near Cooke City in which a man was killed inside his tent at a campground — are even less common.
Wildlife officials are trying to confirm whether a grizzly was responsible for Clouatre’s death through testing of animal hairs found at the site, said Morgan Jacobsen with Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks. Jacobsen said the attack appeared to have been a chance encounter and agreed with Bichler that it was not a predatory attack.
Clouatre, who was married with four children and originally from Massachusetts, was experienced in the backcountry, according to his friends and family. At the time of his death, he was in a remote area with lots of timber and ravines, searching for antlers shed by elk and other big game animals, Bichler said.
It was unknown if Clouatre was carrying bear spray, which are pressurized canisters of pepper-like irritant that can deter charging bears.
Grizzlies in and around Yellowstone National Park have killed at least eight people since 2010. The region spanning portions of Montana, Wyoming and Idaho has more than 700 bears.