Conservation Wildlife Management

Yellowstone Grizzly Death Under Investigation as Possible Illegal Killing

Unverified reports from social media indicate the grizzly bear carcass had gunshot wounds. State and federal officials have neither confirmed this nor offered details about how the bear died
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dead yellowstone grizzly bear
A wildlife photographer discovered the dead grizzly on May 1. Facebook / Wild Love Images

Wildlife photographer Amy Gerber took to Facebook on May 1 to spread word of a dead grizzly bear she saw near the North Fork Highway and the North Fork of the Shoshone River, 14 miles east of Yellowstone National Park near Wapiti, Wyoming. Now, the Wyoming Game and Fish Department and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service are investigating the incident, Tara Hodges of the WGFD Cody office confirms with Outdoor Life via email.

“This morning I saw [this same bear] … at least I think it was him, the big guy,” Gerber, a retired teacher and Cody-based outdoor guide, wrote in a Facebook post. “He was within a mile of where I had seen him last week. Except today, he was dead.”

Neither agency has released any formal information to the public regarding the incident. But Gerber goes on to write that WGFD employees were “walking the hillside, in search of evidence” when she drove out of the canyon she was hiking through.

“I knew right then he wasn’t hit by a car,” Gerber wrote. “He was shot.”

Grizzly bears are a federally protected species and are therefore under USFWS jurisdiction. For that reason, the USFWS currently leads the investigation and WGFD has no comment on it, WGFD large carnivore specialist Dan Thompson told the Cowboy State Daily. USFWS special agent Richard Gamba added that the case is being investigated as a possible illegal killing.

Wildlife photographer Julie Argyle posted photos of a dead and bloody grizzly bear to her Facebook profile on May 2. Argyle claims that the photos, which she attributes to a different photographer, are of the grizzly in question.

“[The bear] was roughly 20 [to] 40 yards off of the road,” Argyle wrote. “At first glance it was thought to have been hit by a car but has now been verified through [WGFD] … that it had been shot and that there have been no reports of self-defense filed in that area.”

Argyle attributes the information regarding the shooting and the lack of self-defense reports to Gerber’s Facebook post. Neither detail has been confirmed publicly by the investigating agencies.

Grizzly Bears in Yellowstone

The grizzly bear population in the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem has ballooned in recent years. As of November 2021, the population estimate was over 1,000 bears, which was higher than researchers originally thought prior to using new monitoring techniques. With this growing population comes an increasing demand for the feds to delist GYE grizzlies and pass federal management to state wildlife agencies. Meanwhile, some grizzly encounters in the GYE prove fatal for outdoorsmen and bears alike.

Read Next: Where Do All the Problem Bears Go?

When relocation isn’t an option for a problem bear, euthanasia is the natural next step. Whether by a federal tranquilizer dart and injection, a vehicle collision, or an illegal gunshot wound, GYE grizzlies meet a variety of avoidable deaths.