Death of a Man, Death of a Bear

by  Keith R. Crowley

The Yellowstone Grizzly known as “Blaze” – May, 2014

Trying to make sense of last week’s fatal Grizzly bear attack on a hiker in Yellowstone National Park and its aftermath is a fool’s errand. But this fool is going to try anyway.

This kind of story wrenches its way deep into the psyche of all who spend time in the wilds. And it certainly wrenched its way deep into my soul since I spend months each year in Yellowstone and the surrounding Grizzly Country.

To make it even more personal, I, like many of my colleagues, came to “know” the bear believed to be involved in the attack.

I put “know” in quotes because it’s a fallacy to think we can really know a wild animal. There is simply no way to get inside their heads. Hell, most of us don’t even understand our own pets’ behavior very well, so we can forget about predicting a wild grizzly’s intent or motivation.

In the case of this particular bear, she was a 20 year old sow many of us call “Blaze.” In her two decades she had never been known to be aggressive toward people. In fact, she was remarkably tolerant given some of the situations she found herself in. She lived out her life in areas of high visibility in the park and therefore drew crowds for years on end. She raised many cubs, and she never got into serious trouble.

But then, for reasons unknown, she killed Lance Crosby and consumed part of him. She cached his body (buried it under debris to protect it from other predators) for later feedings, and she stayed in the immediate area. And she did this with her cubs present.

It is a worst-case scenario in the world of wildlife management. There can be no winners here.

Many “experts” immediately came out of the woodwork to explain that grizzlies don’t see humans as food; that this attack was purely a defensive, instinctual reaction by a sow grizzly protecting her cubs.

True, most bear attacks are defensive, and when the bear determines that the threat is gone they leave the area. But that’s not what happened to Crosby. This particular bear most certainly saw him as food.

Personally, I can’t imagine wild grizzly bears differentiating much between different types of prey. Elk, bison, deer, humans – all are potential meals. Because of generations of persecution, bears are naturally more fearful of humans, but like any apex predator they’ll eat whatever they can catch.

Whether this change from defender to predator happened during the initial attack on Crosby, or immediately afterward is irrelevant. It ended with the bear consuming a person. That’s the line in the sand which cannot be crossed. Humanity has a long policy of destroying man-eaters – justly or not.

In a place like Yellowstone, even habituated animals that have not actually attacked anyone are sometimes put down. The mantra there is “a fed bear is a dead bear.” This bear had no chance from the moment she fed on the body.

The particulars of this recent attack will always be shrouded in mystery because there were no witnesses. So the National Park Service investigators treat the area where the body was found as a crime scene. A lot of forensic evidence was, is, and will be gathered by investigators. A very detailed report about the evidence will eventually be generated.

The documentation regarding the park’s last grizzly-caused deaths, in 2011, is amazingly detailed. The rangers and scientists who investigated that scene, (many of the same people are working on this one, ) generated reams of data about the attack, and the final report on John Wallace’s death is lengthy.

There appear to be some similarities with the current fatality, although until a report like the one linked above is released, we can only speculate.

Speculation is, of course, often wrong and rarely helpful.

Blaze – the Yellowstone Grizzly bear sow responsible for the recent death of Lance Crosby, stands with her cubs over an elk carcass cached for later consumption. This photo as taken in May, 2015, three months before the attack on Crosby.

There are “experts” who speculate that just because the bear cached the body doesn’t mean that it now views people as a food source. But that is specious reasoning at it’s worst.

What the caching here definitively proves is that this particular bear viewed at least one human as a food source. And that means the bear must be removed.

Did the bear deserve to die? Of course not. This grizzly was only doing what bears do. There is no justice in removing the bear, and her cubs, and destroying any of them.

And the wildlife managers who must do the deed will gain no joy from the experience.

It’s insulting and contemptible to suggest that people who have devoted their professional lives to wildlife have anything but the deepest respect for animals. The very last thing they want to do is kill the creatures they are trying to preserve.

That dedication to the science of wildlife does, however, mean that they must sometimes make tough choices.  And those tough choices are difficult to explain the public. But if the professionals don’t make the hard decisions, the potential downside is too great.

We know about that downside because when John Wallace was killed by a Yellowstone grizzly in August of 2011, the bear deemed responsible had been involved in another fatality two months earlier.

At that time, the Yellowstone Bear Management lead, Kerry Gunther, didn’t believe the situation warranted euthanizing the bear known as the “Wapiti sow.” His team let her go on her way because he had good evidence at the site of Brian Matayoshi’s death that this was a defensive attack. He also had an eyewitness. Matayoshi’s wife, Marylyn, was attacked in the same incident and she watched her husband die a few yards away.

8 weeks later came the Wallace attack. While there was no direct evidence that the Wapiti sow killed Wallace, DNA evidence indicated that she did feed on his body. How would you like that hanging over your head?

Those 2011 incidents certainly weighed heavily on Gunther and all the management people involved in the recent situation. The potential backlash (read: lawsuits for wrongful death) was simply too great if they decided to let this bear live and something happened again.

So, for the second time in a few weeks, I find myself in a position I don’t care for – attempting to be a voice of reason in a grave wildlife matter. Frankly, I don’t like it. And I know it will make me some enemies.

Like anyone else, I would prefer to rant, rave, cry, throw my hands in the air, point fingers, complain, and scream. But those things aren’t helpful at all. In fact, they’re counter-productive.

While many will blame Gunther, Park Superintendent Dan Wenk, and their colleagues for the death of the grizzly, some are content to place the blame on Mr. Crosby, a contract park employee and regular hiker who “should’ve known better.”

I’ve heard him called an “idiot”, “stupid”, “an asshole”, and several people have said he “deserved to be killed” by the bear because he invaded her home. It’s disturbing how callous some people can be.

Many have said that Crosby shouldn’t have been off trail, and that he broke all the rules about living in bear country.

On the first point, I will say that despite everything you hear out there on social media, Yellowstone National Park was NOT created so bears would have a place to live unaffected by humans. The purpose and intent of the park’s creators couldn’t possibly be any more clearly spelled out in the 1872 act which created it – and it is literally carved in stone on the Roosevelt Arch at the north entrance.  The park was created FOR THE BENEFIT AND ENJOYMENT OF THE PEOPLE”

Roosevelt Arch inscription, Yellowstone National Park, Gardiner, MT

Yellowstone was created specifically to give us a place to experience the natural wonders which exist there in Yellowstone and nowhere else. That means people, within some limitations, get to enjoy the park as they wish. (See: )

Some want to see the park from the roads, and from inside their vehicles; some like to hike on well-worn paths; some ride horses into the backcountry; some will choose to go off-trail on foot. I, and many, many others, enjoy all of the above.

There is no right way to experience Yellowstone. Just because someone chooses to go off-trail doesn’t make them a villain.

That Yellowstone has become a de facto wildlife refuge is a great joy to me and millions of others. Many of us go there specifically because there are bears, and wolves, and moose, and bison living on the incredible landscape. But, everyone who goes there should do so with the full knowledge that these things, and many others, can kill us.

They should all know that the animals, the terrain, the weather, the thermals, and especially the traffic there, are all potentially dangerous. We just need to be aware.

That is the one place where the park has failed miserably. Far, far too many people view Yellowstone as the world’s largest drive-through zoo.

This brings me to the second point about Lance Crosby’s death: Yes, it appears he did ignore some rules.

First, he was alone when he was attacked. With or without bears, travelling alone in wild places is riskier than travelling in groups. But I understand the appeal of getting off the trail, and the solitude gained by doing so. There is great value in experiencing wilderness on your own.

Furthermore, being off trail isn’t necessarily more dangerous than being “on-trail.” All of Yellowstone is Bear Country, not just the off-trail areas.

Last May, many fellow wildlife photographers and I watched another park employee have a close call with Blaze and her cubs. The employee was simply out for a run along the shore of Yellowstone Lake near the Lake Hotel.

Grizzly sow known as “Blaze” in Yellowstone, May 2014.

He ran down the lakeshore, turned inland on a trail and ran to within 50 or 60 yards of Blaze and her then tiny cubs, all hidden in the chest high sage brush.

When the runner realized that there was a large group of photographers a couple hundred yards off and looking his way, he knew something was up. He wisely slowed to a walk and backed out of the area.

Blaze undoubtedly knew he was there, and she did nothing. Wild animals are unpredictable.

I approached the runner minutes later and asked if he knew there was a Grizzly sow with cubs in the area. He didn’t. Until he saw us, he had no idea how close he was to potential disaster. He couldn’t have. Had he not seen us, he told me, he would have continued his run right into her and the cubs.

That situation could have easily become another Yellowstone bear attack, and if it had, I doubt anyone present would have blamed the runner. Lots of park employees and park visitors run, jog, and stroll through that area each and every day. It’s a well-established route that doesn’t look like “Bear Country”,  and I have yet to see anyone carrying bear spray there.

Had Blaze attacked this young man, it would have just been a case of being in the wrong place at the wrong time. The internet would have blown up with accusations and insults, but those of us who spend much time there know how easily things can go wrong for no particular reason.

So, why is everyone so quick to blame Mr. Crosby?

Because this whole thing sucks and people need someone to blame, justly or not.

Mr. Crosby chose to be alone in Yellowstone and it cost him his life. It cost a grizzly its life, and may cost the cubs their lives, too. There is no justice to be had here.

Many bad things can happen when you’re alone, but so can many really good ones. Simply being alone in the park cannot be allowed to become a crime.

And the next mistake? We will never know if Crosby was making noise to alert unseen bears of his presence, but it doesn’t appear that he was carrying bear spray when he was attacked. It may have saved him and the bears, but maybe not.

Personally, I always carry it when I’m out of my vehicle, but I know that bear spray is not a guaranteed solution to a Grizzly attack.

In 2013, two off-duty park employees on a hike ran into another sow grizzly with cubs. Both used bear spray, and both were still injured by the bear. I’d rather have the spray than not have it, but I don’t fool myself that it’s totally effective either.

And to be honest, lots of people who do carry the spray wouldn’t be able to use it effectively in a crisis situation anyway. An instructional video is helpful, but it’s no training for a real bear attack.

Going off trail alone is not a mistake, it’s a choice. And it’s not against the rules – for now. It may be more inherently dangerous than staying with a group in a busy area, but again, some go to Yellowstone to get away from other people.

Frankly, you, me, Crosby,  Wallace, the Matayoshis; indeed everyone who enters Yellowstone, could do absolutely everything right and still be attacked by a Grizzly. Just as there is no point in blaming the bears, there is no point blaming the victims. If you really need to blame someone, blame lawyers – they’re used to it.

In the end, a Yellowstone grizzly sow with young cubs – a bear many of us looked forward to seeing and wondering at each year- killed, ate and cached a human being. And she stayed to feed on the body again. Sadly, there was no choice to be made.

Rest well, Mr. Crosby. Rest well, Blaze.

Blaze in Yellowstone – May 2014

Note: You can read the author’s follow-up article to this story by clicking HERE.

Keith Crowley is a writer, photographer, and frequent visitor into wild areas in the American West. He can be reached through his web site:

Copyright 2015 – Keith R Crowley – All Rights Reserved

241 thoughts on “Death of a Man, Death of a Bear

    1. I’ll say i “enjoyed” the article, it was well said. I’m an avid solo backcountry hiker, who respects my surroundings. We make choices everyday in any place we go. Entering an area with an abundance of wildlife, to raw natural features, we have to be responsible for our actions/ways. We….choose….to be there. Close calls don’t just come with predatorial animals. A moose or bison will run you down. With young or maybe its mating time. Falling rocks from mountain tops, shifting terrain, tree wells/snow bridges, whatever the case…it still comes to choice. Be wise, be alert, keep your head up & enjoy nature- don’t blame it for being what it is.

      1. I shudder every single time I hear anyone say “wild animals do not see people as food”. It’s a wild animal..nuff said. Now that doesn’t mean bears are on some wild slathering hunt for humans on a daily basis just looking to gnaw on some people. No.. But to be so unrealistic as to think for one moment that a bear or any other wild animal would not eat a human simply because they are human is careless and egotistical. I take chances every time I clip on my backpack and take a walk in the woods. Every single time, I am accepting the risk that nature might just bite back. Doesn’t mean anything is to blame for this…I knowingly accept that risk. I will not stop seeing the wild places for this reason. I will take every precaution that I can to prevent a tragic end for me and the wildlife I encounter. Killing any maneater does nothing other than make people feel better. The action will not prevent another attack – despite how rare they are. It won’t assure any safety in any measure to those who visit the wilderness. But it makes humans “feel” safer for some reason. I visited Yellowstone on a fly fishing trip. I was extremely nervous there more so than the other much more remote places we visited on that trip. Because the bears were visible everywhere. I have respect for them, I expect them to act like wild animals and I opted not to hike in the park. I enjoyed it from the road as we drove through. I have had three up close and personal encounters with black bear in the Appalacians. Every time, I did the right thing and each time the bear moved away from me. I get though that there may come a day when the bear doesn’t move away.

      2. I enjoyed this article also. It should stand alone on its balanced view. I have worked in search and rescue and as a medic. RISK-BENEFIT is how we make choices. Respect life, respect the creation and we should be better caretakers of the earth than we are. We are guests here we don’t own it..
        Choices-Many of us had to choose to drive on the highway with people who text or are DUI. to get to a quiet part of the earth that we can enjoy without signs of man. For us, the benefit (enjoyment) is worth some risk.
        Only leave a smile when you come out and take away a memory.

      3. I’m sad this man was killed , sad for his family . Please understand , I’m more sad for Blaze ….If the bear did everything right…But a human is killed …it’s a death sentence for the bear …know exceptions …Elk, rabbit, steak , human….it’s all food to the bear…really ! Is there a sign that says ‘don’t eat humans” being hungry …so what….this entire story is sad on so many levels. That this man was very aware of the danger …and just ho.hummed through the woods…does what sadly happened shock anyone ..A waste of a human and a magnificent animal. I can only hope Blaze will be humanly euthanized..Thank You for allowing me to comment.

    2. I know that this piece was extremely hard for you to write. It was hard for me to read. But, you fought through your grief and wrote an article that can be used to educate the public. Your article may have saved lives, of hikers and of bears. Thank you.

      1. Really? He fought thru his grief? Is trying to make this writing a noble thing making it better?

    3. It is kind of comical to me that humans eat anything live they can catch and kill, probably mulit-billions of animals a year. But one Mother Bear having to feed herself and her cubs kills one human and people go CRAZY. I definitely see life from all sides. By the way there is an energetic karmic side to all of this. To everything.

      1. Ann,
        I am sorry to read that you think this is comical. Your statement comparing humans to wild animals is at best, dumb. Please rethink and re-read the above article.

      2. Let’s see how ‘comical’ it is if it’s your wife/husband or children. Do you get it now? If you don’t then you’re just stupid. If you’re just pretending not to get it, that’s also stupid.

      3. Karma? Are you serious? Did you know this guy personally to think that this is some kind of karmic comeuppance? Congratulations on being so enlightened. I’m sure you wouldn’t find it so “comical” if it had been someone you loved and it’s despicable that anyone would find such a thing amusing. After having worked for parks and living around wild animals on a daily basis, I don’t have such a romanticized view of wildlife Obviously you have a different worldview about the relationship between humans and animals than I do and anything I post isn’t going to change your mind, but when a bear kills and eats a park visitor, the NPS can’t just let that go.

      4. Agree with you, Ann Hovey. I am disgusted by the rationalizations and compassion expressed for everyone except the bear and her cubs.

      5. Exactly why me & mine are well armed when we are in the back country. Which is very often year round whether Hunting, Fishing, Hiking, Gathering Berries & Firewood or Scouting. Including the Visiting of the National Parks System in the Western United States most especially Alaska, Colorado, Idaho, Montana, and Wyoming—-That is our karma! USMC Recon motto Improvise–Adapt–Overcome Uh-Rah!!

      6. I completely agree. Who gives humans the right to control the nature? I am sorry for Mr Crosby but what was he doing alone in the park? Why interferring with the nature? We completely control the nature and I think our human race will get destroyed because of this. Shame on us! RIP Grizzli the bear

      7. I understand what you are trying to say…….humans kill millions of animals every year and and now that a bear kinda fought back to protect her cubs and everyone is crazy that killing the bear is the best thing for our wildlife. Like hunters that say hunting preserves animals. Right…….

      8. You said it Ann, we people do eat everything and anything!!!! We freeze it, we freeze dry it, we can it. we refrigerate it, we cook it we eat some raw! And yet when another species does the same ITS WRONG!!!!!!! Personally I feel this is the chance you take upon yourself when you walk in mother nature!!!!.If they are going to put cubs in a zoo how come mama couldnt go with them?

      9. agreed ann. the mainstream mentality towards animals is exactly that, CRAZY. may we honor and respect all of earthkind. no problem can be solved at the level of consciousness at which it was created. i imagine that when when humankind stops killing animals, the animals may very well stop killing as well. we are but reflections of one another.

    4. Great article. Bottom line is you have to live with the choices you make. Key word here is choices, and he made that very clear in his article. But another important thing to consider is how people educate themselves before they do their hike.

    5. If a person falls off one of the high points will the mtn be removed? What if they get giardia or amoebic dysentery from the streams, will the streams be sterilized?

      The sign “For the benefit and enjoyment of the people” was put there by MAN after they took the land from those who were not only there first but actually NEED that space to survive as a species. To debate for one nanosecond on who has the right to be there is an egregious act of self centered hype known only to one species, the most destructive species on the planet- Homo sapiens which quite honestly should be renamed Homo destructus.

      This article is very well written and I commend the author’s efforts to share on many levels but why is it that when a human does far worse actions, actions that are not even for survival or protection, we wouldn’t even dream of having them treated like this? Yet some MAN wrote a rule book or guidelines for how to respond if a bear does something perfectly natural… NATURAL! not horrific not even devious or premeditated. It ate. Nothing more. It didn’t murder someone for cash or land or some political agenda. It simply fed its own.

      We are supposed to be the caretakers of this planet.

      Here’s some food for thought speaking of killers… I mean that is why Blaze was murdered right? Don’t sugarcoat it with a sleepy word like “euthanized” when the reality is that she was hunted down and then destroyed… what about Walter Palmer? Dentist from Minnesota so bored with his life that he flies to Africa and murders a perfectly helpless lion and before you argue that lions are not helpless take into consideration that Dr. Palmer used a high powered rifle from a distance not a shield and spear. So what about this killer? Does he even get reprimanded? Of course not. He will spend more money to prove that he did everything “right” by filling out all of the permits etc etc etc (clearly premeditated) just as those who made the decision to MURDER blaze.

      Being eaten by a bear or bleeding to death in salt water after a shark attack is an unfathomable way to perish. Clearly this is much more graphic than dying a slow death from obesity or even a quick death by cancer but it shouldn’t give any weight to any form of logic when deciding that killing an animal for doing what it is designed to do is the appropriate response.

      1. Brookstorm,
        Humans are part of nature just like the wild animals, but to put us on par with them is silly. We are caretakers of the earth, but we do not allow wild animals to kill and eat us.

      2. As I was reading the article I was having the same thoughts as you. I was going to write a response until I read yours. Spot on!!!!! Yellowstone and all “parks”..oceans.. Etc. are the property of the animals. We humans are visitors on their property, which we are always taking more of. Just because we have groups of people wearing badges on their sleeve does not mean we have the right or even responsibility to kill a wild animal for being wild. It would be different if we saw a wild animal attacking and we were trying to save that person’s life…that is a defensive response. Just like in our human laws, a person who is threatening another life may be killed by that person or another standing by as a life-saving mode of defense. But, if a person killed someone, then, after the fact that dead person’s spouse, friends, etc hunted down the killer and killed them, that would still be considered murder….and he’d get put in prison!!!!!!

      3. “Quick death by cancer” Man, you are totally clueless. Have you ever seen someone die of cancer? Not to mention being pretty careless with your use of words. The legal term murder only applies to the unwarranted killing of one human being against another human being. I just love people who anthropomorphize wild animals by giving them names like Daze. If anybody should be blamed it’s the Interagency Grizzly Bear Recovery Committee. Since 2010 there’s been an upswing in human fatalities and the solution to the problem is to encourage more Grizzlies. Really? Where I live used to be Grizzly Bear habitat. Right now the only thing I have to worry about is mountain lions. Since a few people have been killed or mauled by them recently within a few miles of where I live, it’s not just paranoia of wild things. There’s an Arizona professor that’s been working with local wildlife agencies to introduce wildlife corridors so that these man eaters can reproduce more efficiently. Great thinking!

      4. When leaving the link to the act that created Yellowstone Park you have an amended version. The act has a second part that reads “That said public park shall be under the exclusive control of the Secretary of the Interior, whose duty it shall be, as soon as practicable, to make and publish such rules and regulations as he may deem necessary or proper for the care and management of the same. Such regulations shall provide for the preservation, from injury or spoliation, of all timber, mineral deposits, natural curiosities, or wonders within said park, and their retention in their natural condition.” For the preservation, from injury or spoliation of all … natural curiosities, or wonders within said park, and their retention in their natural condition. The park may be for the enjoyment of humans, but that enjoyment came with rules and regulations and the duty to preserve it in its natural condition, bears included. I think the decision to kill this sow and remove her cubs is a monetary one and not done with preservation in mind.

      5. @Jimbo, the Arizona biologist in question is a close friend of mine. His work, both with the AZ Game & Fish Dept and the AZ Dept of Transportation, was focused on designing safer highways by reducing wildlife (primarily elk, but other larger ungulates like deer) collisions with automobiles, thereby increasing the safety for humans as well as for the wildlife in question. His research allowed ADOT to construct underpasses and overpasses of the appropriate height, depth, and width that do not intimidate these species, with fencing that guides wildlife to them, in order to reduce vehicular conflicts that may harm both humans and wildlife. He was later asked by another country to help them construct a roadway in the southern half of their country in a manner that allows all wildlife to not be impacted by what could be seen as a barrier. His work is dedicated to finding a way for both humans and wildlife to co-exist, keeping humans more safe, and allowing just a few small parts of our world to not be impacted by our relentless push towards paving, controlling, everything. His work is NOT in any way focused on protecting “man-eaters,” rather, his view is that by allowing all wildlife to move throughout their habitat will only serve to leave them to behave more naturally and fear us, the world’s top predator.

      6. You’re typing on a computer, you’re reaping the benefits of being a human. Don’t disassociate yourself and get all high and mighty condeming the intelligent individuals who decided to “EUTHANIZE” the bear. This is the most objective article that I have read in a LONG time, don’t disrespect it with your own agenda. If you want to talk about humanity at its lowest, go update yourself on ISIS and the atrocities which are committed every day.

      7. I was putting together a response to what Keith Crowley had written but, Brookstorm PK has said many of the same ideas that I had, so I will spare you of my thoughts… 😉 One thing that sticks in my craw, though. The wildlife was on that ground way before the park came to be. And I’m grateful that my ego isn’t so bloated that I believe that I’m superior to other life on this planet or the Universe, for that matter. I respect wildlife and their ways and the longer that I’m alive the more I learn as long as I keep my mind and my eyes open. This is terribly heartbreaking all the way around but, killing Blaze did not make this situation any better.

      8. Only a technicality, but Dr. Palmer used an arrow, not bullets, to kill the lion.

      9. Well said, perfectly put, common sense at last!! Murdered for being a bear in the wild, protecting her young. Poor Blaze, poor cubs. Revolting.

      10. Murder!!?? Killing a bear is “Murder”? I guess it is murder when a bear catches a fish from a stream and kills it???!!! For God’s sake get a grip.

      11. You said it better!!!!! Until we human live up to the same standards that we make wild life stand too, this world is in trouble!!!

      12. Brookstorm, thank you, i love you! there is hope for humanity! may yellowstone step out of the dark ages and transcend killing the wild animals that they are there to preserve, and may all beings be happy, it is the birthright of ALL of earthkind. radiating love to the orphaned bear cubs and mr. crosby’s family/friends. PAZ —>

      13. Horrible place for you great folks to be in (death of a friend and the difficult decision that had to be made). Good job explaining the un-explainable. Awesome job bringing to light the reasons for the difficult decision. My condolences and prayers for all

      1. I’ve never understood this concept. We are animals too. Why are WE in their space, in their environment? It’s ours just as much as theirs. Sorry we are more evolved then other animals. This land is just as much mine to live and thrive as it is a sow grizzly. I hate when people say that we are invading their territory. If a bear comes through my backyard, can I shoot it simply because it was out of its environment and in my environment? Sometimes we do, sometimes we don’t. If I were to shoot that grizzly in my back yard, I’m pretty are in gonna catch shit for it. So can I use the same BS line of, ” well, that grizzly should have known better. It was invading my enviornment?” I highly doubt that will fly. So why the other way? Some peoe are just plain silly. It OUR land just as much as the less evolved creatures. Silly humans.

    6. “Bla bla bla killing the bear was justified, bla bla bla, sad situation, bla bla bla, humans are superior, bla bla bla”

    7. I think you are absolutely right on all counts, no one is at fault. It is a tragedy all around. I’ve never seen anyone who worked in parks, National or State, who didn’t love being in nature, animals included and I certainly don’t think anyone involved in this from Yellowstone euthanized the bear because they wanted to. Or that they made rash decisions on what they felt should be done. Taking the time to treat the area as a crime scene, DNA comparisons, etc, tells me they wanted to be absolutely sure and did not make any rush to judgement.
      Very good article and unbiased on your part.
      Thank you.

      1. I’m sure a lot of people are like, oh, bible thumper, ignore. But I was actually quite excited to see how the Bible can shed light into dispelling an argument here. After all, the Bible is supposed to help dissolve disagreements. It actually has info that relates to this topic if anyone is interested,,, !st one directly relates, other ones just deal with an animal that hurts persons or property.

        1) If an animal kills a person the animal is to be put to death. Exod. 21:28-29.
        2) If an animal is proven to be aggressive, and its owner has been warned, yet he does not confine
        it, and it kills a man or woman, then both the animal and the owner are to be put to death. If there
        is a ransom of money demanded of the owner, it can be paid for the redemption of his life. Exod.
        3) If an animal shall gore a servant, the owner shall give the servant’s master a set amount of
        money and the animal is to be killed. Exod. 21:32.
        5) If one man’s animal kills another’s animal, then the live animal shall be sold and the money (and
        the dead animal if it be cattle) shall be divided between them. Exod. 21:35.
        6) If an animal which is known to be aggressive kills another animal yet its owner had not confined
        him, then he shall pay for the animal killed but can keep the dead animal. Exod. 21:36.

      2. Maybe research the BLM employees who take their dogs coyote hunting with them and see the BLM employees with their boots on the trapped coyotes neck, watch the dogs attacking the coyotes. The hundreds of U.S. citizens who wanted these employees prosecuted for abusing wildlife. This is our tax dollars at work on U.S. citizen owned land. Maybe a majority of federal and state employees have sympathy for wild animals but someone is killing millions of them in my western lands. This bear is just one more. BLM is there for the cattle and sheep ranchers and for the thousands of humans who are building on wild lands then complaining about a wild animal eating their poodle.

    8. You had me 200%, until you said the park was “created” by government, park officials & people for peoples enjoyment.
      Sorry! But, that land was created by a power higher than any human or governing body!
      And, I promise you wild animals have lived there, doing what they do, LONG before ‘we’ decided the land should become a “Park”. Anytime we humans venture into a wild animals habitat, we are knowingly taking this unfortunate risk. I do feel badly for the deceased & his family! But, we (as a society) are taking from the wild & thus leaving less & less natural habitat for the animals! God said to protect the Earth because it & it’s resourcing are of value & can not be replaced when gone! I see it slipping away, in my lifetime!

      1. But you are the one with the media site. You are the one that many readers look up to. To me, it is still the same point. It is not up to you at all. It is still just your voice. Let’s stop splitting hairs. The bear is dead….that is the point. Again, it is not abut you. You are breathing, she isn’t . What a waste of an animal. Next they will tell us they donated the meat to a homeless shelter. To make it more justifiable,

    9. Really? Who appointed Keith Crowley the Voice of Reason! “Once again…I find myself the voice of reason.” How self serving.

      I agree with some of these voices here….that so much of these arguments to kill this bear are based on human preservation…..this is blah, blah, blah….she had to be killed…..blah, blah, blah…. The park was built by men……blah…blah …blah…..God said animals must be killed to protect humans…..blah…blah…blah. What a croc. All of it. especially quoting the bible……that’s a real croc of BULL!

      1. Thank you for your comments, and I understand your obvious frustration. But, if you are going to use quotation marks in reference to things I’ve written, please use them responsibly. The actual line you were trying to reference was. “…for the second time in a few weeks, I find myself in a position I don’t care for – attempting to be a voice of reason in a grave wildlife matter.” There is a significant difference between your paraphrase and my actual words.

      2. Excuse me for the misquote….however the paraphrase or the actual quote is the same thought. Who appointed you to be the voice of reason? It is YOUR voice…….as you can see…it is not the voice of many of us who think we are the voice of reason. You simply have a venue for it. The bear and her cubs and the male who sired them….none of them have a voice. The compromise was to save the Cubs……save them by living the rest of their lives in a zoo………where they will be caged, fed a pablum diet, probably bred…….have a small space compared to the millions of acres they were born in and never be able to actually run and interact with other species.

      3. Actually, the misquote is the worst kind. You changed the essential meaning of the sentence when you changed “a voice of reason” to “the voice of reason.” “A” denotes that I am part of a group who are trying to see these issues in a rational, reasonable manner, which I am. “The” denotes someone who views themselves alone as the spokesman for all, which I certainly am not. But you already knew that, didn’t you?

      4. Karr, I can assure you that Keith is as distraught as are the rest of us wildlife photographers and watchers who spend weeks, months and years photographing and watching these animals we know and love. Like it or not, people go to the wilds of Yellowstone, public safety isn’t something you want to ignore where you live, public safety is important here also. I know many that spend days and weeks with Blaze every year, and most I have spoke with understand the importance of removing a bear they love who began to eat people. Yes, we are all sickened that Blaze had to be put down: however we pragmatic enough to understand why.

        I lead tourists into Grand Teton and Yellowstone Parks daily, when people voice their fear of bears I reassure them that there is little to fear, if they are careful, because bears don’t associate humans as a food source. I think that this is a good baseline to maintain. After showing people grizzlies digging for roots or eating wildflowers some of those tourists who feared bears before they observed them, go home and advocate for bears. I bet many here on this thread.

        Grizzly bears usually eat what they usually eat, they usually don’t eat humans or peanut butter sandwiches. Bears that are introduced to peanut butter sandwiches usually like them and want more as they are rich in easy calories and bears are smart. There probably aren’t many things that are richer in calories than me, an old, slow, fat guy that likes to photograph grizzly bears.

        Keith and many others, myself included, are looking at a larger picture, a picture where more grizzlies can exist in the Greater Yellowstone and beyond. To do so effectively we must think beyond the individual bear. Many who live here won’t want grizzly expansion if man eating grizzlies aren’t removed from the system. Many already think the confines of Yellowstone is a good place for ALL grizzlies to stay. Many of us are trying to stop or greatly limit the upcoming grizzly bear hunt that will inevitably happen upon delisting of the grizzly from the endangered species list. Some people look at the big picture, some don’t. Emotions are a fine thing except when they interfere with clear thinking.

        This was a preventable tragedy, I think it is wise to prevent another, some don’t.

  1. Excellent post Keith, these posts we know are going to bring on the arrows are the toughest; however, that is what makes them important. We have bigger issues coming up and and those advocating for the life of a man eating grizzly will not have the credibility they need for the larger and more important fight. Thanks for facing the arrows!

    1. What? Do you always speak in riddles? Are you trying to prove you know some big secret? The larger and more important fight……who is to say what the future will bring and those fighting to preserve a wild animal and the wild on our earth may be the ones you will count on.

  2. Keith. I’ve never read any of your blog post before, and that’s my loss. With all of the hype on the internet, all of the teeth mashing, name calling, etc. on social media, I sit in amazement of how we as human beings are so quick to judge, often with only limited perspective and facts. I survived a griz encounter in 1986 in Glacier National Park, the same day another photorapher was killed in YNP. I was at the wrong place at the wrong time. I insisted the park service do nothing, but I could speak for myself. We know nothing about what happened, we can only speculate. The park service I suspect learned a painful lesson given what happened a couple of years ago when the bear who killed once, killed again.

    Your thouhtful discourse is as crystal clear and spot on as is your photoraphy, clearly a testament to someone with a passion for the outdoors and all that is wild.

  3. Keith. I find absolutely nothing you mentioned that is in opposition to my own position on this matter. It is a sad and unfortunate lot in all directions. But it is, as you so correctly state, ‘a matter of choice’. No one was at fault.

    The raw truth of the matter is simple. As long as humans enter areas, where wild carnivores, capable of killing and eating us, roam free – and we have choice to mingle with them – then there will be dangers ending in fatal consequences.

    We live daily interfacing such choices with out daily living. Fortunately, most of those choices, if errant, will only leave us bruised; physically or egotistically. Not eaten.

    But that in itself is more the result of tampering with nature than not. Nature does not care. We do. That is the rub.

    I certainly wish more people had your take on the matter. Maybe then we could afford to develop a truly working balance between the Gordian seams. Until then… there will be blood. On both sides.

    1. Well said, sir. This has been a sad situation for all involved. I just hope something can be learned from it that will help save lives of both humans and animals.

    2. So if no “one” was at fault, why was a bear slaughtered? Makes no sense. Obviously something had to be punished for the death of a human. So it turned out it was the bear. But if no ONE was at fault, how does that make sense to kill the bear?

      1. I believe the Zoo paid the biggest price for the cubs and so mama had to be killed!!!!

  4. Thank you so much for an objective point of view. I tend to always side with the animal but in this case there is no right or wrong, just tragedy. I’m sad for the man who died and I’m heartbroken for the mother bear and her cubs. Clearly Blaze was just being a bear, only doing what her instincts direct her to do.

  5. I still wish there was another way. I know everything you’re saying is right. But I still wish there was a non-lethal solution. Could Blaze and her cubs not be removed from the area, say to somewhere much more secluded? Forgive me if this seems ignorant: I’m Australian, and we don’t have this problem in my country. But we have had similar situations with sharks and crocs. I don’t like the lethal solutions we mete out in those situations, either.
    Why can’t they just move Blaze and her cubs?

    1. Where this event occurred is as remote and backcountry as it gets. Grizzly bears have ranges spanning hundreds of miles. If she and her cubs were removed she would probably be back in a matter of days. It’s a hopeful idea, but rarely effective.

      1. actually .. not. It was not remote or backcountry. Did you read the article? The death occurred near the Lake Hotel, a heavily populated area.

    2. relocating will just introduce another community to a potential problem. I don’t want it in my area. I also believe that these critters still have the ability to track back to their homeland.

    1. Please…millions of Sharks are slaughtered daily. Their fins are cut off then their living bodies thrown back into the ocean to drown. All for the Chinese to have freakin soup. Maybe 50 humans are killed by sharks every year, some from the popular feeding of sharks but millions of sharks,die at the hands of humans yearly.

      1. Karr, thanks for enlightening our sisters and brothers! one step at a time. bliss blessings!

    2. Possibly because there aren’t many sharks in Yellowstone, and those that are there keep to themselves and are never seen.

  6. beautifuly written it a truth with a bitter pill to swallow for many sides but maybe everyone can just sit back and remember a beautiful bear and a man who obviously loved the land and the nature within it rip to both and fond memories of both to everyone left to mourn the loss of a man and a bear simple soulsw ho left the earth better place for having been on it

  7. I must say that I disagree with you and it doesn’t matter that all the facts aren’t in yet. Why must a bear lose it’s life because it simply does what is natural for it to do, be it defending it’s cubs or catching it’s prey? They indeed are, as you say, unpredictable. When you venture into bear country, you have made a choice to put your life at risk. Unfortunately, you are also choosing to seal the fate of any bear or other animal that attacks/kills you, too. It really is a selfish choice. Now as a consequence, Mr. Crosby’s family and friends must suffer, Blaze’s life was taken from her through no fault of her own and her cubs are suffering without their mother and may also have to pay with their lives for Mr. Crosby’s choice, as well. Venturing into such a situation armed with just bear spray is shear folly. Yes, the odds are that nothing will happen, but when it does, the animals shouldn’t have to pay with their lives because someone was in their backyard, enjoying the “commune with nature.”

    1. I agree. A tradgedy for all involved. A man is attacked and is now dead, a sow protecting her cubs is killed and now two orphaned cubs get shipped to a zoo to be gawked at for profit. As humans we need to be more responsible and respectful with our land and the wildlife that inhabits it. Maybe the outcome would have been different if Mr. Crosby had followed Yellowstones guidelines by carrying bear spray and traveling in a group of three when hiking off trail. And yes he has freedom of choice to not follow those guidelines but look at the consequences paid. Just plain sad and heartbreaking. RIP Mr. Crosby and RIP Blaze. I hope Yellowstone will reconsider sending her cubs to a zoo. I would love to see them go to a rehab center or sanctuary instead.

  8. Thank you for posting this! It’s absolutely the truth of the situation. Horrible situation for the bear and for Lance! Thank you for honoring both. Lance was an awesome guy!! He had the biggest heart and seeing him painted like some intentionally deviant bear-killer hurts his legacy of caring. Callous people forget he lost his life in this situation as well. Thank you thank you thank you for this blog!

  9. Thank you for all you said, I have struggled through all of this. Lance was a fine man, who loved nature, and did indeed choose solitude over all else. He didn’t want to be the center of attention, and quietly went about his life. He was an amazing nurse, a husband, a father, a grandfather, and a friend. To see all of the negative comments broke my heart over and over. Thank you for articulating what needed to be said, and reminding everyone that hard choices are made every day. What is easy isn’t always right.

  10. Tragic for both man and bears, thank you for writing this calm piece. This bad news came in while I was reading Enos Mills’ classic “The Grizzly” (1919) in which he describes grizzly bears as intensely curious (which early explorers interpreted as aggressive), intensely loyal to those who treated them well, never interested in human flesh, clearly able to reason and amazingly forgiving, among many other positive qualities. The big question to me is why that bear is not obtaining enough protein from her normal sources to the extent that she would overcome her species’ historic reluctance to eat us? Unless proven otherwise by investigators such as Stephen Herrero, I would assume the death was an accidental ‘bad interaction’ … but the eating is particularly tragic for what it may suggest about the nutrients available to bears in Yellowstone and the bears’ awareness of and reluctance to face the human dangers outside Yellowstone.

  11. thanks for your writing on this event and the tragedy of death for both human and bear. I appreciate your words and agree that some of the things floating around on FB are not fair and the language used is disrespectful. Your pictures of Blaze are beautiful, a lasting tribute to a bear so many enjoyed during their tours of the park. Thanks for your words and photos.

  12. What an excellent article. As an avid hiker I understand the pure joy of being alone with nature. I also understand and accept the consequences of my actions should I happen to encounter wildlife, as I’m sure this hiker did. I hope many more people read your article and, like myself, sit back, take a deep breath and finally understand both sides of this tragedy.

  13. I respect your opinion, but do disagree. Our national parks should be the one place where wildlife can live as naturally as possible without humans inflicting our own brand of justice on them for nothing more than “behaving naturally”. A bear killing (and eating) a human who wanders too close is not much different than a buffalo goring a human who wanders too close. Only difference is the bear is carnivorous. When I fished and hiked in Yellowstone as a boy in the late 1960’s and 1970’s there were significant fewer grizzlies, and those that did live there hung out along the highways for food from the tourists. It was safer, but certainly not as natural. The reason there were fewer grizzlies was because of decades of incidents like this – fear of the animals and an intolerance of the bears eating livestock and whatever else they wanted to. Mr. Crosby’s death is a tragedy, but we can’t (and shouldn’t try) to make our parks safe from wildlife. If we do, its no longer a natural environment.

  14. Beautifully written! Sensitive, intelligent, informative and objective! Thank you for trying to make sense of this unfortunate and sad situation, you made a lot of people feel better! And your pictures of Blaze are beautiful and moving! Keep up the good work, we need more people like you…

  15. Excellent article and tribute to Blaze, her cubs as well as Mr. Crosby. My heart is saddened for everyone involved. I’m sure there were many extremely difficult decisions to be made by the park management and staff.

  16. Very nice piece. I have investigated a few bear attacks and it is a tough call. Logic and caution is the right way. Putting a Bear of that age in a zoo almost seems criminal. Tough calls. Well done!

    1. But if they don’t kill the Cubs, they will send her cubs to a zoo. Some awful place where they will be forgotten and lost.

  17. Beautifully expressed and written with grace and kindness. So Blaze, at 20 years old, had to die because of the possibility she might kill again and expose Yellowstone to expensive lawsuits. So why were the cubs killed? One man killed requires the lives of the mother and her cubs? An entire family. The sadness and killing is becoming too much. Maybe the animals need to be protected from adventuresome humans. Maybe wild creatures shouldn’t be used to entertain humans since it is dangerous. Why the cubs? There is no bright side here. There is nothing good. Yellowstone is not the safe place I thought it was. It is just entertainment for people.

  18. I almost didn’t read this when I saw it pop up on my Facebook page, because I have a very difficult time dealing with the “blamers” out there. However Casey Anderson felt the need to share it, I decided I would take a peak.


    Finally someone whose words are what I have felt and have tried to articulate for years. Thank you for being the voice of sanity in what is a very sad situation. One I’m very familiar with. (Soda Butte 2010). Living through such an event, then having to put up with those who feel the need to blame, especially in social media, has been one of the more difficult parts of that whole affair.

  19. “It’s insulting and contemptible to suggest that people who have devoted their professional lives to wildlife have anything but the deepest respect for animals. The very last thing they want to do is kill the creatures they are trying to preserve.”

    Unfortunately this really is not what people have witnessed, from the treatment of the only genetically pure bison left to the wolf recovery project. The corruption and insensitivity of those who are paid our tax dollars to “manage” wildlife have horrified and opened the eyes of many. It is not for the squeamish.

    Rules in this case were not enforced that protect both human and wildlife, and better protections need to be made into law.

    If only we lived in a world where those who watch over our wildlife were true stewards with the highest of ethics. If only.

    1. may the true earth stewards stand up in unity! and may the animal holocaust be put to rest, a thing of the dark past.

  20. “It’s insulting and contemptible to suggest that people who have devoted their professional lives to wildlife have anything but the deepest respect for animals. The very last thing they want to do is kill the creatures they are trying to preserve.”

    Unfortunately this really is not what people have witnessed, from the treatment of the only genetically pure bison left to the wolf recovery project. The corruption and insensitivity of those who are paid our tax dollars to “manage” wildlife have horrified and opened the eyes of many. It is not for the squeamish.

    Rules in this case were not enforced that protect both human and wildlife, and better protections need to be made into law.

    If only we lived in a world where those who watch over our wildlife were true stewards with the highest of ethics. If only.

  21. Time to take the damn sign down and give the park back to the bears – it was their home to begin with – who the hell do we think we are to take it??? It is not our play ground. It is their home. Grow the hell up humans and stop taking what is not yours to take. I think Blaze was thinking of that when she ate a hiker who was not respectful of her home. Now that I understand more of how wrong that sign and it’s message really is – I have lost all sympathy for the hiker and more-so for the animals who are trying to live around a growing population of self-seeking idiots who think they are entitled to push these animals around in their homes.

    1. I feel they should not be put to death because it is unfair to them. If we can shoot people for being on our property in certain states then the animals have that same right to kill for us being in their space. ALSO WELL SAID JANE MILLER.

    2. I agree Jayne Miller!! These bears had to suffer because of man’s selfishness and ignorance! If the hiker would not have wondered into her natural habitat we would not even be having this discussion! When will man stop taking away from animals natural habitat and be a threat to their lives. They already try to survive in very small areas and yet when a person enters their territory and the animals defends their territory, it’s the animals fault. Because of this man’s ignorance and lack of responsibility these innocent animals pay the price. But instead “let’s kill the bear”. I am completely outraged about this and am highly considering starting a petition to stop visiting Yellowstone because of their actions. Maybe if we hurt Yellowstone’s pocket book they will think next time before killing innocent animals in their homes only defending herself and her babies!!! Yes it was their home!!! This hiker was not where he should have been and with NO protection what so ever!! yet it is the bears fault. Unreal!!!

  22. well said and thank you for writing this no bear deserves to die when they are in their own habitat its a risk as we humans take going into their habitat rip blaze and im sorry your cubs have been left as orphans because your life was taken too soon x

    1. Agree Julie, now these cubs will be an exhibit in the Toledo zoo. One day enjoying their surroundings with mom and the next being locked in cages, put on display because of a human’s ignorance. This was their home and it was invaded by a human! It was the hiker’s fault for being where he shouldn’t have been. The part in this article where it says the park is for people to enjoy, well what about the animals who live there?? Shall we lock them all up so man can have free roam over the landscape?? Ignorance at it’s finest!!!

  23. Maybe we should thank and honor them both. The great bear and hiker that died showed us all that their lives mattered, our lives matter. Maybe that is why we are all so very upset. Their lives matter. After all our limit has been reached, there is simply too much… too much killing, of each other, of wild things, of wilderness, of native peoples, of the oceans and our humanity. Celebrate the life of the hiker and Blaze, for they both paid the ultimate price for sharing with us something so valuable. The park officials including Mr. Wenk should be comforted, they obviously were not present during this terrible incident, they just had to deal with it in the only way they could. Thank you Keith for your amazing work and documentation of the greatest of bears, Blaze.

    1. I’m sorry but I disagree with you. Mr Wenk should not be comforted, he should be fired for his lack of compassion in protecting this mom and her cubs, this was their home after all and if the hiker would not have gone into her territory this never would have happened!! When will man quit putting himself first and his desires?? These animals have very little space to live and thrive and yet man still deems it necessary to move into their habitat. They could have easily moved the mom and her cubs to a different location instead of killing her for a human’s stupid mistake. It’s all about the money and man selfishness!!! Where else are these animals to go so man can have free roam with no regard for the lives of the animals who live there?? Instead let’s kill the mom, lock the babies in a zoo so man can feel safe to come visit and spend money. Why did we bring the Grizzly back from extinction then?? If this man was an experienced hiker, he should have known better, his death is his own fault, yet the animals have to pay for man’s ignorance!! Yes these cubs will now be placed in the Toledo zoo and put on display. One day enjoying life with mom, the next locked in a cage for the rest of their lives. Oh joy. Is Mr. Wenk happy now?? Disgusting!! He has no business running Yellowstone!! I wouldn’t trust him to run an dog rescue let alone a huge national park. Will man not be happy until we have taken over all of their natural habitat so we can enjoy the wild?? To hell with the animals that live there just as long as man can enjoy the wilderness. Makes me sick!!

  24. This is a well-written and thoughtful piece. Anyone who knew Lance knows he was a great person. That said, he is accountable for his lack of judgment which cost himself and a family of wild bears their lives. Humans have designated one of the last grizzley habitats as their own for their enjoyment. There is a sign to prove it. We either turn the place into a junk-filled human hole then, or recognize that Yellowstone is a place where we are observers. We don’t follow the rules of nature and respect animal behavior, we pay the price, not the animals.
    Lance was an experienced hiker who made rookie mistakes. Why, we will never know. His legacy is three bears whose lives are destroyed. I doubt he would want that.
    he is 100% responsible. Humans are food for wild animals. Let’s move past our egos.

  25. I think the major problem of our national parks especially Yellowstone, is to many people in the animals habitat. Wild animals and people can not coexist without incidents arising. Exactly 3 years ago I was in Yellowstone with my family and watched people getting way to close to a Buffalo, chasing a mother elk and her calf down the road with their vehicle. ( I preceded to block road and allow elk to find her way off road way at her pace.) Pissed some drivers off oh well! The man’s death was probably accidental by bear defending her cubs. But then if they were hungry I could see her going food lets eat. With so many people in the park and the wolves as direct competition for food well its going to happen and I believe even more. I think the park needs to be closed to smaller groups for touring and with guides to monitor the people. They litter, they don’t think around the animals and its getting sad the conditions they are left in.

    1. Oh you mean so only the rich can go? I am a Yellowstone guide and it costs about $250.00 per person, to go on a tour, blue collar people could no longer go, is that what you want Lisa. Yes it would be great for us guides, but Yellowstone is to wonderful to shut down to the working man and his family who can’t afford a guide.

  26. On that note, so when a human kills another human, and eats it. Yes, this happens, can we then euthanize it!? Humans think they are so superior, when all we really do, is destroy this planet.

  27. I believe that you did not say the real reason Blaze was killed: because of liability and that the NPS is afraid of being sued in the future. Two young bears now have no mother and can’t fulfill their god-given right to live in the wild because us humans have chosen to create a litigious society. It’s ridiculous and so very sad. And I really don’t think the fact that there are words carved in stone declaring that the park is for humans is any kind of argument for this bear’s death. Where is the wilderness for bears and other wildlife? I would hope that humans have evolved beyond this kind of moral superiority, that we too are just animals and we kill every day for greed. But clearly we’re still placing ourselves above other beings and that is exactly why and how climate change is happening.

    1. well said! federal reserve note liabilities and wildlife just don’t mix. the moral superiority that these humans have exhibited is straight out of the dark ages. fortunately, the light is expanding exponentially every day. i suspect that future generations will look back on this era as “the dark ages”.

  28. I read this article on this issue and I respectfully disagree with much of your analogy. In the article it says Yellowstone is for the public to enjoy, well what about the animals that live there? Is man and his desires once again being placed above an animal’s life and habitat? Where are these bears suppose to go to get away from man when man keeps entering their territory and man can enjoy nature uninterrupted? Is the wilderness not for the animals who live there? Grizzly Bears were once to the point of extinction and many fought hard to protect and preserve this species only to kill it for “being in man’s way”? What is the point in saving these animals if we turn around and kill them for acting on their natural instincts?? If Yellowstone is for the people to enjoy it’s beauty then what are we to do with the animals that live there? Do they not also have a right to live, raise families with out being invaded? This hiker clearly was in the wrong, I sympathize with his family for their loss but he should be held accountable for his mistake and that accountability led to his death. It would be the same as if a person decided to take a walk down the middle of a crowded interstate and get hit and killed by a car and them blame the driver for hitting someone who clearly was where he should not have been. Shall we lock all animals up and put them in a zoo for our enjoyment so we can all go enjoy the wild and not worry about animals? Is this fair to another life form? This mother and her babies had every right to be where they were and it was the hiker who strayed into their territory, her surroundings and yet she had to pay the price for his actions. Pretty simple if he wouldn’t have been there, he would still be alive. It’s sad when man keeps messing up and animals have to pay for mans ignorance and selfishness, man keeps taking away more and more natural habitat for these animals to live in and then blame the animal for being there. Not to mention knowing full well he was in Grizzly Territory he allowed himself to enter with no protection what so ever. Yep let’s blame the bear.

    1. Diane your analogy is a good one as long as the driver did not then get out of the car and eat the person they hit. The bear could quite likely now see humans as a food source which, as a human, I and many others see as a bad thing. To make things worse her two cubs may also now see people as food. This especially true as competition for their natural prey increases due to wolves being reintroduced and having a significant impact on deer and elk populations.

      The fact is the world is a dangerous place whether you are a human or a bear. We like to put things in boxes: this is a safe part of town, this is a dangerous part of town, this is wilderness, this is the city, etc. The problem is we live in a dynamic place that doesn’t the care what we call it. Sometimes terrible things happen where we think we’re safe. The actions we take sometimes have unintended and disastrous consequences. These are not always just but they are what they are. Did the bear deserve to die for killing and eating something? Of course not,but it did because it failed to understand the long term consequences of killing and eating a human. Whether it perceived it’s danger is not relavant, just as a blind and deaf cat is not spared the consequences of crossing a free way at rush hour. It sucks but that’s how it is…

  29. Very well written insightful and succinct, thanks for your insights. It’s a real tragedy across spectrum and it goes to show when one is in the Wilderness to keep your radar up and tuned and even then there is always the probability of the unexpected. This was out of left field and I don’t agree with the so called experts whoever they are with their assessment. The world is filled with experts, but the world is probabilistic in it’s nature and that’s a domain no-one has dominion over. I hate the phrase “an experts said”. Some people have a little more knowledge than the next until an event like this and then it’s reduced to “What the F***”.

  30. This was a very well written post. I have been a visitor to YNP on several occasions and I appreciate the tightrope that is walked in trying to preserve the park for both nature and human enjoyment and education. If we did not have these parks as “attractions”; so many people would have no idea of the natural wonders of this great earth. My heart goes out to Lance’s family, friends and co-workers; the park officials who have to make tough decisions every day; and to Blaze and her cubs.

  31. Thanks — tough to read, tough to write — but definitely a reasoned response to a tragic situation for all involved.

  32. Nice article. Yes, we have a long history of taking out “man eaters.” Can you fix the it’s in the first paragraph to the correct its?

  33. I’ve been in the media almost my entire life. This article was terribly written with not all the facts included. You are neither a writer or naturalist. First check your facts!

    1. So, in this day and age you think your life long involvement in the media makes you credible? I’m not in the media. I’m just the consumer. I thought it was a well written opinion piece, and I’m pretty sure that is what the author intended. I wish “the media” would print the facts these days. You guys are all about social norming. Nothing else. We’re all stupid sheep for “the media” to herd. Your profession, if it could be called that today, is a joke. I wouldn’t brag.

  34. as a writer on this subject your big mistake is the use of the word ‘justice’. in the wild there are only events, seen or unseen. what we refer to as justice is not relevant.

  35. Thank you for the explanation, by someone who obviously cares about the bears, but also understands the gravity of the situation. It helped me to understand that they were not just killing her to be killing her, but because once they kill a human it is to be presumed they will always regard us as food going forward. That certainly makes sense. As you said, she might have only regarded him as food once she felt she had to kill him to protect her young, but once she did that and cached him… well, that set up a whole new dynamic. Do I want her to be killed, no. She might not ever kill anyone again but I certainly understand why they feel they must. I do not understand why the cubs must be killed? To me that seems too extreme and you did not address that reasoning. I would be interested in the thought process behind the babies.

    1. In an incident like this there are a few reasons that cubs would have to be removed. During the stage that cubs are with their mother, they are learning from her what is a food and where and how to get it. Seeing their mother kill and eat a person would show them that humans are a food source. Depending on the age of the cubs they may also be dependent and unable to fend for themselves and killing their mother leaves them unable to survive. In this particularly however I believe I read that the cubs were going to be given to zoos.

  36. Thank you for some insights from a different perspective. I go into the mountains surrounding Yellowstone country on a regular basis. I know the dangers that exist and many of them are identical to those found inside the park. I have come to the peace that if It is my time to go, I would love for it to be on a mountain or along a stream that I leave this earth and I would much sooner it be doing something I love to do than in a hospital bed suffering endless days and nights.
    I wonder now, if we could as Mr Crosby, would he stay home next time? Would he blame the bear for doing what it did? Would he resent everyone’s accusations of his carelessness? If he is anything like most of us that love the solitude and peace we can find in nature, I think I know what he would say.
    I also feel deeply for those who had to make those decisions about the bears and what course to take with them. Casting judgement with a lot of evidence is a tough call, but our society has dictated that know matter what choice is made, a lawsuit will follow. What it cannot dictate however, is that which we must live with on our conscience. Thank you again for these thought provoking words. Clearly, as you stated, trying to makes sense out this will not make sense to everyone but it does give me something to ponder from a different perspective than the media.

  37. I’m deeply troubled by the comments I read here especially those implying that putting humans on par with animals is ridiculous. Unless humans can let go of their anthropocentric view of the world, all species, including us are in peril.

  38. Reblogged this on Riveting Travels and commented:
    Well written piece about the unfortunate bear/human interaction in Yellowstone last week.

    “… despite everything you hear out there on social media, Yellowstone National Park was NOT created so bears would have a place to live unaffected’ by humans. The purpose and intent of the park’s creators couldn’t possibly be any more clearly spelled out in the 1872 act which created it – and it is literally carved in stone on the Roosevelt Arch at the north entrance. The park was created “FOR THE BENEFIT AND ENJOYMENT OF THE PEOPLE”.

    Yellowstone was created specifically to give us a place to experience the natural wonders which exist there in Yellowstone and nowhere else. That means people, within some limitations, get to enjoy the park as they wish.

    Some want to see the park from the roads, and from inside their vehicles; some like to hike on well-worn paths; some ride horses into the backcountry; some will choose to go off-trail on foot. I, and many, many others, enjoy all of the above….

    Far, far too many people view Yellowstone as the world’s largest drive-through zoo.”

  39. This is a fair and balanced view but I still take exception to the killing of the bear. She was a bear. Bears are dangerous. If you trek into an area with bears, YOU made the choice to take that risk. It is the bears home and she has the right to live there as she sees fit.

    Its time to stop making wildlife pay the ultimate price for the choices of humans.

    Yellowstone seems to be in the hands of hunters and we all should know the USFW is very pro hunting, supports trophy hunting and kills millions of wildlife every year with our tax money for the beef/meat industry.

    If you really want to save wildlife stop buying beef products , you are funding the enemy.

    It is my understanding that USFW made this decision. The mindset and goal for the wildlife has to change. Letting hunters manage wildlife is like having the pimps regulate prostitution.

    The cubs will now live in a lousy zoo. Nothing like punishing the innocent for the mistakes of humans.

    1. Well you are correct. They are pro hunter. I wonder why that is? Oh yeah, now I remember, it’s because hunters spend millions of dollars per year on conserving and protecting the evirionment (more than all other conservation groups combined) and are a key piece in managing a healthy ecosystem. And BTW I am not aware of any hunters who are subsidized by tax dollars to do it.

      1. “Hunters as conservationists.” It was only a matter of time before that old myth resurfaced.

  40. Amazing read, so thoughtful. I live in the area & hate the whole situation so much. As you said, its just a “no winners” deal. Any situation where a bear is put down is just heart wrenching to any of us (locals) but folks, a human lost his life as well. To call Mr. Crosby names & say that he “deserved to die” is alarming at the very least. I’m hopeful that the people voicing those opinions live in New York or some other place far, far away.

  41. Well written, thoughtful article. The couple who died on Alaska’s Hula-Hula River many years ago did nothing wrong except be in bear country. I’ve had a sow, 2 cubs, and a 2 year-old go through my camp on the Noatak, and only the last stopped and looked. Why he didn’t come at me? I’ll never know.

    Wilderness is a lot safer than cities. It’s a matter of trying to do the right things, improving your probability of survival but knowing there are no guarantees. Dogs kill more in the U.S. than bears, but we are programmed to remember the powerful exception and not look at the everyday occurrence. This is so sad.

  42. We are all neighbors — those of us who choose to make our neighbors the wild animals, because we live and recreate in wild areas, need to be aware that they did not choose us as neighbors, but go about their lives as best they can in spite of our continual presence in their natural world. They get used to us, and cross our paths without much concern, but do not respect our “HOA” rules, nor our property lines. (I have had moose moms and their young camped in my driveway so I could not use it for awhile.) They protect themselves in the only ways that they can — not that safe for the humans and their dogs. If we choose to enjoy their world we need to respect the nature of each creature, be it predator or not. Those who work in Yellowstone are educated and knowledgeable about their animal neighbors. What a tragedy all around! My condolences to all of Mr. Crosby’s friends, colleagues and family. As I hike alone, I will be on guard, but would rather take my chances here than on a city street.

  43. It’s sadly ironic — the more people become attached to wildlife through digital means, the less they understand it. Wilderness is not a video game or a reality docu-drama. Those of us who live in grizzly bear country appreciate the terrain and understand the risks. None of us are perfect, though our risk-taking is usually calculated. Sometimes we are wrong. But no one is to blame. I thank you for a balanced, intelligent response to a situation that has no villains. I hope it makes more people aware.

    “All conservation of wildness is self-defeating, for to cherish we must see and fondle, and when enough have seen and fondled, there is no wilderness left to cherish.”
    ― Aldo Leopold, A Sand County Almanac and Sketches Here and There

  44. Reblogged this on Carrot Ranch Communications and commented:
    Here’s an important post to share. As many of you know, I live in a grizzly bear recovery zone. Although we had a brief and lucky encounter with a bear this spring, we seldom see the bears in this area, and attacks are uncommon.

    Yellowstone is different. It is a park, a wilderness where anyone can enjoy what it has to offer. And sometimes what it has to offer is deadly. Last week, a man and now a bear, have both lost their lives. This is the most intelligent and balanced essay I’ve read on the incident and wish to share it along with these words from conservationist and educator, Aldo Leopold:

    “All conservation of wildness is self-defeating, for to cherish we must see and fondle, and when enough have seen and fondled, there is no wilderness left to cherish.”
    ~ A Sand County Almanac and Sketches Here and There

  45. Thanks so much for writing this Keith. I am frequently in the park as well to photograph, hike, and participate in its bounty of beauty and wildlife, and like Mr Crosby, I’ve hiked and backpacked alone in the park, knowing the risks that are inherent. This is the best piece I’ve read on the situation so far. For those of us who spend time in the park and participate in what it offers, humility in the face of the unpredictable seems to be our biggest asset. Appreciate it.

    I do think that not taking bear spray at any time in the park is taking an even bigger risk than necessary, for both wildlife and ourselves. Hope that more awareness around that can come out of this. Hard story, difficult outcome, but considering the circumstances, a necessary one.

  46. There is a reason for the yin/yang symbols…life is about balance. We have to balance a human’s right to enjoy the wild with the wild creatures ability to be wild. I don’t have the right answer. But I do find this one of the more intelligent articles on animal rights that I’ve read recently. I don’t hike in the back country in Yellowstone as I’m afraid of large critters and my ability to “do it right”; however, I do hike alone in the Grand Canyon and am often told that’s foolish and if something happens to me it would be my fault. Well, yes, I guess it would but I wouldn’t give up that experience for complete safety.

  47. So sad for the victim’s death, and the effects on his family, friends, etc. And sad that the animals had to be destroyed, though the reasons are understandable.

    I’m also afraid that we will see more and more erratic behavior from animals like this. The Bible predicted it. …16 ‘When I send against them the deadly arrows of famine which were for the destruction of those whom I will send to destroy you, then I will also intensify the famine upon you and break the staff of bread. 17 ‘Moreover, I will send on you famine and wild beasts, and they will bereave you of children; plague and bloodshed also will pass through you, and I will bring the sword on you. I, the LORD, have spoken.'” Ezekiel 5:16-17.

    This is the result of forsaking God and turning from His ways. And it is obvious that famine is becoming imminent because of the drought that is hitting the world. I pray that we will become familiar with the Word of God and His ways, for they do bring life, and reverse the curses that are and will come upon us. Repent and God will always forgive the genuine prayer.

  48. Brilliant! Very well spoken. That is my concern, why couldn’t she have been moved….. My husband and I both enjoy the back country of our great state of Wyoming. Showing a great respect and admiration for the wildlife and wilderness. We hope to do so for many years to come and many generations.

  49. Thank you for the insightful article. From the information given it may be that the bear at 20 years of age was beginning to be challenged in finding enough food to provide for herself and her cubs. The average age for a female appears to be 26 years with a range of 15 to 30 being a normal life span. I think it would be more humane to kill the cubs than to put them in a zoo. In the United States we don’t seem to acknowledge the inhumanity in locking people up indefinitely, as witnessed by the number of people held in the country in solitary confinement and prison.

  50. Bla bla bla killing the bear was justified bla bla bla sad situation bla bla bla humans are superior bla bla bla

  51. BLAZE DID NOT DESERVE TO BE KILLED! How can anyone know for certain it was Blaze? Hikers walking in the territory of wild animals know the risk. My heart goes out to the family of the one killed but to destroy a Bear to calm public mania is not the answers we need… Keep the Hikers out..Protect the Wildlife!

  52. This is probably one of the gentlest, most sincere and unbiased pieces I have ever read. The author has done a terrific job of identifying issues and outcomes, including the predictable need of idiots in the ether who just have to find some blame to justify their take on the world.

    The message is… there is no definitive answer. Bending the evidence one way or the other does nothing, it doesn’t justify, exonerate, convict or most importantly salve the sorrow of the surviving families… bear or human.

    So, go find something more polarizing to get spooled up over. This one is about healing and attempted understanding. Sad if your misplaced anger prevents you from getting that.

  53. Sorry – if a man runs in front of a car a gets killed – do we kill the driver? We treat animals as though they are humans who understand the gravity of situations. They know survival of the fittest end of. He shouldn’t have been there – he got killed – sad – but no reason to kill the bear that was doing what comes naturally – and you can bet your bottom dollar it won’t stop another bear from killing another human – stay out of their way – they don’t come looking for people to kill for so called fun – that’s a human trait.

  54. Keith,

    If you make some enemies over this article I will certainly not be among them.

    This piece is thoughtful and informative. It is balanced and very well paced. It is thorough without verbosity. To my mind your writing is clear as a bell – concise and evocative. It strikes me as very well edited and it was a pleasure to read.

    Plus, it just so happens there is nothing you wrote that I find disagreeable. To my mind the content is spot on.

    Thanks for writing it and sharing it. You’ve made at least one new friend of your work and I predict this piece will net you a substantial gain in friends v. enemies.

    — Andy Orr (Raleigh, NC)

  55. When leaving the link to the act that created Yellowstone Park you have an amended version. The act has a second part that reads “That said public park shall be under the exclusive control of the Secretary of the Interior, whose duty it shall be, as soon as practicable, to make and publish such rules and regulations as he may deem necessary or proper for the care and management of the same. Such regulations shall provide for the preservation, from injury or spoliation, of all timber, mineral deposits, natural curiosities, or wonders within said park, and their retention in their natural condition.” For the preservation, from injury or spoliation of all … natural curiosities, or wonders within said park, and their retention in their natural condition. The park may be for the enjoyment of humans, but that enjoyment came with rules and regulations and the duty to preserve it in its natural condition, bears included. I think the decision to kill this sow and remove her cubs is a monetary one and not done with preservation in mind.

  56. Where do you live? Every inch of this country was wild and inhabited before it was settled. It all belonged to wild animals and natives. Before one begins to suggest that Yellowstone should be uninhabited let’s start at the east coast and put everything back as it was. Oh but that’s not possible or even feasible.

    I think many may be missing the point here. The bear wasn’t uthenized because it killed the hiker. It was because that bear now viewed all people as a possible food source. Humans by themselves or in small groups may be easier prey, than the wildlife where only the fittest survives, and the weak are increasingly hard to find as the predator numbers increase. Sadly this is being viewed as a life for a life and that just isn’t accurate.

  57. My thoughts are, did this happen due to the lack of Elk in the park cause by all the wolves that live there now? With the lack of food for Grizzlies in the park it was only a matter of time. I have a feeling this will not be the last…..

    1. You’re speaking of those Canadian grey wolves that the environmentalist elites brought in because they wanted to hear their howl…..and the Canadians just laughed and laughed and laughed and…..

  58. the bear killed because her cubs were there. she cached the meat because the meat was there. If a human killed and didn’t use the meat we would be mad at the human. as far as I can see the bear did everything right. bears are bigger than us therefore they eat us. Get used to it

    1. I mean don’t get me wrong I feel sorry for the guy and his family. But these things happen in the wild. When I worked in Yellowstone I knew this was a thing that can happen to me at any time.

  59. I have watched many of shows with Casey Anderson as he is so loving with Brutus and Jake. Also I seen him with the wolves. I don’t suggest that any one go out there like Casey does, but I do believe you need to respect the wild animals and never ever come between a mother and her offspring.

    Just like humans, we are going to do what we have to do to do to protect our children. I had a situation one time that I left my truck running because my 2 year old son was in it and I had to leave the a\c on. A homeless man came between me and my truck asking for money and I was deathly scared he was going to jump in my truck and take off.

    I pointed my purse at him and told him if he knew what was good for him he better leave before I shot him.. I don’t know if he thought I was bluffing or not, but he left. And honest to God I would have shot him before he could have gotten in my truck. Because I was definitely not bluffing. Never ever come between a mother and her child or cub in this case.

  60. While I agree that it is sad for both the human that died and the bear that died, I do not think the bear should be put to death for eating meat. We do it every day.

    I also understand **why** people think that people are somehow better, greater, more important. This is our emotions talking. But people are overpopulated. People are damaging to the environment and offer no benefit to the Earth that we live on. We just destroy everything.

    With that said, if someone wants to enjoy wildlife, they should be made to understand the consequences and that witch hunts will not be conducted on wildlife that decide to kill and eat humans. Humans ARE animals. They may have a preferred meat they like but a hungry animal (humans too!) will eat anything if they are hungry enough.

    No park should be held accountable for a lawsuit because they chose not to destroy an animal that attacks and eats a human. This is wildlife at it’s finest and when you step out of your comfortable home, life is unpredictable.

    1. “We do it every day.” We are not animals… if you want to argue human/animal equivalence, Animals kill each other every day, I guess that we should behave similarly and not hold killers accountable for murder?

  61. Why don’t they have bear hazing projects in parks like this, like many municipalities have coyote hazing projects? I am not sure how well that would fly, but I don’t feel bad for the bear. Predators that lose their fear of humans are a public danger and need to go. Old predators often turn to humans as a food source because they’re getting too old to chase wild four legged mammals.

    The only time I might object is if it is one of an endangered few, in which case it should be captured if it isn’t already, and kept away from opportunities to harm people again such as life in a zoo or wildlife sanctuary where there are no tourists who can roll down car windows and get mauled.

  62. If you or I choose to go into another animals hunting grounds we chose the consequences. Protect yourself the best you can if you chose the habitat. I say how dare we condemn an animal to death for doing what it does naturally. If humans become the food source I am leaning toward it is our own fault. We feed them and draw them to us and thus condemn them to death. Take some responsibilty. While the people on here may not have directly done this we as the human race did. Hike if we will and camp if we will like our ancestors before us tarps and leaves and sticks. Protect yourself with knives and axes. If this is not for you stay out of the back country and in your travel trailers. If you chose to hike with these animals for gosh sakes remember we are in thier home and are visitors.

  63. The NPS mission: “…to promote and regulate the use of the…national parks…which purpose is to conserve the scenery and the natural and historic objects and the wild life therein and to provide for the enjoyment of the same in such manner and by such means as will leave them unimpaired for the enjoyment of future generations.” National Park Service Organic Act, 16 U.S.C.1.

    And as an LE Ranger I am tasked with
    Protecting the park from people, people from the park, and people from people.

    The parks are wild. Park employees sometimes forget this basic important fact, additionally visitors may not realise this because there are so few truly wild places left in our nation. I truly hope this story spreads so others may learn and we can avoid future tragedies like this. If we can not learn from our past, we are doomed to repeat it.

    1. One of the reasons we love Yellowstone so very much is its “wildness”. Unfortunately there will always be people who forget and become slack in taking precautions like having bear spray at hand. Just as a visitor I have seen too many “stupid human tricks” where Elk and Bison are concerned. I agree – I hope people will learn something from this story. Alas, the only ones who will ‘learn’ are ones who already have the respect that should be required before entering this most cherished of Parks.

  64. Thank you for sharing sight a great piece of insight. Before reading this I wouldn’t have thought of all sides to this situation. Like you say, it’s an awful and sad situation all round, but I agree sadly we can’t really blame anyone, although I’d hope this would caution more visitors to hopefully stop any silly mistakes in the future

  65. Thank you for this wonderful article. I however disagree and feel that under this particular situation this bear should have been left alone. I find it disturbing and sad that those that are there to protect these animals see this as the bears wrong and not that of human error! Regardless he was in the wrong place at the wrong time.

  66. A very well thought out and written article. Some of the responses I find puzzling, but we all have our own view. I have been in Yellowstone and environs for over 70 years and always with a feeling of gratitude.

  67. I have visited Yellowstone Park and environs for over 70years. Always with a feeling of awe and gratitude.

  68. Thank you, THANK YOU!!! This heartbreaking tragedy has sparked such passionate and sometimes irrational responses. I have had such mixed emotions but your article as been the voice of reason and thoughtfulness. There is no right or wrong in this situation, just a lot of heartache…

  69. This is one of the clearest, most balanced articles I have read in quite some time. Thank you for writing it. Social media is both a blessing and a curse and I appreciate your attempt to articulate the background and facts to this emotionally-charged situation.

  70. “Did the bear deserve to die? Of course not. This grizzly was only doing what bears do. There is no justice in removing the bear, and her cubs, and destroying any of them.”

    Why did this become a “justice” issue? It should be viewed as a “protecting the public” issue.

  71. Thank you for a well-written article. You explained, very eloquently, the good, bad and ugly of man in a wild environment. As you said, Mr. Crosby made a choice and it cost him and a bear their lives. It must’ve been the “perfect storm”. RIP Blaze – you will be missed.

  72. Is the caching perhaps an indication that the wildlife know there’s going to be a harder-than-usual season ahead of them?

  73. A very balanced and well written perspective in a world where a small number of unbalanced people are making a scene via social media, attempting to convince the world that everyone should or does view it the “correct” way, like they do. Thank you, Keith.

  74. Thank you for such a well written and thoughtful article on such a sensitive subject. My daughter is currently working in the park and is living in the Lake area. She has hiked Elephant Back trail multiple times this summer because it has such easy access from the Lake area. So this incident hit a bit too close to home for me.

  75. Excellent and informative article, and well written. One of the comments said for ‘clarity’ that Palmer used arrows not bullets . That only partially true. He wounded the lion with an arrow, then tracked it and killed it with a bullet.

  76. A Men kills a Lion and we want to prosecute and punish him – a Bear kills a Men and we want to spare his life and save him – interesting ……..

    1. The man who so willfully shot an innocent lion after baiting it, let it linger for three days with an arrow in it, then shot it and cut off its tracking collar and its head is in no way comparable to a grizzly bear momma protecting her cubs ( maybe as it has not been proven she killed the idiot off track) . And yes, the human knew better and did it anyway….the bear eats to live. Knew this had to be brought up…that and the wolf comments. Oh and of course, that hunters save animals. Sooooo laughable, all three of them.

  77. I just have a question here…. Is a National Park a reserve for the wildlife ( even though its for the enjoyment of the people), and just exactly who is the intruder….? I honestly feel bad the man died – but why do we kill animals for being who and what they are designed to be…? Can a tiger change its spots….?

    1. For someone who claims to wuv the animals so much, you don’t seem to know much about them. When was the last time you saw a tiger with spots???

  78. The excerpt quoted below this paragraph is the “bottom line” in the article – that is, the conclusion that the author draws, although it occurs early on. I thought the article was wonderfully written and that everything the author said in it is almost certainly true – except this conclusion, which doesn’t follow from the rest. No justification is presented for it, although the author apparently thinks otherwise. I would ask him to rethink. Just because Blaze not only killed the man, but ate part of him, why is that the “line in the sand that cannot be crossed”? The only answer Mr. Cowley gives is that “Humanity has a long policy of destroying man-eaters – justly or not.” Yet, ironically, he clearly seems to think that this observation somehow justifies Park authorities in killing Blaze and sending her cubs to a zoo. I say it doesn’t – not unless the fact can reasonably be construed as evidence that the bear will kill other humans for food. There is only the previous incident of the Bear Wapiti, who killed a man then apparently killed and ate part of another man some weeks later. Is there something about a bear eating a human that predisposes it to start preying upon humans when the opportunity arises? This is the crucial issue; and I am not aware of any substantial evidence that this is the case. It might be the case that the stresses of food shortage will predispose a bear to this course, especially if it has young cubs to feed, but in that case maybe the Park authorities should simply close the Park. There were way too many people in YNP this summer anyway. In many cases the cars entering and leaving the Park were backed up for miles. And here’s another question to ponder: Which is most likely to prevent future killings of humans by grizzlies in YNP, killing grizzlies who kill and eat people, or a no-kill policy in such situations? Maybe it would be better to let the death of Lance Crosby be a warning to people who choose to visit the Park, and who might entertain the idea of hiking alone, off trail, without bear pepper spray and the practiced ability to use it? No, this isn’t to blame Mr. Crosby any more than it is to blame Blaze, but I’d be wiling to bet that this course would have been the better one for preventing future such incidents.

    “Whether this change from defender to predator happened during the initial attack on Crosby, or immediately afterward is irrelevant. It ended with the bear consuming a person. That’s the line in the sand which cannot be crossed. Humanity has a long policy of destroying man-eaters – justly or not.”

    1. I appreciate the comments, Kirk. Addressing your question:

      “Is there something about a bear eating a human that predisposes it to start preying upon humans when the opportunity arises? This is the crucial issue; and I am not aware of any substantial evidence that this is the case.”

      That is one crucial issue, but it is impossible to study. There are very few fatal grizzly bear attacks where the bear then feeds on the body, so the data set is statistically insignificant. And, as you can imagine, no one is volunteering to take part in the experiment to see which ones will do it again.

      There may be many reasons for bears to attack people, but I reiterate, once a bear has determined that people are a food source, the park service will invariably put that animal to death. They do it regularly with animals that have not attacked, but have instead been intentionally or unintentionally fed by humans. “A fed bear is a dead bear” is not just a sound-bite, it’s a policy. They will always kill proven man-eaters.

      I don’t like it anymore than you, but I don’t see other viable options. Relocating the bear just makes it someone else’s problem. “Rehabbing” a 20-something year old wild grizzly sounds like pie-in-the-sky thinking to me. Closing the park during the height of the summer season? When people have come from across the globe on their once-in-a-lifetime trips?!? Again, not realistic.

      Frankly, another crucial issue is one I mentioned in the piece – liability. The National Park Service cannot afford to allow a proven man-eater to live in a place that millions of people visit each summer. The potential for wrongful death lawsuits is real and whether it’s a “good” reason to kill a bear for being a bear is not my call. Lawyers, judges and actuaries argue what is right, wrong, and an “acceptable risk.” The park service has been to court many times when people are injured or killed inside the parks.

      And I don’t discount for one minute that the park officials who had to make this horrible decision, did so with genuine concerns for visitor safety on their minds. Too many people are forgetting that part of the equation.

      There are lots of things in this world that I don’t like, but that I understand. The killing of this bear is one of them.

  79. I have to disagree. We humans can put a sign up that says something is for us to enjoy, but long before 1872 and Roosevelt, those bears were calling it home. Stay out of the wild if you don’t want to chance being killed by a wild animal. And let the animals live their lives as they were intended to.

  80. Thank you very much for a well written and well reasoned article.

    It is shocking to me how over the years many people have begun to see themselves as separate from nature, where nature is an object that must be isolated and protected from humans. It is of course an absurd notion that has resulted from too many people only seeing “nature” in books and on television.

    I certainly expected an anti-hunting sentiment from some of the people posting here (over and over), but I am honestly shocked by the number of people who seem to be against humans placing a foot anywhere that they consider “nature”.

    Humans are as integral a part of nature as bears. A person backpacking in a national park is no more encroaching on the “bear’s home” than the bear is encroaching on the human’s home. Each has an equal claim to the park and each is equally part of nature.

    What we do when there is a conflict between two animals that are utilizing that national park is a difficult question and the answer must depend on the specific circumstances. In this case, there is no other choice.

  81. There is one glaringly selfish error in the author’s analysis: That human life is more precious than non-human. This arrogant, shortsighted attitude (“Shucks, we’ve got no choice but to kill!”) serves only to perpetuate the violent, patriarchal and hierarchical paradigm that so conveniently places white males at the top of an illusory pyramid. There is a different point of view optional in the midst of this mass extinction. Humans take animal life. More seldom, animals take human life. Neither justifies murder.

    Vanessa Schulz

    1. Those who believe an animal’s life to be no less valuable than a human life may be scarier to me than wild animal predators that have previously consumed human flesh.

      If you were in a situation where another person was being mauled to death by a predator and you could save the person by shooting the bear or killing the shark – you likely wouldn’t. Or you could be inclined to kill a human because the person is about to shoot a deer or slaughter a pig. Valuing animals as much as humans seems pretty inhumane and cold blooded (pun intended) to me.

      Please, go to your nearest accredited course in ethics as soon as possible.

      1. I do not believe Vanessa meant it overall. But in this situation, killing a bear for doing what bears do is not ethical. an animals life has value just like a humans life (although there are many humans that need to be wiped off the face of the earth, child rapists, ISIS, terrorists, mass murderers, etc). Of course if someone saw an animal attacking a human such as a bear or lion, anyone would try to save the human. But if the human was trying to kill the lion to begin with, I personally would have to think about it.

  82. If hikers KNOW the risk of enlifetering bear territory, then they ACCEPT that risk and ARE attacked, injured, left for dead or eaten, then WHY is the bear killed? Isn’t that the RISK that hikers KNOW they are taking? That they could be attacked, injured, left for dead or eaten? Could Yellowstone start asking hikers to sign a waiver that if anything should happen to them during an encounter with a bear, that they don’t want the bear to be held responsible in any way? There was a man in one of the previous comments that said he survived a bear attack and didn’t want the bear to be killed because of the fact he KNEW the risk.
    Also, if bears don’t normally eat humans, and this bear did, is it possible she could not find food for such a long length of time that she was desperate and starving as well as her cubs?

  83. My condolence to the family of Mr Crosby. Those that put animals before people no longer have any moral high ground. I didn’t like to see the author down play bear spray…… the park employee bear spray incident referred to here could have turned out dramatically different without the spray.

  84. To Anderson D. Orr and reality22: I don’t think anyone on here, myself included, is saying that an animal is more important than a human. I do think, and know in my own case, that those who are against the killing of the bear, are saying there is a known risk, so why should the animal be punished? As humans we are supposed to be superior in knowledge to all other species. If we are, then why are some dumb enough to expect a wild animal (key word “wild”) to know not to attack a human or there will be consequences? And, why do we think it is our right to determine that the animal that does so must then die? Tranquilizing the bear and her cubs and then relocating them high in the mountains would have sufficed.

  85. With every step I have taken in the wilderness, I know there is a risk of my death. I fear more every time I get in my car and drive through town or on the freeway. But that doesn’t stop me from going. In the 16 years I have worked in the wilderness I have enjoyed many solo back packing and day hikes. Yes in places such as Yellowstone, Glacier, and Yosemite. I have had safe and scary wildlife encounters. I have carried bear spray and I have not. I have made noise and I have gone silent on a trail. I have been ignorant and responsible. And unfortunately I have seen the results of peoples irresponsibility resulting in the death and hazing of bears. Unfortunately I have also seen wildlife become habituated due to peoples ignorance also resulting in their demise. And although I am super sad to see such a beautiful bear who has graced the lens of so many tourists and hikers, I all too understand why she had to be euthanized. I never want to be on a trail or in the wilderness near a bear that has tasted human flesh and now sees it as a source of nutrition. Bears can protect their young without eating the intruder. Case in point, the father and daughter in Glacier:
    Myself and loved ones want to Thank all who help protect the wildlife as well as balancing keeping visitors to any wilderness area safe.

  86. As a wildlife biologist I cannot agree with your consensus that humans deserve to be protected at the cost of wildlife.

    You post a photo of the arch at the north entrance to Yellowstone with the inscription “For the Benefit and Enjoyment of the People.” What you don’t acknowledge is the rest of the story behind that inscription, the very reason for the creation of national parks, wildernesses, and conservation areas. The Organic Act of 1872 states that “the Service thus established shall promote and regulate the use of the Federal areas known as national parks, monuments and reservations…by such means and measures as conform to the fundamental purpose of the said parks, monuments and reservations, which purpose is to conserve the scenery and the natural and historic objects and the wild life therein and to provide for the enjoyment of the same in such manner and by such means as will leave them unimpaired for the enjoyment of future generations.

    Definition of conserve: protect (something, especially an environmentally or culturally important place or thing) from harm or destruction.

    Not only are we to conserve them, we are to leave them unimpaired.

    It was Theodore Roosevelt’s intent to conserve: “Theodore Roosevelt first came to the badlands in September 1883. The prospect of big game hunting had initially brought him to the West, but, by the time he arrived, the last large herds of bison were gone, having been decimated by hide hunters and disease. As time passed and he was able to spend more time in the area, he became increasingly alarmed by the damage that was being done to the land and its wildlife. He witnessed the virtual destruction of some big game species. Overgrazing severely impacted the grasslands which also affected the habitats of small mammals and songbirds. Conservation increasingly became one of Roosevelt’s main concerns. After he became President in 1901, Roosevelt used his authority to protect wildlife and public lands by creating the U.S. Forest Service and establishing 51 Federal Bird Reservations, 4 National Game Preserves, 150 National Forests, 5 National Parks, and enabling the 1906 American Antiquities Act which he used to proclaim 18 National Monuments. During his presidency,Theodore Roosevelt protected approximately 230,000,000 acres of public land.

    Theodore Roosevelt was the nation’s 26th President and is considered by many to have been our country’s “Conservationist President.”

    He also states: “It is also vandalism wantonly to destroy or to permit the destruction of what is beautiful in nature, whether it be a cliff, a forest, or a species of mammal or bird. Here in the United States we turn our rivers and streams into sewers and dumping-grounds, we pollute the air, we destroy forests, and exterminate fishes, birds and mammals — not to speak of vulgarizing charming landscapes with hideous advertisements. But at last it looks as if our people were awakening.” Theodore Roosevelt

    Are we really awakening?? We continue to annihilate wildlife and their habitat to our benefit even our leisure. If this isn’t a gross injustice, what is?

    It is time for humanity to take responsibility for our actions even unto death.

    1. Wow. Where to start?

      First, you are “quoting” a completely different act than the 1872 act which created Yellowstone. There is no “Organic act of 1872.”

      Further, the Yellowstone act never uses the word “wild life” in any form. You have to start from a place of integrity if you want to be taken seriously here.

      The “Organic act” you are quoting wasn’t created until 1916. That’s either very poor research on your part or an attempt to further your agenda through deception. I’m hoping it’s an error, not deceit, but I suppose it really doesn’t matter.

      The related quote in the actual 1872 act is:…”for the preservation, from injury or spoliation, of all timber, mineral deposits, natural curiosities, or wonders within said park, and their retention in their natural condition.”

      As I said originally, you can interpret the 1872 act as you wish, but it would serve you best if you didn’t view it with the eyes of a 21st Century biologist, and instead looked at with 19th Century sensibilities. When the 1872 act was written all apex predators were shot on sight, and in developed areas bounties were paid for their carcasses. That was the prevailing attitude until late in the 20th Century, (and sadly, remains the attitude in certain circles.) “Wild life” in the 1916 act you are misquoting wasn’t even an afterthought in 1872.

      Don’t think for a moment that Yellowstone was designed to save grizzlies, wolves, cougars, or even elk, moose and deer. It was meant to preserve Old Faithful, the Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone, Mud Volcano, the Grand Prismatic, etc., from development.

      And, I don’t believe I ever said the humans “deserve” to be protected at the cost of wildlife. In fact, I believe quite the opposite. I believe that all species, from the mosquito to the grizzly, have a place on this planet, and we have no right to decide which species exist and which are exterminated. But individual animals that pose a threat to people will always be sacrificed in the name of public safety. That’s exactly what happened here.

      So, the officials responsible for deciding the fate of the Yellowstone grizzly bear took public safety into account as the primary concern. It was the correct decision given the variables. As I’ve mentioned before, I also believe that the liability issue had a significant impact on their thinking.

      We need to stay objective to discuss this type of situation.

      Finally, I’m more familiar with the Roosevelt story than you could know, but I will say that quoting TR is bad form in this case since he was definitely of the bounty mentality and killed every predator he could both on his ranch and in his travels through the west. He was certainly one of the greatest conservationists in American history (and a personal favorite of mine), but he, like many of his contemporaries was primarily interested in increasing “game” species. Predators like grizzlies and wolves were obstacles to be overcome. Even Aldo Leopold focused all of his early efforts on game species and shot predators on sight. Then, thankfully, he had the “fierce green fire” epiphany.

      1. This biologist took too task the wrong photographer, way to school him Keith 🙂 Since the days of Aldo Leopold wildlife is in much better shape than it was then. Theodore Roosevelt helped with his land preservation and helping focus America’s eye on preservation. Like many hunting organizations though Roosevelt’s efforts were also to preserve something for him to shoot. Not a bad thing.

        Since Theodore Roosevelt and Aldo Leopold, we as a people have learned much about ecology and how all the flora and fauna are connected. We have been putting that knowledge of keystone species and trophic cascades to work to balance the ecosystems we can. Many species are back from the brink of extinction in the USA including the grizzly bear. Despite our out of control urban sprawl and population explosion, our wild places are getting better not worse.

        I am glad that I can recognize our success’s that other wildlife biologists, conservation organizations and hunting organizations have worked for, achieved and celebrated. In 1987 when I moved to the Yellowstone Ecosystem I couldn’t find any grizzlies or wolves, now I see them all the time. Recently a new colony of black footed ferrets were found by Cody completing the goal of having all the critters in the ecosystem that were there when Lewis and Clark passed close by in 1806.

        Those of us who know grizzlies don’t fear them as much as those that don’t. If we hope to expand grizzly habitat, not an easy task, the public relations battle might be easier if there were less grizzlies who have eaten people. Oh, the bigger picture? The larger goal? Everyone forgets about the bigger picture when a sympathetic anecdote comes along.

  87. We will always b in more danger from homo sapiens than from bears, sharks, funnel web spiders, mosquitoes in fact all other creatures added together (except the bugs that cause epidemics). Dogs sometimes turn on their owners & should an owner die any hungry dog or cat left alone with the corpse is likely to feed off it. Unlike the violent & sadistic humans that kill despite knowing the difference between right & wrong animals act mostly on instinct.

  88. Thank you for your gracious articles Mr. Crowley. As someone who knew Lance very well years ago and is struggling with the various perspectives, you cannot imagine how comforting it was to uncover a compassionate, professional writer on these events.

  89. Excellent, fair article. Unfortunately, many people tend to “humanize” wildlife and respond to incidents like this from that perspective. If only more people would educate themselves on wildlife behavior and take precautions before they naively enter situations where they are subject to dangerous encounters with wild animals! I have researched Yellowstone Park and their policies, which seem to me are diligent in their attempt to protect humans as well as wildlife. I have personal experience regarding wildlife management education and diligent professionals have the necessary knowledge, respect and motivation to protect our wildlife and understand their behavior, while also carrying the responsibility to protect human beings (an ongoing and difficult process). However, I believe the major responsibility lies with each person to educate themselves concerning wildlife behavior before they are in situations where they are likely to encounter the wildlife! Although destroying the bear is a tragic solution, the information I have seen shows the possibility of a bear or any wild predator, after they attack and consume a human being (no matter the circumstance) greatly increases the likelihood they will repeat the behavior. Compassion and understanding should be applied to both wildlife and humans and we must always remember that in most instances it is mankind entering the predators territory, therefore increasing the likelihood of tragic incidents of this kind. In conclusion, Bravo Mr. Crowley for fairly representing both sides of this story!

  90. I would like to see in a this kind a of situation that the animals ALL of them be placed in a zoo…..I know she killed but she is an amimal and deserves to be an animal and her cubs deserve to be with the mom…surly you could pen up animals and live out their lives

    1. Because that’s not horrifically cruel at all, taking a wild animal that is used to ranging for miles and miles and putting it in jail for the rest of its life.

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