Portion of the CDT Closed After Fatal Grizzly Attack
Four miles of the Continental Divide Trail (CDT) near the town of West Yellowstone, MT have been closed after a woman was found dead following an apparent bear attack. According to a statement from Montana Fish, Wildlife, and Parks (MFWP), the deceased was found on Saturday morning, and tracks around the scene suggest that an adult grizzly and cub were in the area. The victim’s wounds were found to be consistent with a bear attack.
Custer Gallatin National Forest has implemented an emergency closure of the area, which extends south from Montana Highway 20 at Targhee Pass. The victim was found on the Buttermilk Trail, which is not part of the official CDT through the area, although they are very close. The CDT forms the western boundary of the restricted area, NOBO miles 2076.5 – 2080.5, and the CDTC is recommending that thru-hikers “consider alternative routes to avoid closure area.”
The area closure is due to remain in effect until August 25, 2023, and a search of the area has still not revealed any potential suspect bears.
The victim has yet to be identified, and the area is a popular tourist hub located near the boundary of Yellowstone National Park. Although the investigation is ongoing, the hiker was believed to be traveling alone, and rangers have uncovered no evidence of bear spray or firearms near the scene.
Practice Bear Safety
This time of year, West Yellowstone is bustling, and the nearby campgrounds and trails see heavy use. It is also an active time for bear populations which have been increasing in the region in recent years, which increases the potential for bear-human encounters.
When traveling in bear country, which covers almost the entirety of the CDT, MFWP recommends taking the following precautions:
- Carry bear spray and be prepared to use it immediately.
- Travel in groups whenever possible and make noise, which can help alert bears to your presence.
- Stay away from animal carcasses, which often attract bears.
- Follow food storage orders from the applicable land management agency.
- If you encounter a bear, never approach it. Leave the area when it is safe to do so.
- Keep garbage, bird feeders, pet food and other attractants put away in a secure building. Keep garbage in a secure building until the day it is collected. Certified bear-resistant garbage containers are available in many areas.
- Never feed wildlife. Bears that become food conditioned lose their natural foraging behavior and pose threats to human safety.
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