BOZEMAN – A Montana wildlife company said Saturday that it will defy the state’s request that it kill a captive brown bear involved in the fatal mauling of an animal trainer.
Demetri Price, head trainer for Animals of Montana Inc. near Bozeman, said Saturday the company would challenge any attempt to kill the bear nicknamed Yosemite.
Trainer Benjamin Cloutier was killed Nov. 4 while cleaning a cage with Yosemite and a second bear, named Griz, that was later shot by Price.
Price said he believes Yosemite did not take part in the mauling, although he said there was no way to know for sure. He said that when he arrived to find Cloutier dead, Griz was protecting the body and Yosemite was staying away.
The captive-bred animals were used for photography and filmmaking.
State wildlife officials on Friday requested that Yosemite be killed to protect the safety of the public and employees of Animals of Montana. It’s unclear if the state’s request – referred to as an order in an earlier report – has legal standing.
A spokesman for Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks did not immediately return a call seeking comment.
Cloutier’s death remained under investigation by state and federal officials, although the Gallatin County sheriff has ruled it an accident and said it does not appear to be a criminal matter.
The bears and about 50 other predators and other animals were rented out by Animals of Montana for filmmaking and photography shoots, which took place both at its Bozeman facility and off-site. The state is evaluating the company’s operating license in the wake of the mauling, although on Friday it told Animals of Montana that it can take three big cats off-site for an upcoming commercial shoot.
Price said the company has been in touch with an attorney about the request to kill Yosemite but has not responded to state officials.
“I myself personally fully intend to protect this bear with everything I have. They are going to have to arrest me and take me away in chains before they can take the bear,” he said.