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Caretaker kills grizzly near Yellowstone

BOISE – Officials are investigating the killing of a young female grizzly bear by the caretaker of a private residence in eastern Idaho near Yellowstone National Park.

The caretaker shot the bear Friday evening in the Shotgun Valley area of Island Park, said Gregg Losinski of the Idaho Department of Fish and Game. No humans were injured. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is investigating because grizzlies are listed as a threatened species.

Losinski said the caretaker was carrying a rifle while performing chores because a bear had been at the property before and had torn down a birdfeeder.

The bear died only a few miles from the site of an Aug. 15 grizzly bear attack on two Bureau of Land Management contract workers. The bear charged after being startled, biting one worker on the thigh and backside. The other worker used pepper spray and was bitten on the hand before the bear ran off.

“The one thing we’re most interested in is if this is the same bear involved in the incident a week ago,” Losinski said Sunday.

He said DNA samples from the dead bear will be compared with DNA taken from the clothing of the workers who were attacked. He didn’t know when results would be available.

Grizzly attacks have become more common in Wyoming, Montana and Idaho as the region’s grizzly population has rebounded over the past 20 years. Losinski said the Yellowstone region now has slightly more than 600 grizzlies.

In a different incident that also occurred Aug. 15, a sow grizzly attacked two hikers in Yellowstone National Park on a trail near Canyon Village after the hikers came across a young cub. One hiker was treated at a hospital for bite and claw wounds. The other was treated at the scene. Officials decided not to pursue the grizzly.

Grizzly attacks have wounded at least three others in the Rockies this year, including a rancher east of Yellowstone and a woman on Montana’s Blackfeet Indian Reservation. Last month, a researcher near Island Park underwent minor surgery after being bitten by a grizzly.

Attacks tend to pick up as hunters roam the backcountry in pursuit of elk each fall. Losinski said grizzly bears take advantage of the fall hunting season by feeding on gut piles of killed game left by hunters.

“The bears follow the food, and the food is always changing,” he said.