By Jessianne Wright
BIG SKY – A 10-year-old boy was injured by a grizzly bear in Yellowstone National Park on Aug. 23 after he and his family encountered the bear on Divide Trail southeast of Old Faithful. This was the first bear attack reported in Yellowstone since 2015, though the park sees an average of one per year.
The Washington family was about a half-mile up the trail when the bear appeared out of the vegetation. According to a statement released by Yellowstone officials, the boy ran from the bear, but it chased and knocked him to the ground, causing injuries to his wrist, back and buttocks.
His parents deployed bear spray and it left the area.
Following the incident, the family returned to the trailhead, drove to the Old Faithful Ranger Station, and the boy was transferred to the Big Sky Medical Center for treatment.
Law enforcement and bear management staff returned to Divide Trail after the encounter in order to identify the bear species. Tracks were spotted that indicate the bear was a female grizzly with at least one cub born this year or last, likely foraging next to the trail when the encounter occurred.
As this was a surprise encounter where the female grizzly was likely defending its cub, park rangers do not intend to search for the bear.
“This incident could have been more serious. We applaud the family for traveling in a group, carrying bear spray, and knowing how to effectively use it during their emergency,” said Yellowstone National Park Deputy Superintendent Pat Kenney in the statement. “We wish their son a full recovery from his injuries.”
At EBS press time on Aug. 29, both Spring Creek and Divide trails remained temporarily closed while bear managers monitored the area for bear activity.
As black bears and grizzlies prepare for hibernation, they become hyperphagic and dramatically increase their food intake in order to gain weight for winter survival.
It’s important for everyone visiting Yellowstone National Park in the fall to be especially bear-aware as the bruins are more active and potentially less aware of their surroundings as they seek food. To avoid surprise encounters, be alert, make noise and hike in groups of three or more. The park advises visitors to carry bear spray and try to stand your ground if charged by a bear.
Visit go.nps.gov/yellbearsafety to learn more.