Slate Magazine runs a big feature on a grizzly bear guilty of homicide

“Justice” was done when the ‘Wapiti Sow” was euthanized (executed?)-

An earlier story today remarked that in springtime our thoughts seem to turn to bears as they wake up and we get to run stories saying “be careful.”

Just in time, Slate Magazine has run a very thorough story on the life of a Yellowstone Park grizzly bear, nicknamed “the Wapiti Sow,” and her death at human hands last year on account of what can be called “her crimes,” which were two “homicides.” Moreover, she corrupted her cubs.

Here is a link to A Death in Yellowstone: On the trail of a killer grizzly bear. By Jessica Grose




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  1. Mike Avatar

    Ralph –

    It seemed top me the story threw a bit of a shadow on what bear killed the second hiker.

  2. Chuck Avatar

    It always bothers me when a bear is killed. I think any respnsible hiker should be bear aware. When ever my wife and I are hiking in yellowstone we both pack bear spray, never had to use yet. I have never been involved with an aggresive bear, no bluff charges. So I can’t tell you how hard it would be to just stand there as a bear is running at you. But I think that alot of people tend to forget that even thou yellowstone is a national park, you are still in the animals home, so it is your duty to respect that and understand the dangers that are involved. I know my personal feeling is if I were ever killed by a bear I would not want that bear to be killed. There is so much more I could say.

    1. Deb Avatar

      I agree Chuck…it is their home. Moreover, what really really bothers me about this is that Ralph labels the deaths caused by bears (probably defending their cubs) as “homicides,” yet when humans use hounds to run them to near exhaustion and then treeing them for and easy kill, it’s called wildlife “management” or “hunting.”

      1. Maska Avatar

        Please note that Ralph is quoting the Slate article when he calls the deaths “homicides.” In the text he wrote, he used quotation marks to make clear the fact that he’s quoting the article, not applying the term himself.

  3. Virginia Avatar

    I reiterate that the author never mentions the fact that neither of these people were carrying bear spray. Also, the results of the DNA seem to indicate that the biologists aren’t too sure which bear killed Wallace. So, do we just go down the line and euthanize any bear that comes into contact with a body, even though there is no real evidence that particular bear was the killer?

    1. Leslie Avatar

      You can read the YNP report on the incident.

      The Report clearly states that they are not certain which bear killed Wallace, but only that this bear was at the scene and its DNA was found on Wallace indicating that she was eating on him once dead. Since she was the same bear that killed the 1st hiker, they put her down. What I heard the Park supervisor say about this was that he preferred to error on the side of safety, not have a possible predatory bear around, rather than jeopardize all their efforts with the grizzly program.

      I understand his statement, on the other hand I also think that many times putting a bear down is to placate the public. This was absolutely, I feel, the case with the Evert death. Because his death was very near Pahaska Teepee and tourist areas. Even though that bear ran off way into the backwoods, they needed to make the tourists and the shops feel ‘safe’. Probably the only true predatory bear in the last couple years was the Soda Butte incident. And the report showed a parasite ridden underweight mother and underweight cubs.

      To me this shows bears need more room to roam, not less.

  4. Mike Avatar

    The article was pretty good, save for the use of “homicide” and the failure to include the bear spray facts. That said, the author did make the point she was”fresh off the cart”. Either way, her descriptions of the mother bear and her cubs were quite good.

    I enjoyed the author’s honesty in regards to Peacock’s claim about what makes Yellowstone wild.

    The article contained a sincere, emotional element which is not all that common.

  5. Alan Avatar

    There really should be a law that requires that anyone hiking a back country trail (not a boardwalk in a geyser basin or the little strolls out to Artist Point etc. at the Canyon, but a true back country trail) in Yellowstone carry bear spray. At very least on certain trails, and in certain areas (for those smart A’s who would argue, “Well, I wasn’t hiking ON the trail!)
    I also wouldn’t mind seeing a day-use permit system. To make it manageable, a season long permit could be issued. Once a year you stop into a visitor center, listen to a short spiel, or watch a short video, about wildlife and general outdoor safety, and get your permit. It absolutely amazes me how many idiots I run into on Yellowstone trails every year. Little children running way ahead on the trail, out of sight of their parents; no bear spray. No clue. It’s not only bears. People walking within twenty feet of a bull bison, snorting and scratching the ground.
    It amazes me that more people are not hurt or killed every year.

  6. Larry Thorngren Avatar

    The sow and her cubs look like it was a long hard winter. They look under-weight and skinny. The density of bears in the Hayden valley may be high enough to keep the bears always hungry and therefore dangerous to hikers.
    I watched a Yellowstone Grizzly kill an elk calf a few years ago. She held the live calf down with both paws and ate the screaming calf one bite at a time, starting in the middle.. I suspect a grizzly would eat a human the same way. I carry two cans of bear spray when hiking in Yellowstone.

  7. Linda Jo Hunter Avatar

    Relatively well written article. So, does anyone know anything about the bear 693? There seems to be something missing in our knowledge of what a dead human means to a bear. Does the latter DNA finding mean that perhaps another bear killed Wallace or that every bear in the area investigated the scene lone before any human discovered it. I still can’t fit all the pieces together with concert answers for either the two different grizzlies who reportedly killed two girls in Glacier on the same night or for the Treadwell death . . there is always something that doesn’t fit the evidence collected.

    1. Alan Avatar

      It is entirely possible that another bear killed Wallace. This sow was blamed because of circumstantial evidence. She was, at some point, in the area and, evidently, fed on the carcass. She wasn’t the only bear; but she was the only one involved in a previous death.
      Another tragic aspect of this case is that Wallace apparently was offered advice on hiking in bear country at the campground the night before his hike. He declined, telling the ranger that he was a bear expert. Kind of like Treadwell.
      Bears, like humans, are all individuals. Just because twenty in a row act one way, doesn’t mean the twenty first won’t act differently. No matter how much experience I acquire, I listen to any advice I can get.

  8. Alison Randall Avatar
    Alison Randall

    The sow and her cubs look hungry and a hungry mother is dangerous. Many visitors to Yellowstone see it as a Disneyfied tourist destination rather than an area where there are many potentially dangerous animals that should be respected and viewed from afar.
    To kill the sow seems premature, and to put the cubs on display just reinforces the commodification of the wildlife in Yellowston


Dr. Ralph Maughan is professor emeritus of political science at Idaho State University. He was a Western Watersheds Project Board Member off and on for many years, and was also its President for several years. For a long time he produced Ralph Maughan’s Wolf Report. He was a founder of the Greater Yellowstone Coalition. He and Jackie Johnson Maughan wrote three editions of “Hiking Idaho.” He also wrote “Beyond the Tetons” and “Backpacking Wyoming’s Teton and Washakie Wilderness.” He created and is the administrator of The Wildlife News.

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Ralph Maughan