The three bears are awaiting the results of a lab test but their case has already sparked cries of outrage from nature lovers who argue that the “mama grizzly” was simply defending her young.
“Nature should not pay the price for humans venturing out into the wild,” said one of the hundreds of people who protested to park authorities.
The killing happened on Friday when the “partially consumed” body of Lance Crosby, a 63-year-old experienced hiker, was found around a half-mile off a trail.
Mr Crosby was hiking alone, against park recommendations, and was not carrying any bear spray.
The mother and one of her cubs were later caught in bear traps and a DNA sample from the mother has been sent off for testing to determine if she was responsible the killing.
Park authorities are trying to find a zoo or some other animal facility to take the cubs, who were born this spring, but so far have been unable to find one. If nowhere will take them, they too will be put to death.
“This is not something the park takes lightly,” said Amy Bartlett, a spokeswoman for Yellowstone. “Nobody wants to have to kill a bear but it’s a fine balance between public safety and preserving resources.”
The park has been inundated with calls and Facebook messages protesting against killing the mother. “We’ve been getting lots of calls from people who are lobbying for the bear,” Ms Bartlett said.
“Are we now going to kill every animal that kills even if it is in its own habitat?” asked Barbara Gallagher on the park’s Facebook page. “Will we be killing every shark that kills someone because they happen to be swimming where the sharks are?”
Park authorities said they were mindful of an incident in 2011 when a mother bear killed a hiker but was determined to be protecting her young.
The bear was allowed to live but several weeks later it was involved in a second attack and had to be put down.
Including Mr Crosby, just eight people have been killed by bears in Yellowstone since records began in 1916. Two of them were killed in separate incidents in 2011.
Yellowstone’s website records a possible fatality in 1906 when “a man was attacked by a female grizzly bear after he prodded her cub with an umbrella”.
This article was first published by The Telegraph on 11 Aug 2015.
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