Investigating a grizzly bear attack in Yellowstone

Slate posted a very lengthy, detailed piece by Jesicca Grose on Monday centered around the investigation of a pair of fatal grizzly bear attacks in Yellowstone National Park last year. Boing Boing, a very popular web log, just picked up on this, so there’s likely to be quite a bit of discussion of this article over the next few days . . .

A grizzly was ambling along the Yellowstone River on a clear day in late September 2011, when she lifted her nose up and smelled something familiar in the air. She couldn’t tell quite what it was, but it smelled like food. Maybe the shredded remains of a bison taken down by a wolf pack, its innards sloughing out of its stomach and onto the riverbank. The sow may have spent the day digging up pocket gophers, but a feast like this would really help her to pack on weight. Within eight weeks she’d be taking her two young cubs into a den in the side of a slope for the long Western winter. They needed fat, and soon.

After months of a diet consisting mostly of grass and nuts and roots, the scent of dead meat was impossible to resist. The mother grizzly walked in the direction of the carrion with her cubs scrambling along behind her. The bigger one, with the blond face, was probably closer on his mother’s heels, with his brother, the color of burnt sienna, lagging behind. The sow had to keep a close eye on her offspring. There was always the threat of male bears trying to kill her family. They knew she wouldn’t go into heat again as long as her cubs were with her.