A bear of a season

Posted: Sep 14, 2011

Written by

SARAH GILMAN, High Country News

The developed Yellowstone campground where John Wallace set up his tent last Wednesday probably made the national park seem relatively innocuous to the 59-year-old Michigan resident. It's peak season, after all, and the place was likely humming with human activity, cars, chatter -- those signs of weird, woodsy civilization peculiar to the West's iconic natural attractions that can mask such places' underlying wildness.

Sometime that same day or the next, Wallace set out alone on the Mary Mountain Trail, which winds 21 miles through the Hayden Valley and over Mary Mountain, offering views of meadows frequented by bison ... and passing into grizzly territory.

On Friday, two unfortunate hikers stumbled across Wallace's lifeless body 5 miles down the trail. An autopsy confirmed that he had been fatally mauled by a grizzly bear. His death is the second grizzly-related fatality this summer in a park that hadn't had a deadly mauling by a grizzly since 1986, and the fourth in the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem in the last two years. The circumstances of the latest attack are still unclear.

But when combined with the long list of aggressive bear encounters that have made headlines across the West this summer, it might lead you to think there's something unusual afoot.

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