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ARE HUNGRY BEARS IN YELLOWSTONE ATTACKING HUMANS FOR FOOD?
For 24 years, from 1986 until 2010, there were no mortal encounters with grizzlies in Yellowstone National Park. But four deadly incidents over the past two summers have hikers on edge, reigniting the fierce debate over bear management.
WHY THE SUDDEN SPIKE in fatal bear encounters? Part of the problem, believes U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service grizzly bear recovery coordinator Chris Servheen, who has spearheaded the government’s efforts to bolster bear populations for over a quarter-century, is messaging. One of Servheen’s great vexations is an inability to make the millions of Yellowstone visitors pay attention to a few basic rules of travel in grizzly country: don’t hike alone, make lots of noise, carry bear spray, and, if a grizzly still keeps coming, drop into a prone position. Wallace, Evert, and the Matayoshis had all, on more than one occasion, seen grizzly literature or signage. Yet none carried bear spray, and Evert and Wallace were hiking alone—acts that ignore official warnings and recommendations.
“My candid opinion is that we have not been very successful at communicating to the public,” Servheen says. “We produce a lot of information, but we don’t get that information to people.”