Friday, July 8, 2011

Victim of Yellowstone grizzly bear mauling was Torrance resident

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Victim of Yellowstone grizzly bear mauling was Torrance residentJuly 7, 2011 |  1:26pmincrease text sizedecrease text size

Officials at Yellowstone National Park have identified the victim in Wednesday's fatal grizzly bear mauling as 57-year old Brian Matayoshi of Torrance.

The bear's defensive attack was so rare, officials called it a "1 in 3-million" occurrence.

In a news conference at the park, Yellowstone Supt. Dan Wenk provided more details about the attack, which was the first time a park visitor has been killed by a bear in 25 years.  Wenk said that Matayoshi and his wife, Marylyn, [A previous version of this post spelled her name incorrectly] were hiking on the Wapiti Lake trail about 11 a.m. when the couple observed a female grizzly and two cubs.

The California couple backed away and retreated in the direction they had come. When they turned to look back at the bears, the grizzly sow was already charging them, Wenk said. Matayoshi yelled to his wife to run and she took shelter behind a fallen tree at the side of the trail.

Wenk said the sow reached Brian Matayoshi first, fatally biting and clawing him. The bear then approached Marilyn Matayoshi, who was playing dead, according to Wenk. The grizzly apparently picked her up by the backpack she was wearing then dropped her to ground, uninjured.

The bear left the area and Marilyn Matayoshi rushed to check the condition of her husband, officials said, then attempted to call 911 with her cellphone. She was unable to find a signal and called for help. A group of six hikers heard her shouts and were able to call authorities, who responded in 15 to 20 minutes, Wenk said.

The Maytayoshis were on their fourth trip to Yellowstone, Wenk said, and had hiked the park's trails but had never encountered a bear.

Kerry Gunther, a Park Service wildlife biologist who specializes in bears, said based on the information authorities have, the bear perceived a threat to her cubs and attacked to defend them. "There is no indication that this was a predatory attack," he said.

Park officials said there would be no action taken against the animal, although there are continuing efforts to find it. Wenk said that because of the rarity of the attack, he was organizing a Board of Inquiry into the incident.


Grizzly bear kills hiker in Yellowstone National Park

Grim outlook for grizzlies in Yellowstone region

Yellowstone a petri dish for climate change

---Julie Cart

Photo: A grizzly bear crosses a road in Yellowstone National Park in 2009. Credit: David Grubbs / Billings (Mont.) Gazette

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