The U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service confirmed that it’s investigating the shooting death of a grizzly bear just outside of Yellowstone National Park, according to a statement sent to Outdoors.com on Thursday.
The investigation was reportedly prompted by photographs taken by a person driving through the area. However, an FWS representative said he could not comment further because the incident was still being investigated.
In a Facebook post, wildlife photographer and conservationist Amy Gerber said that on May 1 some friends told her about a bear that had been hit by a car, but when she drove past the area, she saw state wildlife officers walking around the scene.
“I knew right then he wasn’t hit by a car,” she wrote and added that she confirmed that the bear had been shot. She also said she doesn’t think whoever killed the bear shot it out of self-defense because a scenario like that would’ve been reported.
Julie Argyle, a wildlife photographer who shared the pictures of the dead bear, dismissed the narrative that the bear had been put out of its misery after being hit by a car as well. “I believe in my heart, that if that were the case it would’ve been reported,” she wrote.
According to the social media posts, the bear’s body was found 20 to 40 yards off of a road in the morning hours about 14 miles away from the park’s entrance. And because of the location and timing, Gerber thinks the shooter was driving by, saw the bear, and killed it “for no apparent reason.”
The Facebook posts have garnered hundreds of comments, most of which express outrage and sadness over the bear’s killing. And the news comes at a particularly sensitive time. In February, the federal government proposed delisting grizzlies in Montana and Wyoming from the Endangered Species Act.
Although a final decision won’t be made for at least a year, both state governments argue their grizzly populations are large enough to be delisted. They have also already started planning to take over the management of the species. And if the responsibility were transferred to the states, grizzly advocates worry hunting seasons would quickly follow.
According to government estimates, there are approximately 30,000 grizzly bears in the U.S., but the majority of them live in Alaska and only about 2,000 of them roam the lower 48. Because of those low figures, grizzlies have been on and off listed as endangered or threatened since the 1970s.
In her statement, Gerber closed, saying that the dead bear deserves justice. “Grizzlies are the symbol of wilderness. They represent everything wild and free about this landscape,” she wrote. “Their presence is what makes the Greater Yellowstone Region special and like no place else in the lower 48.”
Shoot the person that shot the bear