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Officials investigating grizzly bear shooting near Yellowstone National Park

Amy Wells 1.jpg
Posted at 8:19 AM, May 03, 2023

CODY, WY - State and federal wildlife agencies in Wyoming are investigating a case of a grizzly that was found shot dead, 14 miles outside of Yellowstone National Park.

A wildlife photographer in Wyoming came across a bear that had been killed.

Pictures have been posted on social media, and it's not clear exactly what happened but it's brought up responses from those who work closely with animals.

Photographer Amy Gerber was driving along the North Fork Highway between Cody and Yellowstone National Park when she spotted something that made her hit her brakes: a grizzly bear lying dead just a short distance off the road surrounded by game wardens.

"The game and fish guys looking around an area," Gerber said. "I heard that a bear had been hit by a car. So I stopped and when I spoke with them, the bear had not been hit by a car. They confirmed to me that the bear had been shot."

The Wyoming Game and Fish Department would not confirm to MTN News that the bear was shot but did confirm it and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is investigating.

"One photograph it appeared that maybe the right paw was missing, but he said, no, it was just folded under," Gerber said.

She also said she was told no bear claws were taken.

Gerber has been a biologist and a natural wildlife photographer for more than 30 years and even knows some bears in and around Yellowstone by number or name.

"I think I saw this bear a couple of days ago," Gerber said. "It looks like the same bear and I saw it in the willows along the river."

"Anytime that we see an animal that dies from suspicious causes, especially gunshots, your mind immediately goes there," said ZooMontana executive director Jeff Ewelt. "And it's a sad day when things like that happened to our wildlife."

Ewelt says poaching cases do not happen often, but when they do, it's a big concern. Especially when it involves a federally protected animal under the Endangered Species Act.

"It's devastating for us in the animal world to see something like this," Ewelt said. "To see a beautiful animal like that wasting away for no reason."

It's currently estimated there are fewer than 1,800 grizzly bears living in the lower 48 states, another reason Gerber says crimes like this are just so heartbreaking.

"We live in this amazing place," Gerber said. "We live in this last stronghold for something like a grizzly bear in the lower 48 states and I mean I don't take that for granted one single day."