Mother grizzly bear to receive death penalty if DNA test proves she killed hiker

© Jim Urquhart
They say you should never confront a mama bear, but officials at Yellowstone National Park are doing just that. A grizzly will soon be put to death if a DNA test proves she killed a hiker last week. Her cubs also face the possibility of being euthanized.

Park officials believe the mother bear – which was caught by a bear trap on Friday – is responsible for the death of 63-year-old hiker Lance Crosby, whose body was found “partially consumed and cached” by a ranger the same day.

Biologists are now awaiting the results of a DNA test which could prove the bear is responsible for Crosby's death. Scat samples and paw measurements were also taken by officials at the capture site.

Park authorities believe at least one cub was also involved in the mauling. One of the baby bears was caught on Monday.

If the bear is shown to be the one responsible for killing Crosby, it will itself be put to death. Park authorities would attempt to find a zoo or another animal facility to take in the cubs, but such placements are difficult. If they were unable to house the cubs, the young bears would also be sentenced to death.

The situation has sparked uproar from many online, who say the mother was in her natural habitat and was merely protecting her young.

“This bear was in it's (sic) habitat and a person was also in it. The bear protected her cubs as is natural. So the bear gets euthanized for doing a natural act? And if you do kill her, you'll probably kill the cubs too. WRONG WRONG WRONG!" Barbara Gallagher wrote on Yellowstone National Park's Facebook page, instead suggesting the park relocate the bear deeper into the woods.

But Yellowstone said that relocation simply wasn't an option.

“Relocation would simply shift a management issue from one area to another. We know the bear fed on the hiker's body and we do not want bears considering humans as food. Unfortunately, balancing visitor safety with resource protection leads to some very difficult decisions for park managers, and this is one of them,” Yellowstone wrote.

Others online have also expressed their outrage at the park, with some saying they will never visit again.

An online petition has also been launched, urging the park to release the bear. At the time of writing, the online document had received over 32,000 signatures.

Crosby – who had been working for Medcor, an organization which runs urgent care clinics in the park – was hiking alone, against park recommendations, and was not carrying bear spray.

The 63-year-old was the sixth person to be killed by a grizzly in the greater Yellowstone area since 2010. According to the National Park Service, the region is home to around 674 to 839 grizzlies.