CHEYENNE, Wyo. (CN) – The widow of a botanist says her husband was killed by a grizzly bear because a federal Interagency Grizzly Bear Study Team laid bait to attract bears, but never warned them of what they were doing on hiking routes near their cabin near Yellowstone National Park.
Yolanda Evert says her husband, Erwin, was fatally mauled by a grizzly “approximately twenty-one yards from where bear #646 was left to recover unmonitored from the effects of chemical immobilization and other intrusions, and almost directly under a tree where the IGBST crew had hung bait.”
Evert says that after the Interagency Grizzly Bear Study Team (IGBST) trapped, drugged and tagged the adult male grizzly, No. 646, the team violated protocol and left the bear as it “began showing limited signs of recovery by holding up and swaying his head,” instead of waiting, as they should have, for the bear to be “ambulatory.”
She claims the crew again violated “long-established procedures, policies, orders and permit requirements” by removing warning signs stating: “Danger! Bear trap in the area. The area behind this sign is temporarily closed. The closure is effective from 6-11-10 to 6-20-10.”
The widow says: “Shortly after the crew took down the warning signs, Erwin Evert walked on the trail, a decommissioned road, without knowledge of warning that he was walking in the same location of a trap site or a recently trapped and recovering bear.”
She says the recently sedated bear killed her husband.
The Interagency Grizzly Bear Study Team is a joint effort of the U.S. Geological Survey and the Department of Interior. They are studying grizzly bears in the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem.
The only defendant in the federal complaint is the United States of America, but Evert says the mistakes were made by grizzly bear captors Chad Dickinson and Seth Thompson, overseen by Team Leader Charles Schwartz, on June 17, 2010.
“The IGBST guidelines clearly state that … ‘Bear researchers and managers must make careful decisions and always warn the public when a trap has been placed in the vicinity or when there is a potential for a confrontation,'” the complaint states.
But Evert says the team violated protocol repeatedly that day, near the Kitty Creek drainage in the Shoshone National Forest, about 7 miles from Yellowstone’s east entrance.
She says the two-man field crew lured bears with “road kill baits and scent lure.”
She and her husband lived in one of 14 private cabins at the bottom of Kitty Creek drainage, “and had lived there seasonally for nearly 40 years.”
She claims, “The field crew talked to the residents of just one of the 14 cabins throughout the approximately three-week trapping period despite the field crew’s twice daily travel past the cabins.
“The IGBST field crew claims they saw Erwin at least twice at his cabin, yet the IGBST field crew never informed or warned Erwin of their trapping activity.
“Neither the homeowners nor the public were provided with advance written notification of the crew’s trapping efforts.”
She says the crew created “the incident site (Site #3)” on June 12, less than ¾-mile from the closest of the 14 cabins, on a decommissioned Forest Service road.
The adult grizzly, a male who was tagged as No. 646, was trapped sometime on June 16 or 17. It never had been captured before, and the capture “created swelling in the bear’s right foot, and the bear had a large open wound on its left shoulder, and numerous fight wounds on its head and neck,” the complaint states.
“Within the same time frame, an adult female grizzly near (#628) was captured at Site #2.”
Between 9 and 10 a.m. on June 17, Evert says, “The crew pulled the bear’s tooth, tattoo stamped its upper lips, tagged its ears, administered antibiotics, took samples and fitted the bear with a radio collar.
“At 1230 hours the bear began showing limited signs of recovery by holding up and swaying his head.
“Despite IGBST protocol and procedures requiring the crew to remain at the site until the bear is ambulatory, the crew left the bear to check the other snare at Site #2.
“In the IGBST Bear Tagging Form, the crew noted ‘?’ in the box inquiring when the bear’s recovery from sedation was complete.”
The complaint continues: “On June 17, 2010, as the crew left Site #3, and despite the long-established procedures, policies, orders and permit requirements, the crew removed all warning signs at Site #3 which stated, ‘DANGER! BEAR TRAP IN THE AREA. THE AREA BEHIND THIS SIGN IS TEMPORARILY CLOSED. THE CLOSURE IS EFFECTIVE FROM 6-11-10 TO 6-20-10.’
“The signs that the crew removed stated that the area was to be closed until June 20, 2010. The crew removed the signs three days early.
“Shortly after the crew took down the warning signs, Erwin Evert walked on the trail, a decommissioned road, without knowledge or warning that he was walking in the same location of a trap site or a recently trapped and recovering bear.
“There were no warning signs of any type when Erwin approached the site where he was killed.
“Until moments before his death, Erwin Evert was never in the vicinity of Site #3 while trapping occurred from June 12-17, 2010.
“As the crew prepared to leave the Kitty Creek drainage area, they encountered Yolanda Evert and she expressed concern as to her husband’s whereabouts. Chad Dickinson rode directly back to site #3 to look for Mr. Evert. Mr. Dickinson found Mr. Evert’s mauled body approximately twenty-one yards from where bear #646 was left to recover unmonitored from the effects of chemical immobilization and other intrusions, and almost directly under a tree where the IGBST crew had hung bait.
“Mr. Dickinson left Mr. Evert at the scene without dismounting from his horse.
“Mr. Evert was fatally mauled by bear #646.
“Two days later, bear #646 was killed by management agencies. DNA from bear #646’s hair was matched to the DNA of bear hair recovered from Erwin’s body.
“On that same day, June 19, 2010, trapping crews were advised to ‘continue to carefully follow protocols for warning signs in the area of all capture operations before, during, and after captures.'”
Since Evert’s death, grizzly attacks have claimed the lives of three more people in the Yellowstone area.
Yolanda Evert seeks damages for funeral and burial expenses, loss of companionship, loss of future support, and $5 million for wrongful death.
She is represented by Emily Rankin with The Spence Law Firm of Jackson, Wyo.