A bear bite probably killed a Virgin, Utah, man whose remains were found Friday in the Teton Wilderness but investigators aren’t yet certain what species of bear might be responsible.
A preliminary pathology report indicates the victim died from blunt force trauma, “probably a bear bite” to the head, Wyoming Game and Fish Lander Regional Wildlife Supervisor Jason Hunter told WyoFile on Monday. Hunter has worked closely with Fremont County officials in the ongoing investigation into the death of Adam Stewart, 31.
Stewart was visiting a plot to monitor vegetation under a contract with the U.S. Forest Service, Sheriff’s office records state. Volunteers and others launched a 5-day search for him in the Cub Creek drainage north of Togwotee Pass in the roadless Teton Wilderness of the Bridger-Teton National Forest.
Investigators didn’t know Monday what species might have killed Stewart. Officials have found “nothing that indicates from our investigation what type of bear it was,” Hunter said.
Tracks from both species – black and grizzly — were at the scene, he said. There also were clues on the remains that could show what species were on the victim’s body.
“Just looking at the hairs we could have two different species,” Hunter said.
Stewart was reported missing Sunday, Sept. 7 by employer Nature’s Capital LLC, an Idaho company that specializes in landscape assessments, according to the Fremont County Sheriff’s log. He was to have completed his trip Friday, Sept 5., the sheriff’s office said in a statement.
Up to 30 searchers and two helicopters were part of the effort. Searchers found Stewart’s camp first, and realized his pack was missing, suggesting he had left on his own. They eventually located his remains three miles away.
Investigators will try to unravel what happened.
“We have collected a lot of evidence at the scene,” Hunter said. “We work closely with these kind of incidents with the coroner’s office,” which will issue the final report and conclusions he said.
What happens to man-killing bears, assuming one can be identified, depends on circumstances, Hunter said.
“Every incident is a little different,” he said. “It depends what was going on at the time.
“Were there cubs involved, a food cache…” he said. “Those are the things we are still looking at right now.”
The Fremont County Sheriff’s Office turned the remains over to the coroner. Officials said in a statement Monday that while no identification had been made, investigators believe the remains are Stewart’s.
“The evidence is pointing towards a probable bear attack which occurred about three nautical miles north of his camp site,” Undersheriff Ryan Lee said in a statement.
The Cub Creek drainage is within the core recovery area for the Yellowstone area grizzly population, which is protected by the Endangered Species Act. Cub Creek flows west in a canyon 12 miles from the Continental Divide to the South Buffalo Fork of the Snake River. About nine of the 12 miles are in Fremont County.
Since 2010 there have been four fatal grizzly attacks in the Yellowstone ecosystem. Two occurred in Yellowstone National Park in 2011, both involving day hikers.
In 2010 a female grizzly was killed after she was suspected of killing a camper at the Soda Butte campground in the Gallatin National Forest about five miles northeast of Yellowstone. Earlier that summer a grizzly that had been recently trapped and tranquilized killed a botanist who hiked into an area where it had been released.