On Saturday morning, a woman was found deceased on the Buttermilk Trail west of West Yellowstone following an apparent bear encounter. Investigators confirmed grizzly bear tracks at the scene, and the investigation is ongoing.
The Custer Gallatin National Forest has issued an emergency closure of the Buttermilk area for human safety. Please avoid the area. More information will be provided as it becomes available.
Generally, the Buttermilk Area Closure is located about eight miles west of West Yellowstone. It follows the Continental Divide Trail (Forest Service Trail #116) from the trailhead near Targhee Pass on Highway 20 south to the confluence with Cream Creek Road (Forest Service Road #1703 and Road 484). The area closure follows these roads to the east and north back to the Forest Service boundary just south of Highway 20 and to the west to connect with the Continental Divide Trail (Trail #116).
Bears can be found throughout Montana. In recent years, grizzly bear populations have expanded. People venturing into the outdoors should “Be Bear Aware” by following these precautionary steps:
– Carry and know how to use bear spray.
– Travel in groups whenever possible and plan to be out in the daylight hours.
– Avoid carcass sites and concentrations of ravens and other scavengers.
– Watch for signs of bears such as bear scat, diggings, torn-up logs and turned-over rocks, and partly consumed animal carcasses.
– Make noise, especially near streams or in thick forests where hearing and visibility are limited, to alert bears to your presence.
– Don’t approach a bear.
Learn more: fwp.mt.gov/conservation/wildlife-management/bear.
The fatality is the third bear-related death in North America this year. On June 16th, 2023, Stephen Jackson, 66, was killed by a black bear in Arizona, and on January 17th, 2023, Summer Myomick, 24, was killed by a polar bear in Alaska. It is the first fatality in Yellowstone National Park since April 2021 and only the second in the last decade.
Bear attacks are rare in North America. Attacks are for predatory, territorial, or protective reasons. Most wilderness attacks have occurred when there were only one or two people in the vicinity.