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John Wallace, Yellowstone Bear Attack Victim, Called Himself A 'Grizzly Expert'

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By Laura Zuckerman

SALMON, Idaho, March 5 (Reuters) - A man killed by a grizzly bear in Yellowstone National Park had been warned about the danger the animals presented but said he was a grizzly "expert" who didn't need the standard safety lecture, according to a report released on Monday.

John Wallace, 59, was fatally mauled in August on a hiking trail in terrain favored by the bears. It was the second fatal mauling in the park last summer and came after officials allowed the mother grizzly behind a deadly attack in July to roam free.

That bear was captured and euthanized in October after DNA and footprint analyses showed it and one of its cubs were likely among grizzlies that ate part of Wallace's body in the 24-hour period between his death and the discovery of his remains by hikers.

The probe by government bear managers shows Wallace set off for a hike on August 25 alone and without bear spray. He was on a trail where a sign warned visitors they were entering bear country, advised use of bear spray and discouraged hiking alone.

A day before, the Chassell, Michigan man had registered at a park campground, where officials gave him a standard lecture about bear safety and food storage.

"He made a statement ... that he did not need to hear that information and that he was a 'grizzly bear expert,'" according to the report released by Yellowstone rangers and federal and state bear biologists.

Officials could not determine what triggered the mauling. An examination revealed Wallace's injuries included bites on his hands, arms and back. Portions of the body were consumed but investigators could not identify the bear that killed him.

The mother grizzly later euthanized by the park had been involved in an attack that killed a hiker on July 6. It was Yellowstone's first fatal mauling since 1986.

In that case, officials determined that the female grizzly was acting in a purely defensive manner to protect its cubs from the perceived threat posed by the hiker, Brian Matayoshi, 58, of Torrance, California, and his wife.

But the fact that bear had been involved in a second fatal encounter led to its demise, Park Superintendent Dan Wenk said in October.

"The bear management program in Yellowstone National park is far too important than to risk it on one bear," Wenk said after announcing the grizzly had been put down. Its two cubs were sent to a public wildlife refuge.

The park in recent years has stepped up "bear aware" campaigns aimed at equipping visitors with techniques, such as packing bear spray, that might prove life-saving in grizzly encounters.

Wallace's family described him as an experienced and able back country hiker and outdoorsman, the report shows.

"It is not unusual for experienced outdoorsmen to understand and accept the risks associated with hiking alone in bear country. Many hikers in Yellowstone National Park hike alone," the report found. (Editing by Dan Whitcomb and Tim Gaynor)

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