BILLINGS, Mont. -- A grizzly bear that mauled a 57-year-old hiker to death in Yellowstone National Park was defending her cubs and had not threatened humans before. So park officials decided Thursday to leave it alone to wander the backcountry.
The mauling, the park's first in 25 years, temporarily closed one of Yellowstone's top attractions on one of the busiest days of the year, leaving tourists to wonder what was going on.
"It was not predatory and so we see no reason to take action against the bear," said Kerry Gunther, bear management biologist for Yellowstone.
The attack was a reminder of the potential -- if rare -- dangers that the millions of annual tourists face while visiting the national park known for its burgeoning bear population and the Old Faithful geyser.
It was the park's first fatal grizzly attack since 1986, but the third in the region in just over a year.
Park officials based their conclusion on the account of the hiker's wife, who survived, as well as their knowledge of bear behavior.
Brian and Marylyn Matayoshi, of Torrance, Calif., were hiking in a backcountry meadow along a trail a mile and a half from the trailhead when they saw the bear foraging about 100 yards away. The couple immediately turned and began walking away, officials said.
The grizzly charged and fatally attacked Brian Matayoshi, then went for his wife, who ran for cover behind a tree. The grizzly lifted her off the ground by the day pack she was wearing, then dropped her, unharmed.