(NOTES: Originally published June 27, 2012)

We find the National Park Service roadkill reports interesting, so there will be a few of these drifting in on Assorted Skullduggery over the next week. As you will see, park officials take this stuff seriously. Our first installment is about a bear that was hit Thursday. Below is the NPS release:

Investigation Reveals Details about Collision between a Vehicle and Grizzly Bear
Date: June 22, 2012
An ongoing investigation by Grand Teton National Park rangers, with assistance from Wyoming Highway Patrol, has clarified the circumstances around a vehicle accident that resulted in the death of a young male grizzly bear on June 21. The driver of the vehicle, a 29-year-old Pennsylvania man, sustained minor injuries and his sedan incurred significant damage.

The preliminary investigation has determined that a southbound vehicle slightly swerved to avoid a young grizzly bear that was trying to cross the highway. That unexpected maneuver caused the northbound vehicle to also swerve, over correct, and veer off into the sagebrush on the west side of Highway 26/89/191. At some point while the vehicle careened through the sage, it collided with the bear-the animal was not struck on the road surface. The vehicle came to rest about 80 feet off the road. Findings from the accident scene reconstruction suggest that neither vehicle was speeding at the time of the incident. The daytime speed limit on this highway is 55 mph.

The young bear was still breathing when park rangers arrived at the scene, but it died shortly after. Grand Teton National Park biologists removed the carcass and took hair and tissue samples as well as a tooth, which determines the age of the bear. Biologists will submit a hair sample for DNA testing to determine whether this bear is related to identifiable grizzlies within the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem (GYE).

The Interagency Grizzly Bear Study Team conducts research on grizzly bears throughout the 22-million-acre GYE as part of a long-term effort to monitor the population. The hair sample will be matched with available data collected by this interdisciplinary group of scientists and biologists. The team has obtained data on grizzlies through biological samples and radio-collar tracking since 1973. The team is composed of representatives from the U.S. Geological Survey, National Park Service, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, U.S. Forest Service, and the States of Idaho, Montana, and Wyoming.

This is the first bear fatality caused by a vehicle on park roads this year. However each year in Grand Teton, an average of one or more bears (grizzly and/or black bears) are involved in vehicle collisions that result in the injury or death of the animal.

In the past six years, vehicle-related deaths of bears include: 2006, one black bear; 2007, two black bears and one grizzly bear cub; 2009, one black bear; and 2010, one grizzly bear, one black bear cub, and one black bear cub and two other bears (unverified species) that were injured but left the scene; 2011, two black bears, according to the National Park Service.

These encounters between vehicles and bears — among other wildlife accidents — serve as a reminder that animals actively cross and use park roads. Motorists are reminded to drive the posted speed limit and be prepared to stop suddenly for wildlife, or those viewing wildlife, along or on park roadways. Driving slower than indicated speed limits-especially at night-can increase the margin of safety for people and animals. Collisions between motor vehicles and wildlife may result in severe damage to a vehicle, serious or fatal injuries to the occupants of that vehicle, and/or death for the animal involved.

In addition to bears, other wildlife such as wolves, elk, moose, bison, deer, pronghorn antelope, as well as smaller creatures such as beavers, marmots, and porcupines may also be encountered on or near park roads. (6.27.12)

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