Grizzly Who Killed Man Has Been Found

Alberta News and Calgary Sun, Bear Hunting Magazine

Update From Original Story Posted 10/3/2008

A female grizzly bear believed to be the killer of a Canadian hunter was shot and killed in Alberta. Fish and Wildlife officials said that, after the bear was killed Thursday, DNA tests confirmed it mauled Robert Wagner, 48, who died while hunting moose with a bow.

The bear was tracked by wildlife officers in a helicopter after a local resident reported it. Duncan MacDonnell of Sustainable Resource Development said officers were trying to locate the sow's three cubs. They are believed to be old enough to survive without their mother but may be relocated. MacDonnell refused to give details on where the sow was killed.

Wagner's death, a little more than a mile from a highway, scared local farmers. Some told the stated that grizzlies appear to be more common in their area than in the past.

MacDonnell stated, "I'm getting hate mail -- people have seen my name quoted in the articles and it isn't hard to figure out a government e-mail address."

"It's pretty bad stuff -- people assume that the victim, just because he was a hunter, is fair game, but what they don't know is, he was a bow hunter and he wasn't hunting for bear. Forget that he was a hunter for a moment, and consider that it might have been someone else, maybe a hiker."

There might be some merit to the outrage if Robert Wagner of Didsbury had done what most critics assume he did, that is stumble across the mother and her three cubs while hunting in the wilderness near Sundre. Bears are known to defend their young and to come between a mother bear and her cubs is a lethal mistake.

Had the grizzly killed Wagner out of defensive instinct, it would hardly seem sporting for Alberta Fish and Wildlife officers to track the bear and destroy it, leaving her cubs to an uncertain future. But this wasn't a defensive attack.

MacDonnell will not divulge what he says are disturbing details of the mauling, but he says Fish and Wildlife experts have certain proof that the grizzly hunted Wagner, 48, with the intent of killing him. "We are sure," said MacDonnell.

"I will not go into the details, out of respect for the family, but we are 100% certain this was a predatory attack and we were certain we had the right bear. Fish and Wildlife would not have killed that bear if they were not 100% certain," he said.

Those same officers have now sent the three cubs to a remote area, where it is hoped there are enough pre-winter resources available for them to survive without their mother. There was no choice but to send the yearling cubs into exile alone.

If the evidence that the grizzly was stalking human prey seems too vague, consider that bears are currently in pre-hibernation mode and fixated on finding food. This was a mother with three hungry cubs.

There is a big difference between a defensive mauling and killing for food: An autopsy, as conducted on the victim, would easily rule one or the other out. And so, a killer bear was, in turn, killed by wildlife officers, to keep the animal from seeking out a second human victim.

"The rule of thumb is that a predatory attack on a human is not normal bear behavior, and if you let that bear go, next week it could maul a child," said MacDonnell.

It is a sad case and the cold facts should quench the anger of most critics. Only the most idealistic of animal lovers would argue a blood-thirsty grizzly should be allowed to roam free, no matter how critically endangered the species is.

Fight for the animals that remain, certainly -- demand that Alberta's grizzlies be protected if you want. You might even question whether the encroachment of humans into bear habitat is a catalyst for confrontation, or whether dwindling territory is forcing bears to seek food from unusual sources. Valid questions, all.

But one question that is not valid anymore is why the mother grizzly had to be shot. As tragic as it is, Alberta cannot have killer bears wandering the wilderness.

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