It was likely a chance encounter that ended in the worst way possible.

Bears are coming out of their winter dens, hungry and not in the best of spirits. Montanans are eager to get out and enjoy the great outdoors more frequently. Tragically, when a grizzly's and a hiker's paths crossed late last week, it resulted in a fatal mauling.

With the weather starting to warm up, barer slopes, wooded areas and meadows are inviting outdoor enthusiasts to search for newly dropped antlers. Shed hunting for these treasures is growing in popularity.

By all accounts, Craig Clouatre was pursuing elk antlers. Associated Press reports that he was in a heavily wooded, off-trail area north of Yellowstone National Park. Two days after he went missing, authorities found his remains. Today (Monday), Park County authorities said that tracks left at the scene and the nature of the attack suggest that Mr. Clouatre was mauled by a grizzly bear. DNA testing of animal hair found at the scene will likely confirm this.

Usually, these tragedies are followed by a report of Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks personnel pursuing the animal believed to be responsible, and subsequent euthanization once the suspected bear has been located. That is not the case here.

Authorities are not attempting to track down this grizzly. There are no signs that point to it being a predatory attack. Mr. Clouatre could have been taking every precaution imaginable. We may never know how sudden the encounter actually was.

Shed hunting or otherwise, please take every precaution you can if you are venturing into bear territory this spring.

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