Judge rules for U.S. government in fatal Wyoming bear attack

Fri Oct 26, 2012 7:12pm EDT

Related Topics

(Reuters) - A judge has ruled the U.S. government cannot be held liable for a grizzly bear attack that killed a man hiking in Wyoming, just hours after the animal had been captured, collared and released by federal researchers.

U.S. District Court Judge Nancy Freudenthal this week rejected a $5 million wrongful death suit brought by the widow of Erwin Evert, 70, who was fatally mauled by the male grizzly in June 2010.

Evert's widow, Yolanda Evert, filed the lawsuit in U.S. District Court in Wyoming, claiming the federal government had failed to warn the family about trapping activities near their private vacation cabin in the Shoshone National Forest.

The judge's ruling was based on a Wyoming law that exempts landowners from any obligation to keep the area safe "or to give any warning of a dangerous condition, use, structure or activity."

That exemption applies when the landowner, in this case the federal government, does not charge a fee for recreational use. Evert was not charged for hiking in the national forest.

A 2010 probe of the mauling found researchers had finished their work in the area and removed warning signs on their way out of the forest, because the weather was bad and they believed no one would be hiking near the trap site.

The investigative report by federal and state agencies found Evert knew of the trapping operation and had been told by a friend to stay out of the forest.

Freudenthal concluded in her ruling that she could not find "the risk of bear mauling was known or obvious to Mr. Evert."

Wildlife officials shot the bear dead from a helicopter shortly after Evert was killed.

(Editing by Alex Dobuzinskis and Todd Eastham)

We welcome comments that advance the story through relevant opinion, anecdotes, links and data. If you see a comment that you believe is irrelevant or inappropriate, you can flag it to our editors by using the report abuse links. Views expressed in the comments do not represent those of Reuters. For more information on our comment policy, see http://blogs.reuters.com/fulldisclosure/2010/09/27/toward-a-more-thoughtful-conversation-on-stories/
Comments (2)
cathy1954 wrote:
It is the responsibility of the hiker, sightseeker, etc to know the area they are visiting. If they have not educated themselves then they have no business going there. Sorry, but I don’t think the government has any duty to monitor the animals which are in their own territory. I am not knowledgible of Whyoming’s weather, but I would bet the bears are eatting in order to fatten up for hibernation.

Oct 26, 2012 12:16am EDT  --  Report as abuse
cathy1954 wrote:
Sorry for the typos ie Wyoming, sightseeing, etc.

Oct 26, 2012 12:19am EDT  --  Report as abuse
This discussion is now closed. We welcome comments on our articles for a limited period after their publication.