BILLINGS, Mont. (AP) — An animal trainer mauled to death while cleaning the Montana pen of two, 500-pound captive brown bears used for filmmaking suffered extensive wounds that make it impossible to determine if he was conscious before the attack, authorities said Monday.
There were no defensive wounds on the hands or arms of 24-year-old Benjamin Cloutier when his body was pulled from the pen Sunday, and he apparently had not used the bear spray he was carrying, said Demetri Price, head trainer at Animals of Montana near Bozeman.
As a result, Price speculated Cloutier might have fallen and hit his head before being killed.
Gallatin County Sheriff Brian Gootkin confirmed the absence of defensive wounds and that the mace-like bear spray had not been used. But he said there was no way to prove Cloutier was unconscious when the attack began.
"The body had been attacked so fiercely, there were so many injuries that there was no way — that's why we're not going to speculate," Gootkin said.
However, he said it was clear that Cloutier died of bite and claw wounds that hit major arteries.
The death remains under investigation by the sheriff's office and wardens from Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks. It has been listed as accidental and is not considered a criminal matter.
Animals of Montana provides captive-bred animals for photography shoots and motion pictures, ranging from African lions and minks to badgers and bobcats. The company says the bears have been used in "attack re-enactments" for films in which trainers are used as stuntmen.
The company's state license to operate as an animal menagerie will be reviewed in the wake of Cloutier's death, said Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks spokeswoman Andrea Shaw. She said it has no prior safety violations.
Price said there had been no prior problems with the animals owned by the company, adding that Cloutier was trained and knew what he was doing.
Cloutier had worked as a trainer at the company since 2008 and had been in the bear enclosure hundreds of times, Price said.