Sheriff: Fierce wounds complicate MT mauling probe

Associated Press Modified: November 5, 2012 at 7:01 pm •  Published: November 5, 2012
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Price was the first person to arrive at the pen after the mauling. He described Cloutier's death as a "tragic accident" and insisted it was not an attack. Cloutier did not scream for help, and none of the other animals at the facility showed any signs of alarm before the discovery, Price said.

"I believe, given all things accounted for, that (Cloutier) was somehow rendered unconscious, whether it be he slipped and hit his head or something" else, Price said. "The bears we believed killed him, but we don't believe it was an attack scenario."

Price said he was approaching the enclosure when he saw the victim on the ground with two captive-bred, 8-year-old male bears nearby. One of the bears, nicknamed Griz, was behaving as though he had taken possession of the victim.

When Price sprayed Griz with bear spray and it did not back down, he said he retrieved a rifle and shot the animal so he could get to Cloutier.

When he did, Cloutier was dead from wounds inflicted by Griz or the other bear in the enclosure, nicknamed Yosemite.

Animal of Montana's permit for Yosemite to travel for exhibitions or other purposes will be suspended pending the investigation, Jones said.

Cloutier was originally from York Haven, Pa. Price said the staff at Animals of Montana had suffered "a double loss" with the death of Cloutier and the loss of Griz, which he called the favorite animal of the victim.

Cloutier's family could not be immediately reached for comment.

Animals of Montana had three bears prior to Sunday that were identified on the company's website as grizzly bears.

However, the facility's permit for the two involved in the mauling lists them as Syrian brown bears, a subspecies of brown bears that are different from grizzlies, Jones said.