An adult grizzly bear and a baby grizzly bear standing in tall green grass and shrubbery.
A grizzly bear sow and cub cross the park road near Eielson Visitor Center at Denali National Park on August 21, 2019. (Photo: Emily Mesner/National Park Service)

A Semitruck Hit and Killed a Grizzly Cub Near Yellowstone

A Montana trucker accidentally ran over the cub on a desolate stretch of road. Then, the mother bear showed up.

A baby grizzly bear standing among tall green grass and shrubbery.
Emily Mesner/National Park Service

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A Montana trucker narrowly escaped an encounter with a mother grizzly bear after he accidentally hit and killed her cub with his vehicle, the Billings Gazette reports.

On Friday, May 26, the unnamed driver was traveling on Highway 191 in Gallatin Canyon when his semitruck struck the yearling. After the collision, the truck driver got out and walked to nearby Cinnamon Lodge, about 37 miles north of the park entrance, to call his employer and report the crash. That’s when David Reeves, a Yellowstone National Park tour guide, saw him and asked if he needed help.

What the driver didn’t know was that the dead cub’s mother was already on the scene.

“I don’t know how he made it away from his vehicle to walk those couple hundred yards down the road with mom standing right there,” Reeves told the Billings Gazette. “I can’t believe she didn’t attack him when he was walking down to Cinnamon Lodge.”

The driver told Reeves that he had hit a small animal and was waiting for a tow truck. The semitruck’s exterior appeared undamaged, but the collision caused the truck’s airbags to deploy.

Reeves, a Yellowstone tour guide for 16 years, offered the man a ride back to his truck. The driver declined.

As he drove toward Yellowstone to pick up a tour group, Reeves saw an adult grizzly bear in the middle of the road, standing over the dead cub.

“As I pulled up, she kind of bluff charged at the vehicle,” Reeves told the newspaper. “So I [quickly] turned around because I was like, ‘There’s no way I can let that guy walk into that. She’ll kill him.’”

Reeves drove back to the lodge and convinced the truck driver to accept a ride back to his vehicle.

“So I drove him back down to his truck and showed him mom and showed him the cub,” Reeves said. “Then I turned around and positioned the vehicle so he could safely get into the cab of his truck. As I drove away, the sow was starting to walk up the hill to the west.”

Montana Highway Patrol trooper Nathaniel Ashbey responded to the crash scene. The impact of the collision tore the truck’s air system loose, Ashbey told the Billings Gazette. He never saw the mother bear.

The dead cub was picked up by workers with the state’s department of transportation and given to Montana’s wildlife department.

Animal strikes are unfortunately a common occurrence in the roadways outside Yellowstone. A 2021 park report said motorists had been involved in 241 collisions with large mammals during a five-year period starting in 2017. In late December, a semitruck struck and killed a herd of bison that were walking along a snowy roadway just west of the park, and the collision led to the deaths of 13 animals. That incident prompted local conservation groups to dig bison migration pathways through snowdrifts to try and steer the animals off the road.

Two days before the collision, a pair of black bears were struck and killed by vehicles farther south on Highway 191, where the road cuts through Yellowstone, according to the newspaper.

Montana has the largest remaining grizzly population in the contiguous United States. More than 1,000 live in the Northern Continental Divide ecosystem.

Lead Photo: Emily Mesner/National Park Service