A distress signal initially thought to be from a crashed aircraft led searchers to a backpacker who’d been mauled by a grizzly bear in a remote Wyoming wilderness, according to sheriff’s officials.
No plane or helicopter had crashed but a crew preparing to search the Francs Peak area on Monday learned the signal received by the U.S. Air Force Rescue Coordination Center was from a personal locator beacon (PLB), the Park County Sheriff’s Office said in a statement Tuesday. Officials said a PLB is “not typically carried by hikers.”
The 68-year-old Buffalo, New York, man on a multi-day backpacking trip had activated the device after being severely mauled by the grizzly.
A helicopter team found the man and flew him to another helicopter at rendezvous point. That helicopter flew him to a hospital in Billings, Montana.
Sheriff’s and Wyoming Game and Fish Department officials have not disclosed the man’s name or medical condition.
The man had bear spray but the bear surprised him and he didn’t have time to use it, the sheriff’s statement said.
The area around Francs Peak, a 13,000-foot summit in the Washakie Wilderness southeast of Yellowstone National Park, is known grizzly habitat.
The Yellowstone region spanning portions of Montana, Wyoming and Idaho is home to more than 700 grizzly bears. Grizzlies in that area have killed at least eight people since 2010.
The Air Force Rescue Coordination Center, headquartered at Tyndall Air Force Base near Panama City, Florida, coordinates inland search and rescue efforts in the lower 48 states.
In 1975, grizzly bears were among the first animals to be protected under the Endangered Species Act. And as we reported last year, what’s happened since – especially in the state of Montana – is a story both of conservation and conflict. Watch Bill Whitaker’s report for “60 Minutes” in the video player below.
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