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Yellowstone Revealed: Death in Yellowstone

8 people have died from bear attacks in park history
Yellowstone Grizzlies
Posted at 8:00 AM, Nov 20, 2022

(Editor's Note: This year Yellowstone National Park celebrates its 150th Birthday. In honor of that historic milestone we're bringing you a new series called "Yellowstone Revealed." These reports will offer a glimpse into the park's colorful history and stories that you've likely never heard before. The second installment - "Death in Yellowstone" - explores the sometimes grisly manner visitors have died in and around the world's first National Park.)

YELLOWSTONE NATIONAL PARK - Yellowstone officials have concluded their investigation into the summer incident in which a human foot was found in a hot spring near West Thumb.

They revealed the victim was 70-year-old Il Hun Ro from Los Angeles, Calif., and it was confirmed as a thermal-related death.

Are hot springs or bears more dangerous in the park?

In Norris Geyser Basin on June 8, 2016, Park Rangers were trying to recover the body of a man who fell into a hot spring the day before. The recovery was delayed by a storm the first day, and by the next day the 212-degree acidic water left nothing to recover.

A partially redacted report on the incident released following a freedom of information act request revealed the man’s sister, who was with him, had videotaped his slip into the hot pool. The two had hiked up a slope several hundred feet above the boardwalk, where signs had warned visitors to stay.

“They were specifically moving in that area looking for a place they potentially could get into and soak. I think they call it 'hotpotting,'” Deputy Chief Ranger Laurent Veress said.

One year earlier, a park concessionaire employee was killed by a grizzly bear near Elephant Back Trailhead in the Fishing Bridge area of the park. The death drew national attention as the third bear-related death inside the park in two summers.

There have been other deadly grizzly attacks outside the park.

Near Yellowstone’s East Entrance in June of 2010 a Shoshone Forest cabin owner was killed after he hiked into the area where a grizzly boar had been released after being trapped and drugged by federal researchers.

Another man was killed that year in Soda Butte Campground just outside Cooke City near Yellowstone’s Northeast Entrance. The man was attacked while he was sleeping in a tent.

But in total only eight people have been killed by bear attacks inside Yellowstone since it opened in 1872.

So which is the most deadly feature of Yellowstone National Park?

"Death in Yellowstone," written by retired Yellowstone historian Lee Whittlesey, has the answer.

It’s lakes.

Along with the eight people killed by bears since the park opened in 1872, there have been 22 deaths related to thermal features in that same period.

But over the last century and a half 123 people have drowned in the icy waters of Yellowstone.

RELATED: Yellowstone Revealed: 'Lost in the Yellowstone'