BILLINGS, Mont. (AP) — A man who was mauled while cleaning a pen holding two grizzly bears may have fallen and hit his head or otherwise lost consciousness before he died, the head trainer at a Montana wildlife casting agency said Monday.
There were no defensive wounds on the unidentified, 24-year-old victim, a trainer who was carrying bear spray but apparently did not use it, said Demetri Price, head trainer at Animals of Montana near Bozeman.
Authorities said the man was killed by one or both of the bears, but further details weren't available on the wounds or the cause of death.
Still, Price described Sunday's mauling as a "tragic accident," not an attack.
"I believe, given all things accounted for, that he 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 found the man in the enclosure with an eight-year-old, captive-bred male grizzly nearby. The bear, named "Grizz," was behaving as though he had taken possession of the victim, and Price said he had to kill the animal so he could get to the man and see if he was still alive.
The victim, however, was already dead, apparently from wounds inflicted by Grizz or the other bear, "Yosemite," in the enclosure.
The victim was originally from Pennsylvania and had been a trainer at Animals of Montana since 2008, Price and authorities said.
The company provides captive-bred animals for photography shoots and motion pictures, ranging from African lions and minks to badgers and bobcats. It had three grizzly bears prior to Sunday.
The Gallatin County Sheriff's Office and wardens from Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks are investigating the killing. Sheriff Brian Gootkin could not be immediately reached Monday for comment.
The company had the necessary state and federal permits to keep the bears, said Fish, Wildlife and Parks spokeswoman Andrea Jones. She said the animals were not from Montana.