An Idaho company has agreed to pay a fine and abate hazards in connection with the fatal grizzly bear attack last year on one of its employees. A report says the worker didn’t have all the protection he should have while surveying in the wilderness.
The bear killed Adam Stewart, 31, an employee of Nature’s Capital, as he hiked to inventory a site at Brooks Lake in Wyoming on Sept. 4, 2014.
Nature’s Capital had a contract with the U.S. Forest Service to survey 123 vegetation plots in Utah, Nevada, Wyoming and Idaho.
Now, an article on Wyofile.com calls into question how well protected Stewart was.
The consent decree between Nature’s Capital and Wyoming OSHA hasn’t been released to the public yet. Decrees aren’t released until their terms are carried out, which includes abatement and paying fines. The company has until the end of this year to pay the undisclosed amount.
But Wyofile has pieced together information that calls into question the safety net that is supposed to protect surveyors like Stewart from wild animal attacks.
Among the findings in the Wyofile report:
- Searchers found no defensive bear spray when they discovered Stewart’s body
- No site taken off the survey list in 2013 was because of the danger of grizzly bears
- A Job Hazard Analysis was required under the Forest Service contract, including identification of “animals that may be encountered,” but officials didn’t know whether Nature’s Capital conducted one
- Wyoming OSHA cited Nature’s Capital for not having proper check-out/check-in protocols for its surveyors; it also issued a citation for failure to require use of bear spray or noise-making devices
- Signs of grizzly bears made Nature’s Capital employees retreat from plots twice in 2014
- Stewart came upon two deer carcasses and two bear day beds as he hiked, according to an investigation by the Interagency Grizzly Bear Committee Board of Review, and
- On Aug. 25, before his fatal trip, Stewart wrote his boss about dangers in the fall when bears are fattening up, noting that “working alone increases risks and possibility of death or lifelong disability.”
In the wake of Stewart’s death, the Bear Board issued recommendations to guide workers in grizzly-occupied places including working in teams of two, filing itineraries and carrying bear spray.
“The Board reiterates that there is no guarantee of safety when working in bear country and application of these practices may not have changed the outcome of the Adam Stewart fatality,” the recommendations state. “The Board believes that adherence to these standard safety practices should reduce the risk of future bear attacks on personnel working in bear country.”