An animal trainer mauled to death while cleaning the pen of two, 500-pound (225-kilogram) captive brown bears used for filmmaking suffered extensive wounds that make it impossible to determine if he was conscious during the attack, authorities said Monday.
There were no defensive wounds on the hands or arms of 24-year-old Benjamin Cloutier when his body was pulled from the pen Sunday, and he apparently had not used the bear spray he was carrying, said Demetri Price, head trainer at Animals of Montana near Bozeman.
As a result, Price speculated Cloutier might have fallen and hit his head before being killed.
Sheriff Brian Gootkin confirmed the absence of defensive wounds and that the mace-like bear spray had not been used. But he said there was no way to prove Cloutier was unconscious when the attack began.
"The body had been attacked so fiercely, there were so many injuries . . . that's why we're not going to speculate," Gootkin said.
The death remains under investigation by the sheriff's office and wardens from Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks. It has been listed as accidental and is not considered a criminal matter.
Animals of Montana provides captive-bred animals for photography shoots and motion pictures, ranging from African lions and minks to badgers and bobcats. The company says the bears have been used in "attack re-enactments" for films in which trainers are used as stuntmen.
Price said he was approaching the enclosure when he saw the victim on the ground with two captive-bred, 8-year-old male bears nearby. One of the bears, nicknamed Griz, was behaving as though he had taken possession of the victim.
When Price sprayed Griz with bear spray and it did not back down, he said he retrieved a rifle and shot the animal so he could get to Cloutier.
Price said the staff at Animals of Montana had suffered "a double loss" with the death of Cloutier and the loss of Griz, which he called the favourite animal of the victim.