What do you do with a bear that kills a person?

Primm says that playing the parlor game of judging after the fact or demonizing Wenk serves no purpose. “Instead, maybe we need to look at each other and ask why this hurts so bad,” he says. “In that deep heartbreak, there is a signal … The only wholesome thing to do with those emotions now is to channel them into some attainable improvements in how we act in this place and with these grizzlies.”

For Wenk, another eye-opening lesson was how social media enabled nature-loving humans to turn up the volume of their concern. In his office, I asked him how he felt about the public opinion expressed against his decision.

“I mean this with all sincerity, but I accept that it comes with the territory,” he said. “I’m grateful that Yellowstone arouses such strong passions in people, that they feel compelled to express their concerns about a grizzly bear. With so many things in society, there is a plague of apathy. I’m touched by how much so many people care about this place. It shows how much Yellowstone and grizzlies still matter.”