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A grizzly bear that appeared to have been killed was found near Yellowstone National Park in Wyoming, prompting an investigation from federal officials.

Photographer Amy Gerber spotted the bear along North Fork Highway early Monday near the city of Cody, and her photos of the dead animal went viral on Facebook. One post received more than 1,000 shares and hundreds of comments, mainly from people angered that the bear was possibly killed. Images of the bear appear to show a bloody and disfigured face.

A representative for the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service confirmed to CBS News they are investigating the incident, saying “due to the nature of ongoing investigations we are unable to comment further at this time.”

There was speculation a bear had been hit by a car in the area, according to the Cowboy State Daily, but Gerber told local publication she believes the bear she saw was shot. 

“This was a big bear,” she said. “I’m guessing at least 500 pounds. If it had been struck by a car, especially the way cars are built these days, there would have been car parts all over the highway.”

Since 2018, grizzly bears in the Yellowstone area have been protected under the Endangered Species Act, according to the National Parks Service. The animal has made a recovery in the area — from just about 136 in 1975 to about 1,063 in 2021. There is a currently a conservation strategy in the area to help remove them from the threatened species list.

The National Parks Service urges people visiting Yellowstone to expect bear encounters.  People should remain at least 100 yards from the bears and should not approach them to take photos and never feed them. 

If a bear does approach, drivers should honk and drive away. If a bear approaches while you are hiking, do not “play dead,” run, shout or make sudden movements. Instead, avoid startling the bear and try putting distance between yourself and the bear. Carrying bear spray in the area is also advised.