A former York Haven man was mauled to death at a wildlife casting company in Montana on Sunday.

Benjamin Cloutier, 24, was killed while cleaning the pen of two captive-raised Syrian brown bears at Animals of Montana near Bozeman, according to the Gallatin County (Montana) Coroner's/Sheriff's Office.

One of bears was shot and killed so Cloutier's body could be recovered after the mauling.

Demetri Price, leading hand trainer at Animals of Montana said he discovered Cloutier in the pen and acted quickly in an attempt to rescue Cloutier.

"In an attempt of maybe being able to rescue Ben ... I had to destroy the bear," Price said.

However, when Price was able to enter the pen, he found that Cloutier was dead.

Hard worker: Cloutier began working at Animals of Montana, an animal casting agency for photographers and the film industry, in 2008 and was described by Price as a "highly skilled and experienced guy."

Cloutier was a "talented, young trainer," Price said. "He was showing a lot of promise."

On the day of his death, Cloutier was cleaning pens when he got to the bear pen that housed 8-year-old bears "Griz" and "Yosemite."

Calling it a "tragic accident," Price said it appears that Cloutier may have fallen or somehow become unconscious before the mauling.

"It looks like, from the evidence we have, that he slipped or was somehow rendered unconscious," Price said.

Returning to its predatory instinct, at least one of the bears mauled Cloutier.

When Price saw that Cloutier was down, he attempted to scare off the bears by yelling and banging on the pen. Yosemite scurried off to the back of the pen but Griz "took possession" of Cloutier, forcing Price to shot and kill the aggressive bear.

Cloutier has lived in Montana since about 2008, Price said, adding that he has family in Pennsylvania and Florida. Family members could not be reached Monday.

Investigation: Local and Montana state officials are continuing to investigate the mauling.

A sheriff's official said an autopsy on Cloutier's body is planned.

Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks regulates licenses for Animals of Montana. In order to be licensed to operate such a facility, owners must meet a number of regulations outlined by Montana statute, the sheriff's office said in a news release.

All the necessary paperwork related to the company is current, the office said.

- Reach Greg Gross at ggross@yorkdispatch.com.