Hunter-grizzly encounters yield 1 attack, 3 dead bears
Two Montana bowhunters who encountered grizzly bears in separate incidents this week responded by shooting the animals and, in one case, wounding a cub that was later euthanized.
One of the two men was attacked and required medical treatment.
The most recent close encounter occurred Wednesday morning on the Blackleaf Wildlife Management Area along the Rocky Mountain Front north of Choteau. The Montana Department of Fish, Wildlife and Parks reported that an archery hunter in thick brush along a creek bottom encountered a sow grizzly, which he shot and killed with a pistol. He also shot and wounded a 2-year-old cub that wildlife officials said suffered injuries severe enough to require it be killed. A second cub nearby was not shot, the department said.
The earlier encounter occurred Monday on Blackfeet Reservation lands, when a man who had killed a moose was attacked.
Dona Rutherford, director of Blackfeet Fish and Wildlife, confirmed that the man, who was said to be hunting with a friend, had killed a moose and was preparing to move the carcass when the attack occurred around 5 p.m.
She declined to provide specifics about the site of the attack.
The victim, a resident of the Blackfeet Reservation who has not been identified, was treated first at a Browning hospital for injuries sustained in the attack and then transferred to Kalispell Regional Medical Center, where he was treated and released, Rutherford confirmed.
She said it is her understanding that the grizzly was an older bear, with worn teeth.
Rutherford said Blackfeet Fish and Wildlife allows bowhunters to carry a handgun or shotgun for protection.
Because grizzly bears continue to be listed as a threatened species, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is involved in investigating the attack. The service declined Thursday to release additional details.
The Fish and Wildlife Service, along with state wildlife officials, also is investigating the human-grizzly encounter Wednesday at the Blackleaf Wildlife Management Area.
FWP said it is working to notify other hunters in the area to encourage caution. In a news release, FWP said the Blackleaf Wildlife Management Area “is used by many grizzly and black bears during this time of year as they forage for food to gain weight for winter hibernation. This coincides with archery season in Montana and can often lead to bears and hunters being in close proximity to each other.”
The department added that hunters should always use caution in grizzly bear country, should hunt with a partner, let people know where they are going, be equipped with bear spray and keep an eye out for bear sign.
Reporter Duncan Adams may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 758-4407.