September 27, 2017


A bear hunter was injured and a grizzly sow killed in the Hungry Horse area Sunday following a surprise encounter on the east side of Hungry Horse Reservoir.

A father and his adult son, both from Kalispell, were pursuing a black bear through thick vegetation on steep hillsides at about 9 a.m. near the Dry Park Park area when they encountered the grizzly, according to Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks.

The father was in his 60s and the son in his 30s.

The first indication a bear was near came when the men noticed brush moving about 25 to 30 yards away.

The grizzly appeared about 12 feet from them and grabbed the son’s right arm at the elbow. While the bear was still holding onto his son, the father shot it in an attempt to get it to let go. The bear released the son and the father fired again. He shot the bear one more time at very close range when it turned toward him.

FWP’s Wildlife Human Attack Response Team traveled to the scene on the same day.

Assisted by Two Bear Air flying overhead, the team was unable to find the grizzly in the dense vegetation on that first day. They returned the next day and found the dead female grizzly near the attack site.

FWP Warden Chris Crane was a member of the team that first responded to the site, about an hour’s drive from the highway to the end of Hungry Horse Reservoir.

“It was really steep country, with dense brush,” Crane said. “In some places it was hard to see more than a few inches ahead of you.”

Considering the report involved a potentially wounded bear, Crane said everyone was “very cautious. There were a lot of places for a bear to hide there.”

The bear was about 12 years old, weighed 250 pounds and was in good condition. It was an unmarked bear with no known management history.

Even though no young bears were spotted, FWP investigator Brian Sommers said the bear’s behavior prior to the attack indicated that it was a “defense of young attack” and the bear was probably attempting to reduce the potential of a threat to her young.

She was not lactating, which means she was likely accompanied by at least one yearling.

That young bear would have been weaned and is capable of surviving on its own.

Neither of the hunters was carrying bear spray.

FWP officials reminded hunters that bear spray is another deterrent option. At this time of year, bears are actively feeding in preparation for winter, which can lead to more encounters.

Crane said it sounded like the injured hunter was doing well, but doctors will monitor his injuries for infection.

“That’s something you really have to watch out for in cases like these,” Crane said.


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