Grizzly Attack Caught on Camera

In 1987 the Montana Department of Fish & Game attempted to relocate an adult male grizzly bear that had been trapped alive after allegedly killing a cow on an Indian reservation near Kalispell, Montana. The bear was tranquilized, fitted with a radio collar and some ear tags, and the trap was put into the bed of a pickup truck and driven deep into the nearby Bob Marshall Wilderness, where the bear was to be released.

Photographer Richard P. Smith accompanied Department employees, including state game warden Lou Kis, on the release, in order to document the event with his camera. Such releases are fairly common, and in all previous instances the bears being relocated had run away as soon as they were let out of their traps. But this time something went wrong. Click through the slides at left to see what happened.

If you'd like to see more photos from Richard, or learn about the books he's written about deer and bear hunting, visit his web site at richardpsmith.com

Lou Kis Montana Game Warden Bear Attack
Lou Kis liftin the door of the trap.Richard P. Smith

As Montana state game warden Lou Kis began lifting the door to the trap to let the bear free, Photographer Richard P. Smith started shooting with a fresh roll of film from the back of another pickup located about 50 yards away. "I programmed myself to continue holding shutter down to capture whatever action took place," said Smith.

1987 Montana Bear Attack
The bear's head became visible in the opening door.Richard P. Smith
1987 Montana Bear Attack
Kis appeared to have trouble lifting the door of the aluminum trap. It may have been bent.Richard P. Smith
1987 Montana Bear Attack
As Kis held the door open, the bear began to emerge from the trap.Richard P. Smith
1987 Montana Bear Attack
The bear jumped from the trap to the ground.Richard P. Smith
1987 Montana Bear Attack
As the bear hit the ground, Kis dropped the trap door and yelled "Go!" to the driver of the pickup.Richard P. Smith
1987 Montana Bear Attack
The bear heard the warden's voice, and stood on its hind legs to try to get at him.Richard P. Smith
1987 Montana Bear Attack
The truck began to move forward as the grizzly tried to grab Kis' leg in its mouth.Richard P. Smith
1987 Montana Bear Attack
The movement of the truck and the weight of the grizzly caused the unsecured trap to fall out of the truck! As the trap fell, the warden fell on top of the bear.Richard P. Smith
1987 Montana Bear Attack
Kis had a camera around his neck that he was hoping to use to photograph the bear after the animal was released from the trap. When he fell on top of the bear, it grabbed the camera instead of latching immediately onto his body.Richard P. Smith
1987 Montana Bear Attack
Kis scrambled to get away from the bear ...Richard P. Smith
1987 Montana Bear Attack
... and the bear started biting Kis' leg. That's when Smith stopped photographing the attack. Kis eventually unholstered his .357 magnum handgun and shot the animal, killing it.Richard P. Smith
1987 Montana Bear Attack
After the attack ... Kis' injuries were severe -- a fractured and seriously bitten leg. Here he's receiving first aid.Richard P. Smith
1987 Montana Bear Attack
Kis, holding the .357 that saved his life.Richard P. Smith
1987 Montana Bear Attack
Kis waits for an emergency medical chopper. The dead bear was loaded into the back of the same pickup from which Smith took his photos of the attack.Richard P. Smith
1987 Montana Bear Attack
Game & Fish employee Al Elser shaded Kis with his coat while they waited for the chopper.Richard P. Smith
1987 Montana Bear Attack
EMTs eventually arrived and tended to Kis' wounds ...Richard P. Smith
1987 Montana Bear Attack
... helped him get to the chopper ...Richard P. Smith
1987 Montana Bear Attack
... loaded him up ...Richard P. Smith
1987 Montana Bear Attack
... and took off for the nearest hospital.Richard P. Smith
1987 Montana Bear Attack
The remaining Game & Fish employees took measurements of the dead bear after Kis left.Richard P. Smith
1987 Montana Bear Attack
Shawn Riley measures the animal's claws. The bear weighed about 500 pounds.Richard P. Smith