On the afternoon of August 26, two hunters were hiking through thick timber in Montana’s Flathead National Forest when they surprised a female grizzly bear with one cub. According to a press release just issued by Montana Fish, Wildlife, & Parks (FWP), the sow charged the men from about 15 yards away. While they managed to shoot and kill the bear before it could attack, one of the men accidentally shot his hunting companion in the back of the shoulder during the chaos of the charge.
Neither the extent nor the severity of the injured hunter’s gunshot wound is clear at this time. FWP did not immediately respond when contacted by Field & Stream for comment.
According to FWP, the 25-year-old sow grizzly did not have a history of conflict with people, though it was tagged for population monitoring work back in 2009. The state agency responded on the scene with support from the Wildlife Human Attack Response Team. “The bear’s behavior appeared to be defensive in the surprise, close encounter with the two men,” the FWP press release states. “FWP shared the initial findings with U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service law enforcement, and the USFWS concurred it was a self-defense situation.”
The encounter took place in the Whitefish Mountain Range, due north of the town of Whitefish, Montana. The area is part of the Northern Continental Divide Ecosystem (NCDE). With a population of more than 1,000 grizzlies, according to the Flathead Beacon, the NCDE has the highest grizzly bear concentration in the Lower 48.
FWP’s tips for staying safe while hunting in bear country are pretty standard. The agency recommends keeping bear spray at the ready, “making localized noise,” and hunting with a group of people whenever possible. If you’re chasing elk this September, be aware that elk calls and cover scents can draw a predatory grizzly into your location. If you’re successful, be prepared to break your animal down and remove it from the field as quickly as possible.