On June 5, a grizzly bear charged a man who was hunting black bears on a remote piece of private property in southwestern Montana. In what state officials called a “surprise close encounter,” the hunter fired his pistol and stopped the charge, killing the federally-protected bear in the process. He then reported the incident, which is currently under investigation, Montana Fish, Wildlife & Parks (FWP) said in a recent press release.
The encounter occurred in the Madison Range southeast of the town of Ennis. FWP said its biologists were familiar with the grizzly bear that charged the hunter. “The 15-year-old female grizzly had previously been captured for research purposes in 2013 and had no known history of conflict with people,” the release reads. “No cubs were seen with the bear. The bear died outside the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem grizzly bear recovery zone, and inside the demographic monitoring area. The hunter…was not injured.”
Federal officials with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and the Beaverhead Deerlodge National Forest assisted FWP with a field investigation at the scene. The hunter shot the charging bear with a pistol, the release states.
According to FWP, there are four distinct ecosystems that harbor grizzly bears in the Big Sky State: the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem (GYE) , the Northern Continental Divide Ecosystem (NCDE), the Cabinet Yak Ecosystem, and the Bitterroot Ecosystem. But dispersing bears are routinely spotted outside these core ranges. As grizzlies expand both in range and abundance, the agency says, conflicts with people are bound to increase.
Officials recommend that anyone hunting west of the city of Billings carry bear spray, come prepared to remove game meat from the field as quickly as possible, and hunt in groups. FWP also notes that elk calls and other attractants can have the unintended consequence of bringing grizzly bears into an unsafe range.