In the early morning hours of August 3, a man from Luther, Montana—about an hour and a half southwest of Billings—shot and killed a black bear that broke into his home. Officials declared the shooting an appropriate act of self-defense and removed the bear from the property.
After an evening spent with family, Thomas Bolkcom and his fiancé, Seeley Oblander, retired to the lower-level bedroom of their home at the foot of the Beartooth Mountains. At 3 a.m., they awoke to the frantic barking of one of their dogs. Initially, they thought the dog had seen a racoon or a skunk. But Bolkcom, a 27-year-old commercial painter and elk hunter, knew something was wrong when the dog continued to sound the alarm.
He went upstairs to investigate and came face to face with the large bruin. They were only five feet apart and stared at each other for about five seconds, according to Oblander.
“I never thought there would be a bear in our house, so that was quite the wakeup call at three in the morning,” Oblander, 26, told the AP. “I just stayed downstairs with the dogs, trying to help keep them out of the way and let Tom handle it.”
FWP said the big boar was about 10 years old.
Bolkcom handled it by darting back downstairs to get his Glock 10mm pistol and returning to the scene. Oblander said the bear, a 250-300 pound boar, started making noises like he owned the place and wasn’t leaving. Since it was between him and the locked door, Bolkcom felt his only option was to kill it.
“I shot him one to two times in the living room and may have missed one of those after seeing the bullet streak in our wood floor after the fact,” Bolkcom tells Field & Stream. “Then I shot three to four times in the sunroom. The last one was just a double tap.”
FWP removed the bear from the property.
Bolkcom and Oblander, who were scheduled to fly to Arizona for their bachelor and bachelorette parties later that morning, called Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks (FWP) and family members for support. With help from Bolkcom’s brother, the couple rolled the bear onto a tarp and dragged it outside. Family members stayed behind to clean the house and coordinate with FWP, as the soon-to-be-married couple left to catch their early flight. FWP game wardens investigated the scene and told the AP that the bear, which they estimated to be about ten years old, had entered through a screened window even though the couple had stored attractants properly.
FWP spokesperson Chrissy Webb said that neighbors who did not properly secure garbage, pet food, and groceries in the recent past created a dangerous situation for both the human and wild residents. “The bear became habituated and started associating homes and vehicles with getting food,” she told KTVQ News. “That’s what motivated it to eventually break into this specific couple’s house, and then ended, of course, in the bear’s death.”