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A Montana shed hunter escaped a harrowing bear attack thanks to quick thinking and good marksmanship. According to a Montana Fish, Wildlife & Parks (FWP) press release, a man was shed hunting on private property near Wolf Creek, Montana, on April 25 when he encountered a grizzly. 

“The man was walking along a ridge covered with low trees and brush with his two dogs at his side and the wind at his back,” explained an FWP spokesperson. “After seeing a fresh grizzly bear track in a snow patch, he continued along his path and a few minutes later, he first saw the bear standing near the top of the ridge about 20 yards away.”

What happened next is the stuff of nightmares. The grizzly sow immediately dropped to all fours and charged. Thankfully, the man, whose identity has not been released, was carrying a handgun for self-defense. He fired five shots off at the bear, grazing it with one bullet and dropping and killing it with another. According to the FWP, the bear charged from 30 feet to 10 feet before it was killed. 

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The man was uninjured in the incident. The female grizzly appeared to be in good health and weighed around 300 pounds. It was estimated to be 12 years old. FWP officials reported to the scene of the incident, where they located and captured a lone cub-of the-year. The cub was taken to a licensed wildlife rehab center and will likely be placed at an accredited zoo. Because grizzlies are still considered endangered in the Lower 48, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is also investigating the incident. 

Grizzlies bears can grow up to 500 pounds. Today, Montana is home to the largest population of grizzlies in the Continental U.S.—and the state’s grizzly population is spreading into central Montana. Sows with cubs are known to be territorial and aggressive when defending young, which appears to be what spurred the recent incident. 

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While grizzly attacks on humans are rare, they do occur. Last fall, Field & Stream reported on a bird hunter who shot and wounded a grizzly while hunting upland birds near Choteau, not far from where the recent attack took place. And in 2021, a grizzly mauled and killed a camper in Ovando. Montana, along with neighboring Wyoming, are petitioning the feds to remove grizzlies in the region from the Endangered Species Act as those populations have surpassed recovery goals.