Two Montana hunters were badly mauled by a grizzly bear near Smith Lake southwest of Kalispell. Both men suffered serious injuries before they could shoot and kill the bear.
The grizzly attacked the father and son pair on Oct. 31, early in the morning. They were hunting in the Flathead Valley from a gated road when the bear attacked from a thickly forested area.
The Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks Wildlife Human Attack Response Team, or FWP WHART, received the report and reacted swiftly, sending an ALERT Air Ambulance to transport the two to the Kalispell Regional Medical Center.
The WHART opened an investigation immediately following the attack and found a deer carcass in the woods along the road where the bear mauled the men. The bear, identified as a 20-year-old sow, was believed to have at least one cub.
As a precaution, the FWP set up cameras in the area to monitor it for wildlife. At this time the department has no plans for any wildlife management surrounding the attack and has not issued any formal closures.
“Based on the evidence gathered at the scene and interviews with the victims, we believe this was a surprise encounter involving an adult female grizzly bear defending a food source and her offspring,” said FWP Regional Game Warden Captain Lee Anderson.
While human and grizzly interactions are rare, the bears are most active during the lead up to denning season, and can become very aggressive and territorial. The FWP is asking residents, hunters and visitors to report any bear activity as soon as possible.
The department also urges everyone in these areas to know how to use and carry bear spray, “especially where visibility and hearing are limited.” They also encourage hikers and outdoor enthusiasts to travel in large or loud groups that are less likely to surprise bears.
Most bears, even grizzly bears, are wary of humans and will avoid people if they can. The FWP would also like to remind people to avoid berries and animal carcasses that can attract bears, especially in thick timber regions, and for hunters to use bright lights when field-dressing game.