FWP: Hunters Were After Black Bear When Attacked by Grizzly

Bear bit son's arm as father shot the animal to make it release its grip

By Molly Priddy

A father and his adult son were hunting black bears near the Hungry Horse Reservoir on Sept. 24 when a grizzly bear attacked them.

According to Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks, the duo was hunting on the east side of the reservoir on a steep slope with thick vegetation. They had seen a black bear and were pursuing it, FWP said.

On the slope, they saw brush moving about 30 yards away, but didn’t see the grizzly bear until it was about 12 feet away, when it charged and bit the son’s right arm at the elbow.

While the bear had his son, the father shot the bear, FWP said, and the animal released. The father shot it two more times at close range as the grizzly turned toward him.

Neither hunter was carrying bear spray.

FWP’s Wildlife Human Attack Response Team responded to the scene on Sept. 24, and located the attack site to search for the bear with the help of Two Bear Air.

On Sept. 25, the team returned and found a dead female grizzly bear near the attack site. She was about 12 years old and 250 pounds, and in good condition. FWP Investigator Brian Sommers said the bear’s attack was indicative of a defense of a younger bear.

She was an unmarked bear without a history of trouble or need for management, and Sommers said her physical condition showed she was not a lactating female. There was probably at least one yearling accompanying her, FWP reported, which would be weaned and capable of surviving on their own.

FWP would like to remind hunters and recreationists that carrying bear spray is another deterrent option; and bears this time of year are actively feeding in preparation for winter, which can lead to more encounters with bears.