Sow Grizzly Bear Killed in Self-defense Encounter in Whitefish Range

One of the men was accidentally shot during the Aug. 26 incident involving a sow grizzly with a cub in thick brush off Canyon Creek Road

By Beacon Staff
A grizzly bear track in the mud along trail in the Cut Bank Area of Glacier National Park on June 1, 2023. Hunter D’Antuono | Flathead Beacon

Two local men scouting for hunting opportunities ahead of archery season in the Whitefish Range last weekend killed a grizzly bear in self-defense.

One of the individuals was accidentally shot and injured during the surprise encounter with the 25-year-old female grizzly, which had a cub, according to a Monday news release from Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks (FWP). The injured man was taken to the hospital and treated for a gunshot wound to the shoulder, the release states. Game wardens continue to monitor the site for the cub.

According to a narrative provided by FWP officials, the two men were scouting for hunting opportunities on the afternoon of Aug. 26 near the Smokey Range Trailhead off Canyon Creek Road on the Flathead National Forest when they encountered a female grizzly bear with a cub. The men were walking through a thick section of forest when they surprised the bears inside of 15 feet. The adult bear charged the individuals, and both men shot at and killed the bear. One of the men was shot in the back shoulder during the incident.

FWP game wardens and members of the agency’s Wildlife Human Attack Response Team investigated the incident and determined the bear acted in self-defense.

“The bear’s behavior appeared to be defensive in the surprise, close encounter with the two men,” the release states. “FWP shared the initial findings with U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service law enforcement, and the USFWS concurred it was a self-defense situation.”

The grizzly bear did not have a history of conflict and was previously tagged for population monitoring work in 2009.

Be Bear Aware

Montana is bear country. Avoiding conflicts with bears is easier than dealing with conflicts. Here are some precautions, courtesy of FWP, to help residents, recreationists and people who work outdoors avoid negative bear encounters:

  • Carry bear spray and be prepared to use it immediately.
  • Travel in groups whenever possible and make casual noise, which can help alert bears to your presence.
  • Stay away from animal carcasses, which often attract bears.
  • Follow food storage orders from the applicable land management agency.
  • If you encounter a bear, never approach it. Leave the area when it is safe to do so.
  • Keep garbage, bird feeders, pet food and other attractants put away in a secure building. Keep garbage in a secure building until the day it is collected. Certified bear-resistant garbage containers are available in many areas.
  • Never feed wildlife. Bears that become food conditioned lose their natural foraging behavior and pose threats to human safety. It is illegal to feed bears in Montana.
  • Hunting in places that have or may have grizzly bears — which includes northwest Montana — requires special precautions:
  • Carry bear spray and be prepared to use it immediately.
  • Look for bear sign and be cautious around creeks and areas with limited visibility and where any noises you might make do not carry well.
  • Hunt with a group of people. Making localized noise can alert bears to your presence.
  • Be aware that elk calls and cover scents can attract bears.
  • Bring the equipment and people needed to help field dress game and remove the meat from the kill site as soon as possible.
  • If you need to leave part of the meat in the field during processing, hang it at least 10 feet off the ground and at least 150 yards from the gut pile. Leave it where it can be observed from a distance of at least 200 yards.
  • Upon your return, observe the meat with binoculars. If it has been disturbed or if a bear is in the area, leave and call FWP.

Learn more at https://fwp.mt.gov/conservation/wildlife-management/bear.