An angler shot and killed a grizzly bear in self-defense on August 30, 2023, in the Tom Miner Basin in Montana. The incident is still under investigation, but FWP believes that the anglers surprised the bear in a close encounter, and its behavior was defensive.
The anglers were walking through dense vegetation when the bear charged them. One of the anglers fired a gun and killed the bear, which was an adult male. No people were injured.
FWP is reminding Montanans that the state is bear country and that they should be prepared to take steps to avoid encounters with bears. This time of year, bears are especially active as they consume more food to prepare for hibernation.
People can try to avoid bear conflicts by carrying bear spray, making noise on the trail, traveling in groups, storing food safely, and avoiding animal carcasses.
Hunters should also take extra precautions when hunting in areas with grizzly bears. They should look for signs of bears, be cautious around creeks and areas with limited visibility, and hunt with a group of people. They should also know that elk calls and cover scents can attract bears.
Grizzly bears are still listed as threatened under the Endangered Species Act and cannot be hunted. However, people can defend themselves against bears if they feel their safety is threatened.
This is the second time in recent weeks that a grizzly bear has been killed in self-defense in Montana. Last Saturday, two men killed another grizzly near White Lodge. Earlier this month in Red Lodge, a man killed a black bear who had entered his house, also in self-defense.
Safety in Montana's Bear Country
It’s important to realize that Montana is a habitat for bears, including the grizzly bear. These grizzly bear populations have been rising in this state, covering more extensive areas each year. This means that residents and visitors to Montana are more likely to encounter grizzlies, particularly in this season.
As bears get ready to hibernate, they need to consume more food, which leads them to be more active during this time of year. This period also coincides with the hunting season and many other fall recreational activities, including camping and hiking, which can put people in direct contact with bears.
That’s why it’s even more crucial to be alert and informed. Knowing what to do in such a situation is key. Being bear-aware might be the difference between life and death. It is recommended to avoid any possible confrontations with bears as much as possible. Therefore, avoiding conflicts with bears is much easier than dealing with an actual conflict when it happens.
Here are some precautions to help residents, hunters, and people who work outdoors avoid unfortunate bear encounters:
- It is highly recommended that you always carry bear spray with you and be prepared to use it in an emergency.
- Create audible sound to notify bears of your presence, and it is recommended to travel in groups.
- Avoid coming into close proximity with animal carcasses, as this act has been known to attract bears in the vicinity.
- Strictly adhere to the food storage instructions the corresponding land management agency provided.
- If you happen to encounter a bear, it is recommended to maintain a safe distance from it. Do not approach it. It is advisable to wait calmly until it is safe to leave the place.
- Store garbage, bird feeders, and pet food securely to avoid wildlife interactions. Keep trash inside a secure building until collection day. Use certified bear-resistant garbage containers.
- Refrain from feeding wildlife at any given time. When bears become food-conditioned, it disrupts their normal foraging habits and potentially threatens humans. Please note that feeding bears is strictly prohibited by law in Montana.
Individuals who engage in hunting activities within territories that harbor or potentially have grizzly bears, such as the regions located toward the west of Billings in Montana, exercise extreme caution and implement necessary measures:
- It’s essential to be well-prepared for any outdoor activity, particularly where bears may be present. With that in mind, it’s recommended that you bring bear spray and be ready to use it if necessary.
- Exercise caution and remain aware of signs of bear activity and areas with limited visibility and creeks.
- When hunting with a group, avoiding making too much localized noise is important, as this can potentially alert nearby bears to your presence.
- Exercise caution when using elk calls and cover scents, as they have been known to attract bears. It is recommended that appropriate safety measures be taken to avoid any potential danger or harm.
- Ensure that the necessary equipment and personnel are dispatched immediately to assist with the field dressing of the game and removal of meat from the kill site.
- If you need to leave any meat in the field while processing it, hang it at least 10 feet (3 meters) off the ground and at least 150 yards (137 meters) away from the gut pile. Ensure you can observe the meat from at least 200 yards (183 meters).
- Conducting an observation of the meat with binoculars when you return. If the meat appears disturbed or you encounter a bear in the vicinity, please leave the area and immediately contact the Fish, Wildlife & Parks Department to report the sighting.
Grizzly bears face a complex and challenging situation in the lower 48 states. These majestic creatures are currently listed as threatened under the Endangered Species Act and, as such, require special management and protection measures. With their management entrusted to the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service, numerous agencies and organizations are working to ensure that grizzlies receive the attention and care they deserve.
In Montana, the FWP, the Forest Service, the National Park Service, the Bureau of Land Management, the U.S. Geological Survey, Wildlife Services, and Native American tribes have all come together to dedicate their time, resources, and expertise toward helping these bears.
This multi-faceted approach indicates the situation’s seriousness and importance while demonstrating how collaboration can make a meaningful impact on conservation efforts.
If you are planning on visiting bear country, it is essential to pack some bear pepper spray. This powerful tool has been specifically designed to help protect you from potential bear attacks and provides an excellent defense mechanism. It is an indispensable tool in your safety kit as it can enable you to escape from a dangerous animal attack unharmed.
Many wildlife organizations recommend carrying it as a precaution, especially for outdoor enthusiasts who frequently venture into the wilderness. Furthermore, it is also essential to understand how and when to use it effectively. By carrying bear pepper spray, you can have a sense of security and greater peace of mind while exploring the great outdoors. We recommend at least two canisters per person, one readily available clipped to your chest or waist and another in your backpack. It may seem like overkill, but it is far better to have it and not need it, than need it and not have it. Ask Jack Hanna.
At BlackBeltDefender.com, we carry two excellent bear spray products:
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