A couple in tiny Luther, Montana, near the Wyoming state line got up close and personal with a black bear that broke into their house by tearing through a screen door before the man shot it with a handgun in their living room.
The bear fled to another room, where the man shot it several more times and killed it, according to reports.
The killing of the 10-year-old, 250- to 300-pound bear was ruled a case of legitimate self-defense by the Montana Department of Fish, Wildlife and Parks.
3 A.M. Home Invasion
Thomas Bolkom and his finance Seeley Oblander live in Luther, Montana, an unincorporated community near the base of Beartooth Mountains northwest of Red Lodge.
They reported that their two dogs barking awakened them at about 3 a.m. Thursday, and they discovered the bear in their living room.
Calls and messages left for Bolkom and Oblander by Cowboy State Daily weren’t returned Monday.
Bolkhom told investigators that after finding the bear in his living room, he retrieved a handgun and shot it from just a few feet away. The wounded bear went into another room, where he finished it off.
Bolkhom called his brother, who helped him drag the carcass outside, so an FWP warden could come investigate.
The warden cleared him of any wrongdoing in killing the bear.
Bear Trouble Everywhere
There have been numerous incidents involving black bears throughout the region this year.
A female black bear attacked a man last week as he opened his garage door in Victor, Idaho, near the Wyoming state line. Idaho Game and Fish agents later killed the bear and her cub.
There were several run-ins earlier this year with black bears in and near Sheridan. Wyoming Game and Fish department agents trapped and relocated some of the bears, but two were killed. Most recently, a young male black bear was killed after it entered two houses and ended up on the front porch of a third home in Big Horn, near Sheridan.
Prime Bear Habitat
Although it’s extremely rare for bears to break into people’s houses, there is no shortage of the brawny critters in the Red Lodge area, retired federal ecologist and bear expert Chuck Neal of Cody told Cowboy State Daily.
“Red Lodge is right in the middle of prime bear habitat, for both black bears and grizzlies,” he said.
That includes forests and areas of thick undergrowth rich with wild berries, as well as open meadows with grasses and roots for bears to feast on.
Of the two species, black bears are far more likely than grizzlies to venture into settled areas looking for snacks, Neal added.
“Black bears are more of a happy-go-lucky bear, where are grizzlies are more serious. Black bears are far more tolerant of being in close quarters with humans. Grizzlies if they have a choice really don’t want to have anything to do with us,” he said.
Mark Heinz can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.