Just days after a Montana hunter was accidentally wounded by his hunting partner after they both opened fire on a charging grizzly – which they killed – an angler shot and killed a grizzly that charged him his partner.
The first shooting Aug. 26 near Whitefish, Montana, was cleared by investigators as legitimate self-defense on the hunters’ part.
The second incident four days later near Livingston, Montana, also appeared to be self-defense but remained under investigation Tuesday, Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks spokesman Greg Lemon told Cowboy State Daily.
No names of any of the people involved in either of the incidents were released.
Charged At Close Range
Though they were in completely different parts of the state, the Montana grizzly shootings involved similar situations. In both instances, people apparently surprised a grizzly at close range in thick cover.
On Aug. 30, two anglers were walking through thick cover along Tom Miner Creek when they were charged by an adult male grizzly, according to reports. One of the anglers shot and killed the bear, and no people were hurt in the incident.
The creek is in the Tom Miner Basin, a rugged and remote area about 35 miles south of Livingston in the Paradise Valley.
On Aug. 26, two men scouting for hunting spots in thick cover near Whitefish both opened fire when they were charged by a female grizzly with a cub that they had startled at close range.
In the chaos, one of the men accidently shot the other in the back of his shoulder. Lemon said it wasn’t known what type of firearms were used or how grave the man’s wound was.
The female grizzly’s cub ran off and hasn’t been found.
Conflicts More Common In The Fall
Though some grizzlies in Wyoming have been killed by wildlife agents for preying on cattle in 2023, there haven’t been any self-defense shootings of bears reported in the Cowboy State yet this year.
But late summer and fall are typically the time of year when there’s an uptick in human-bear conflicts in both states.
Many people take to outside during the fall, frequently to hunt or fish, Lemon said. At the same time, grizzlies become more active as they seek whatever food they can to fatten up before going into hibernation.
“We have more people going outside just as the bears are trying to gather more calories. They are traveling around and looking for food,” he said.
Meanwhile, hunters are trying to remain silent and moving around off the beaten paths before dawn or after dusk, increasing their chances to come across grizzlies.
FWP Recommends Bear Spray
Whether a firearm or bear spray is the best defense against grizzlies is the subject of endless debate among outdoors enthusiasts.
FWP allows both, but encourages people to use bear spray, Lemon said, noting how one of the hunters was accidentally shot in the first incident.
“Part of the reason we recommend bear spray is to avoid something like that,” he said. “The data and experiences from the field show that bear spray is effective and it’s not as difficult to use accurately as a firearm.”
Mark Heinz can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.