FWP issues hunting safety reminder after grizzly bear killed in self-defense

KALISPELL – Two men killed a grizzly bear in self-defense over the weekend in the Whitefish Range just north of Whitefish.

Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks (FWP) reports the men were scouting near the Smokey Range Trailhead off Canyon Creek Road in the Flathead National Forest on Saturday, Aug. 26, 2023, when they encountered a female grizzly with a cub.

The men were walking through a thick section of forest when they surprised the bears. The sow charged the men, who both shot and killed the bear. One man was shot in the back shoulder and had to be taken to the hospital.

The incident has been ruled as a self-defense situation.

FWP spokesman Dillon Tabish advises everyone to remain bear aware in the backcountry and to carry bear spray — especially with archery hunting season starting on Sept 2.

“When you’re going to be in areas with streams or thick forests where your sound can be kind of muffled, that’s when your likelihood of surprising a bear increases and so really important to be aware of those situations in your surroundings at that point, you know bears can act aggressively when they’re surprised and they’re defending their young, and so if it’s a female with a cub that bear is going to act very aggressively because they’re defending their young,” said Tabish.

Wildlife officials investigated the incident and found the bear’s behavior appeared to be defensive in nature. The animal was 25 years old.

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