Big Sky Roundup

Hunter kills grizzly near Ennis in alleged self-defense

By: - October 24, 2023 2:22 pm

A female grizzly with two cubs (Photo by Glenn Phillips via | Used with permission).

A hunter shot and killed a grizzly bear Saturday in the Gravelly Range mountains outside Ennis, according to a Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks press release.

The release said the grizzly charged the hunter, who then shot and killed the bear at close range in self-defense, according to FWP. The agency said the grizzly was an adult female grizzly with no known previous conflict history and had been digging a den near where the encounter took place. The hunter was not injured and FWP is investigating the incident.

This grizzly killing is the latest in a string of human-grizzly encounters in the Treasure State. The latest of note took place in a similar scenario of alleged hunter self-defense outside Gardiner.

Another recent altercation resulted in a hunter being airlifted for medical assistance and taken to a hospital in Utah, where he spent over a month receiving medical treatment, the Associated Press reported.

State wildlife officials said Grizzly bear populations continue to become denser and more widespread in Montana, which increases the likelihood residents and recreationists will encounter them in more places each year. Grizzlies are listed as threatened in the Endangered Species Act in the Continental U.S., according to the release.

Bears are active for longer periods this time of year as they prepare for hibernation, and officials warn hunters should be aware that bears will remain active throughout the general season.

Avoiding bear conflict is easier than dealing with a bear, FWP says. Here are agency tips to stay safe in bear country:

  • Carry bear spray and practice to be prepared to use it immediately.
  • Make noise to alert bears to your presence and travel in groups.
  • Stay away from animal carcasses, which often attract bears.
  • Follow food storage orders from the applicable land management agency.
  • 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.
  • If you are attacked by a bear and you are without a deterrent or the deterrent hasn’t worked, stay face down on the ground, protecting your face and neck with your arms. Stay still until you’re certain the bear has moved away.

People who hunt in places that have or may have grizzly bears—which includes areas of Montana west of Billings—should take special precautions:

  • Carry bear spray and practice to be prepared to use it immediately.
  • Look for bear sign and be cautious around creeks and areas with limited visibility.
  • Hunt with a group of people. Making localized noise can help 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 retrieval, 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.

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