Photo credit: Tim Rains/National Park Service

Grizzly Bears Injure 3 People in 2 Montana Attacks

Two separate grizzly bear attacks injured three hunters on the same day in the same drainage in Montana’s Gravelly Mountains. Here’s what we know so far.

Montana’s big-game archery season is open. Hunters flock to grizzly territories across the state for the long season. And attacks are rare. But on September 16, in the Cottonwood drainage of the Gravelly Mountains, two groups of hunters experienced the same fate.

At 7:30 a.m., two hunters from New Mexico were following elk tracks when a grizzly bear charged at them with no warning. The bear struck one of the men as he reached for his bear spray, and the other man was able to spray the bear.

But the bear then turned on him.

The hunter continued to spray the bear, and the animal eventually left. Both men were able to walk back to their truck. A hospital in Ennis, Montana, treated the hunters and released them in good condition.

The second attack happened less than a mile from the first incident. At 6:30 p.m. the same day, two other hunters from Washington State were walking north toward Cottonwood Creek when a similar situation arose.

The bear was upon them very quickly and with no warning. It knocked one of the hunters to the ground, and the other was able to shoot at the bear with a pistol. The bear backed off the downed hunter, charged two more times, and both men fired shots until the bear left.

Officials don’t know if any of the shots hit the bear. The injured hunter is currently still hospitalized but in stable condition.

“In both parties, a factor that contributed to their survival was that they were hunting in pairs,” Morgan Jacobsen of Montana Fish, Wildlife, and Parks told GearJunkie. “Hunting with a partner is so important no matter where you’re hunting, but especially in grizzly country. It really increases your chance of survival.”

Both hunting teams were also prepared with bear deterrents that potentially saved their lives.

In response to the incident, Montana FWP, local game wardens, and Forest Service law enforcement have closed down Cottonwood Road and are still investigating the case. Officials have not located a bear and don’t know if the same bear attacked both parties.

Following these incidents, Montana FWP reminded hunters of its basic guidelines for safety when hunting in grizzly country:

  • Be prepared and aware of your surroundings.
  • Carry and know how to use bear spray.
  • Travel in groups whenever possible.
  • Stay away from animal carcasses.
  • Follow U.S. Forest Service food storage regulations.
  • If you encounter a bear, never approach it. Back away slowly and leave the area.
Nicole Qualtieri
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Based in Montana, Nicole Qualtieri is GearJunkie's Hunt/Fish Editor. She’s an avid outdoorswoman, and you can find her anywhere from the back of a good horse in Whitefish to solo hunting the breaks of Montana, to backpacking with her border collie in the Absarokas.

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