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Hunter kills grizzly bear in close encounter in Gravelly Range

A hunter killed a grizzly bear Saturday during a close encounter in the Gravelly Range.

The hunter was reportedly charged by the bear before shooting and killing the bear at close range in self-defense. The hunter was not injured.

Staff from Montana Fish, Wildlife & Parks visited the scene the next day and confirmed the bear mortality. The bear was an adult female grizzly with no known conflict history. The bear was in good body condition and appeared to be digging a den near where the encounter took place.

This incident is still under investigation by the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service.

Be bear aware

Montana is bear country. Grizzly bear populations continue to become denser and more widespread in Montana, increasing the likelihood that residents and recreationists will encounter them in more places each year.

This time of year is when bears are active for longer periods as they prepare for hibernation. This period overlaps with hunting season and other fall recreation activities. Hunters should be aware that bears will remain active throughout the general season.

Avoiding conflicts with bears is easier than dealing with conflicts. Here are some precautions to help residents, recreationists and people who work outdoors avoid negative bear encounters:

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.

Grizzly bears in the lower 48 states are listed as threatened under the Endangered Species Act. Management authority for grizzlies rests with the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service, working closely in Montana with FWP, the Forest Service, the National Park Service, the Bureau of Land Management, the U.S. Geological Survey, Wildlife Services, and Native American tribes. This collaboration happens through the Interagency Grizzly Bear Committee.

For more information and resources on bear safety, visit