Third grizzly killed in self-defense in one month outside Yellowstone, officials say

A hunter shot and killed a charging grizzly bear that was defending its kill just outside Yellowstone National Park, officials said.

The hunter shot the bear at close range in the Tuesday, Sept. 27 encounter in Beattie Gulch north of Gardiner, Montana Fish, Wildlife & Parks said in a news release.

The bear charged the hunter when they got close to an animal carcass the grizzly had stashed to feed on, spokesman Morgan Jacobsen said. It was the third grizzly killed in self-defense in Montana in just one month.

The hunter was not injured, officials said. Bear specialists with the wildlife agency and game wardens determined the bear was defending its food source.

In a similar incident on Aug. 30, a pair of fishermen were walking through thick vegetation along a creek in the nearby Tom Miner Basin when they stumbled into a male grizzly’s path and the bear charged, McClatchy News previously reported. One of the anglers shot and killed the bear.

Only four days prior and about 250 miles northwest, two hunters surprised a mama grizzly bear and her cub while they were out scouting for the upcoming hunting season in a dense section of the Flathead National Forest, McClatchy News reported.

They came within 15 feet of the mom and cub, and shot and killed the adult bear when she charged them.

“Montana is bear country,” officials said in the release. “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.”

Bears are more active in late summer and autumn as they eat as much as they can to prepare for their winter hibernation — which also overlaps with hunting season and other fall recreation activities, officials said.

To avoid negative bear encounters, Montana Fish, Wildlife & Parks experts advise people outdoors in bear country to:

  • Carry bear spray, and have it out and ready to use at the first sight of a bear.

  • Travel in groups, and make a lot of noise to alert bears to your presence.

  • Stay far away from animal carcasses that attract bears.

  • Mind food storage orders from local land management agencies.

  • Never approach any bear you encounter, and leave the area when it’s safe.

  • Keep garbage, bird feeders, pet food and other smelly items that attract bears in a secure building where bears can’t access it. Keep garbage locked away until the day it’s collected, or use certified bear-resistant garbage containers.

  • Don’t feed wildlife — ever. It’s illegal to feed bears in Montana. Bears that become conditioned to human food lose their instinctual foraging behavior and become a threat to people’s safety.

Hunters and anglers that hunt and fish in areas with grizzlies — including locations west of Billings — should take extra precautions, such as:

  • Be extra cautious around creeks and areas with “limited visibility,” such as dense forests and areas with thick vegetation. Be mindful of bear signs.

  • Hunt or fish with a group of people and make “localized” noise to avoid sneaking up on bears.

  • Keep in mind that elk calls and “cover scents” — which cut down on the smell of humans — can attract bears.

  • Bring the right equipment and the proper amount of people you’ll need to be able to field dress successfully hunted game and remove the meat from the area as quickly as possible.

  • Hang any meat you have to leave behind at least 10 feet off the ground and 150 yards from the gut pile. Make sure it’s viewable from at least 200 yards away.

  • When you come back for the remaining meat, examine it for any signs of disturbance using binoculars. If it has been touched or if a bear is in the area, leave and call Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks.

Grizzly bears are listed as threatened under the Endangered Species Act, officials said.

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