An upland bird hunter was forced to fire his shotgun at a charging grizzly from extremely close range last weekend. Fortunately, his shots did stop the bear.
Two pheasant hunters were hunting an irrigation ditch on a farm southeast of Pendroy, Montana, when the incident occurred. Apparently one of the hunters fired at a pheasant, which spooked a large grizzly bear that was bedding in a nearby willow patch.
The bear emerged from the willows and initially chased a hunter’s dog. The dog’s owner yelled at the bear, causing it to turn its attention to the hunter and charge. The 69-year-old man fired once in the air hoping to scare the bear, but to no avail. The hunter then shot the bear twice with his 12-gauge shotgun, the final blast hitting the grizzly in the face from only 10 feet away. The bear returned to the willow patch and succumbed to its wounds.
“The investigation is ongoing, but it looks like a self-defense incident,” reported Wesley Sarmento, a Fish, Wildlife and Parks grizzly bear management specialist. “The bear kept coming, and then he shot the bear twice.”
Investigators learned that the bear was a 9-year-old, 500-pound female. She had three 10-month old, 100-pound cubs, none of which they could find the following morning. The chances of the cubs surviving are deemed low without the sow.
It was a somewhat unusual location for the bear. Although, according to FWP, bears have been moving into prairie habitat from mountainous forest regions in recent years.
“They like to use willow cover and other forest cover to bed down during the day,” Sarmento said.
FWP advises bird hunters be alert for potential grizzly bear encounters. The also recommend that hunters carry bear spray.
Pendroy is located northwest of Great Falls, Montana, in the northwest corner of the state.
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