Wild Grizzly Bear in Canada
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Man Accidentally Shoots Hunting Partner During Grizzly Attack

The two men were acting in self-defense after being charged by a surprised grizzly bear.

On August 26, two hunters from Whitefish, Montana were scouting in nearby Flathead National Forest when they encountered a female grizzly bear and cub. They were hiking in thick timber and surprised the bears. The bear charged the hunters from about 15 feet away.

Naturally, both hunters shot at the bear. And while they managed to kill the bear before it attacked them, in the chaos, one of the hunters accidentally shot his companion in the shoulder.

The severity of the gunshot wound is unknown at this time.

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Montana Fish, Wildlife, & Parks (FWP) responded to the incident. The 25-year-old sow had previously been tagged for population monitoring in 2009 and does not have a history of conflict with humans. According to the statement released by FWP, they ruled that "The bear's behavior appeared to be defensive in the surprise, close encounter with the two men." This was confirmed by the US Fish and Wildlife Service.

FWP is continuing to monitor the site for signs of the cub. They caution people to be "bear aware" while hiking in bear country: carry bear spray, travel in groups, make noise, and secure any food. If hikers encounter a grizzly bear, they should stay calm, talk to the bear firmly, and try to make themselves look bigger.

Bears Abound in Flathead National Forest

This isn't the first time there has been a bear attack in Flathead National Forest, which is just outside of Glacier National Park. In 2017, a forest ranger was fatally mauled by a grizzly bear when he inadvertently collided with the bear while mountain biking.

Flathead National Forest is part of the Northern Continental Divide Ecosystem, one of the few places in the Lower 48 that has a population of grizzly bears. Grizzlies once roamed across North America, numbering nearly 50,000. Years of hunting and habitat loss reduced their numbers to below 1,000. They were then protected by the Endangered Species Act (ESA), and after 50 years of protection, their numbers have rebounded.

The Northern Continental Divide Ecosystem now has one of the largest populations of grizzly bears outside of Alaska, with an estimated 1,000 grizzly bears calling the area home. States in the area have proposed removing ESA protections from grizzly bears, and the US Fish and Wildlife Service is reviewing populations this year. If grizzly bears are delisted, it is possible that a grizzly bear hunt would be opened in states such as Wyoming, Idaho, and Montana.

READ MORE: 5 Reasons Why We Hunters Don't Take the Shot