A Pennsylvania archery hunter was attacked by a grizzly bear in the Indian Creek area of the Madison Mountains Friday morning.
The hunter was treated for bite and puncture wounds to his head, neck and arm at the Madison Valley Medical Center.
The attack happened six miles from the Indian Creek trailhead, which is located south of Cameron, said Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks game warden, Ryan Gosse.
The hunter was using a cow call to call elk for his partner. The pair were hunting about a third of a mile from where the victim had harvested a bull a few days earlier, Gosse said.
Both hunters said the woods were very quiet and then they started hearing some movement. Suddenly, the caller heard movement directly behind him.
When he turned he saw a sow with two cubs at about 15 yards. The mother bear locked eyes with him and charged. The man had no time to pull the bear spray off his belt and use it to ward off the attack.
The bear bit him in the arm and head.
The man’s partner ran toward the bear yelling and then stopped to go back to his pack for his bear spray. The bear dropped the victim and then bit him again.
When the man’s partner grabbed his bear spray, the bear and cubs were already running away, Gosse said.
The two men walked back to their camp and called the Forest Service with a satellite phone. Forest Service officials alerted Madison County Search and Rescue and FWP.
The man walked most of the way out to the trailhead on his own before search and rescue personnel met him and transported him to a waiting ambulance, Gosse said.
The attack was likely precipitated by the close proximity of the hunter to the sow and her cubs, he said. The bears could have been drawn to the area by the gut pile left when the victim had harvested the bull a few days prior.
“My interpretation of what happened here is they were hunting an area that had an attractant,” Gosse said. “Those attractants are going to bring in scavengers of all sorts, including grizzly bears.”
Also, this time of year both grizzly and black bears are in a stage called hyperphagia, which means they’re putting on fat reserves for the winter. This means they’re moving around trying to eat as much as possible, he said.
Since this is also the time of year archery hunters are sneaking around in the woods, it makes for a scenario where bear encounters are more likely.
“Hunters need to take the necessary steps to be aware,” Gosse said.
In this case, the hunters were taking all precautions, but were still surprised, he said.
The only thing they might have done differently was hunt further away from the gut pile. But still, many hunters would go back to an area where they had seen elk previously, Gosse said.
Friday’s attack was the second in the region for the week.
Earlier in the week, a Michigan hunter was attacked near Island Park after returning to an elk shot the evening before. The hunter and his partner were tracking the elk’s blood trail when they encountered a grizzly bear that had claimed the animal. The bear charged the hunters, bit one on the shoulder and then returned to the carcass, according to an account released by the Idaho Department of Fish and Game.
Montana FWP encourages archery hunters to take precautions when hunting in grizzly country. These include hunting with a partner, carrying bear spray, removing carcasses as quickly as possible and if they must be left overnight, leaving them in a spot that can be seen from a distance. Hunters are also encouraged to keep a sharp look out for bear sign in the area they’re hunting.