Trails, area surrounding Bear Creek closed pending human-grizzly investigation

Following the human-grizzly bear encounter 3 miles up North Fork Bear Creek on Oct. 1, the Beaverhead-Deerlodge National Forest temporarily closed trails and the area surrounding Bear Creek leading into the Lee Metcalf Wilderness.

According to Madison District Ranger Dale Olson, the Forest Service chose to close the area following a recommendation from Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks.

“(The encounter) was close to where people are, not way back in the woods,” Olson said. “We are trying to keep people safe.”

Currently, FWP is investigating “all aspects” of the incident, according to a Forest Service press release.

“The bear did not appear to be acting abnormally,” the release continues. “Bears have different individual distances that they feel threatened by or react defensively to. Female grizzly bears protect their young and the incident appears to be a protective/defensive encounter with the visitor and there are no plans to remove the bear.”

On Oct. 1, a 50-year-old Bozeman man was scouting hunting locations when he spotted a sow grizzly bear with cubs.

“He yelled to make his presence known to the bear and it charged him from about 80 yards away,” according to Madison County Sheriff Roger Thompson. “He deployed his bear spray as it got closer, but the bear did not stop.”

According to Thompson, the bear mauled, bit and stomped on the man, who did not fight back. After the bear wandered away, the man started to hike out.

“He got about 1/2 mile away when the bear attacked him again, biting and stomping on him again,” Thompson said. “He played dead and the bear left.”

Bleeding and injured, the man hiked out to his car and drove himself to the Madison Valley Medical Center, 17 miles away.

According to Leona Rodreick, public information officer for the Forest Service, signs indicating the closure are posted at trailheads and roads into the area.

“We patrol the area at times of the day and days the week when we know people are likely to be visiting the area,” Rodreick said. “Mostly to inform and educate. Most people are pretty good about respecting the closure.”

For those who may not respect the closure, however, Rodreick said fines can run up to $5,000 or six months in jail.

“The base fine typically for violating this closure would? start at $100,” she said.

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