State wildlife officials responded to a bear attack near Smith Lake north of Whitefish Lake Saturday morning.
Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks (FWP) officials say a father and son from the Flathead Valley were taken via ALERT Air Ambulance to Kalispell Regional Medical Center for treatment after a grizzly bea attacked them at very close range.
The pair were hunting along a gated road in the King Creek drainage when the grizzly charged out of a thick, wooded area.
The father and son reportedly sustained "significant" injuries before shooting and killing the bear.
FWP said an investigation revealed there was a deer carcass in thick timber near the site of the attack, and the female grizzly is believed to have had at least one offspring.
“Based on the evidence gathered at the scene and interviews with the victims, we believe this was a surprise encounter involving an adult female grizzly bear defending a food source and her offspring,” FWP Regional Game Warden Captain Lee Anderson said.
No further information about the condition of the hunters was available as of Saturday evening.
FWP reminded the public that although attacks on humans are rare, bears are more active and seeking food in the fall months before denning season that begins in late November.
FWP offered the following general tips to help stay safe:
- Carry and know how to use bear spray.
- Stay alert and look for bear activity, especially where visibility and hearing are limited.
- Hiking in a group will decrease the chances of surprising a bear. A group of people is more likely to deter an encounter, and bears will be able to see, hear, and smell the people more easily.
- Make your presence known by making noise, especially when near streams or in thick forest where visibility is low.
- This can be the key to avoiding encounters. Most bears will avoid humans when they know humans are present.
- Use caution in areas like berry patches where bears occur.
- Avoid carcass sites and scavenger concentrations.
- Hunters should be prepared to cut up the carcass of a harvested animal in the dark by carrying strong headlamps. Be extra vigilant and watch for bears.