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Grizzly Encounters Almost Daily for Hunters in Northern Rockies

October 4, 2007.
With increasing bear numbers, limited food sources heading in to the winter, and lots of hunters in the woods, this fall has seen a growing number of encounters between grizzlies and hunters in Wyoming, Idaho, and Montana.

The latest event involved two bowhunters in Montana's Yaak Valley on the weekend of September 29. The two hunters killed an 11-year-old female grizzly bear, claiming self-defense. The mature sow was traveling with two cubs.

On September 20, several western newspapers ran stories about complaints against a high-fenced elk operation in eastern Idaho near Island Park. Neighbors of the Velvet Elk Ranch at Meadow Creek Lodge (only about 8 miles from Yellowstone National Park) voiced concerns that gut piles from dead domseticated elk may have been attracting, concentrating, and acclimating grizzly bears to human activity. Officials with the Idaho Department of Fish and Game say there could be as many as seven grizzlies within five miles of the pen were the elk are killed.

On September 19, the U.S. Forest Service announced that it had closed parts of the Taylor Fork drainage south of Big Sky, Montana because two bowhunters (not hunting together) lost their elk to grizzly bears after leaving the elk overnight. When they subsequently returned to pack out their meat, they found that grizzlies had claimed the animals. One closure affects the Pica Point area and the second affects part of the Eldridge Creek area.

On September 17, roughly half a mile northest of the Velvet Elk Ranch high-fence operation, Tennessee hunter Derek Fesmire, 37, suffered minor injuries when he was attacked last week by a female grizzly bear with a cub.

On September 14, A Montana bowhunter experienced an accidental run-in with a sow and her three cubs. The sow bit in to his foot and lower leg, pulling him from the tree where he had sought cover. When the calm-headed bowhunter, Dustin Flack, rolled up in to a fetal position and played dead, the sow left. Flack rescued himself from the scene, making it back to his truck, and subsequently underwent surgery at a Livingston hospital yesterday. Officials closed areas in the Gallatin National Forest and Yellowstone National Park after the attack, but planned no action against the bear because she was protecting her cubs.

On September 13, a grizzly was poached on the 1.2 million acre Flathead Indian Reservation, located north of Interstate 90 between Missoula and Kalispell, Montana. A poacher killed the bear late in the day, taking only the front claws before fleeing the scene. Authorities are still investigating and are offering a $5,000 reward for information.

On the weekend of September 9th, a grizzly attacked a hunter north of Yellowstone Park. The hunter, who is an employee of the Park, suffered injuries to his back, leg, stomach, and forearms. The hunter managed to shoot the bear, wounding it, and then walked back to his vehicle and drive for help.

On September 3, a bowhunter from Tennesse inadventently killed a grizzly while hunting black bear near Kelly Creek in Idaho, about three miles from the Montana border. The male grizzly weighed 400 to 500 pounds and was 6 to 8 years old. The hunter and his guide packed the bear out of the remote, roadless area and contacted authorities to report the incident. The grizzly was in an area that was not believed to contain grizzlies.

Every year, Game and Fish Departments from Wyoming, Idaho, and Montana urge hunters to use caution in grizzly country. Certainly seems like a good year to take their advice.

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