Camper Killed by Grizzly Bear Near Montana’s Bob Marshall Wilderness
Montana Fish, Wildlife, and Parks (FWP) officials are searching for a grizzly bear that attacked and killed a camper early Tuesday morning. They plan to euthanize the bear when they find it.
The fatality occurred in the town of Ovando in western Montana’s Blackfoot River Valley. Powell County Sherriff Gavin Roselles said that the bear “wandered into a campsite a couple times” before the mauling took place. According to Montana FWP, a local business caught CCTV footage of a grizzly on Monday night. A grizzly bear also broke into a chicken coop that night. Montana FWP believes all three incidents involved the same bear.
Authorities have not released the victim’s identity. The individual was part of a group cycling trip and was camping at the time of the attack. “More details on the incident will be released as they are available,” according to Montana FWP.
Ovando is near the Bob Marshall Wilderness Complex, which contains one of the highest concentrations of grizzlies in the contiguous US. “The Bob” is a popular recreation area for hikers and is home to a stretch of the Continental Divide Trail.
Human-Bear Conflict in Montana
This morning’s fatal mauling is the latest in a string of recent human-bear conflicts in Montana. A grizzly was found decapitated and declawed in the Yellowstone River last month, while a grizzly attacked and killed a backcountry guide near Yellowstone National Park in April.
Conflicts are occurring with increasing frequency as the federally protected grizzly population continues to rebound and repopulate historic ranges it has not occupied for decades. According to a 2019 report by the Montana Governor’s Grizzly Bear Advisory Council, “grizzly bear expansion across the state has and will continue to bring challenges to traditional and emerging livelihoods as the human population of Montana increases simultaneously with the population of grizzly bears.”
Be Bear Aware
Montana FWP recommends that hikers in bear country learn to differentiate black bears and grizzlies and carry bear spray at all times. Follow these best practices when hiking:
- Stay alert and look for bear activity, especially where visibility or hearing is limited (woods, bushy areas, streams).
- Travel in a group and keep members together (especially kids).
- Make noise whenever possible to avoid surprising a bear, especially where visibility or hearing is limited.
- Carry bear spray close at hand and know how to use it.
- Avoid traveling at night, dawn or dusk.
- Avoid carcass sites and scavenger concentrations.
- Keep food and anything with a scent out of tents.
- Dispose of garbage in bear resistant bins; otherwise, take it with you and dispose of it properly elsewhere. Do not bury or burn garbage.
- Follow local land management agency food storage orders and properly store unattended food and anything else with a scent.
If a bear charges you or appears ready to charge, stand your ground. Use bear spray when it comes within 30-60 feet. “If the bear is going to touch you, go face down on the ground, cover your neck and head as much as possible, and deploy your bear spray in the bear’s face. If you do not have bear spray, play dead if it is a grizzly bear, fight back if it is a black bear,” according to Montana FWP’s guidelines.
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