On the same day and in the same area, three hunters in Montana were injured in two separate grizzly bear attacks, state wildlife officials said.
Officials have not determined if the same animal was involved in both attacks this week in the Gravelly Mountains, which are southwest of Bozeman. The three hunters suffered injuries described as moderate to severe.
A grizzly charged two male hunters around 7:30 a.m. Monday before they were able to drive away the animal, Montana Fish, Wildlife & Parks said in a statement Tuesday.
Hours later, a third hunter was injured by a bear in the same general area when the animal attacked about 6:30 p.m., the department said. In that case, a second hunter was unharmed before the pair drove the bear away.
Hunters have been warned to avoid the area.
Montana Fish, Wildlife & Parks said that both men injured in the morning attack sought treatment in Ennis.
The pair then went to a sporting good store to purchase new clothes and told an employee there that the bear was about 20 feet from them and likely sleeping when they startled it, the Shedhorn Sports worker said.
“They said he was up and in their face, just right there on them before they even had a chance to really even grab a gun or do anything, which I think is important for people to know,” the employee, Terri James, said.
“The bear was on top of one of the men, and the other one was able to get to his bear spray,” James told the station. “And he sprayed the bear, and that’s what made the bear leave.”
The men seemed to be in good spirits, James said.
The grizzly population in and around Yellowstone National Park, which includes the Gravelly range, has increased from an estimated 136 bears when they were granted federal protection in the mid-1970s to about 700 today, the Associated Press reported.
A spokesman for Montana Fish, Wildlife & Parks told the Bozeman Chronicle newspaper that the attacks serve as a good reminder that hunters should avoid going out alone.
“The prevailing lesson learned here is hunting with a partner can save your life in many cases,” Morgan Jacobsen told the newspaper.
Montana Fish, Wildlife & Parks is urging people to be cautious because bears are active this time of year, and suggests traveling in groups and not only carrying bear spray, but being familiar with how to use it. If a bear is encountered, people are urged to back away and slowly leave the area.