Hunters hospitalized after grizzly attack near Smith Lake

| November 2, 2020 8:00 AM

A father and son were injured after being attacked by a grizzly bear near Smith Lake on Saturday morning.

The Montana Fish Wildlife and Parks Wildlife Human Attack Response Team responded to a report of a father and son from the Flathead Valley who had been hunting along a gated road when a grizzly bear charged out of a thick, wooded area along the road, according to a press release. The two individuals sustained significant injuries before they were able to shoot and kill the bear.

The ALERT helicopter transported the individuals to Kalispell Regional Medical Center for treatment.

Smith Lake is located north of Whitefish Lake. The incident occured in the King Creek drainage along Montana Department of Natural Resources and Conservation land and private timberland.

The Wildlife Human Attack Response Team conducted the investigation and found a deer carcass that was cached in the thick timber along the edge of the road adjacent to where the attack occurred.

“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.

FWP inspected the dead bear and identified it as an adult female estimated to be nearly 20 years old. It did not have any history of conflict or other management actions.

It is believed to have at least one offspring at the time of the incident. FWP set up cameras in the area to help identify the potential offspring, but no management action is planned at this time.

There are no formal closures in the area.

Bear attacks on humans are rare, but Montana is bear country with populations of grizzly and black bears. Bears are increasingly active and seeking food in the fall months before denning season, which typically begins in late November.

Tips for staying safe in bear country, include carrying and knowing how to use bear spray, staying alert for bear activity, hiking in groups to decrease the chance of surprises a bear, making noise especially near streams or in thick forest where visibility is low, use caution in in areas like berry patches, avoid carcass sites and scavenger concentrations and hunters should be prepared to cut up the carcass of a harvested animal in the darky by carrying strong headlamps and beeing extra vigiland to watch for bears.

Residents are encouraged to report bear activity as soon as possible. In northwest Montana, to report grizzly bear activity in the greater Flathead Valley, call FWP bear management specialists at (406) 250-1265. To report black bear and mountain lion activity in the greater Flathead Valley, call (406) 250-0062.