Grizzly Bear Defending Her Cub Attacks Father and Son Causing 'Significant Injuries' to Pair

A grizzly bear attacked a father and son while they were on a hunting trip in Montana, causing significant injuries to them before they shot and killed it. Wildlife officials believe the female bear was defending her cub and food when the pair surprised her, prompting the attack.

A statement from the Montana Fish, Wildlife & Parks (FWP) said the father and son were hunting along a gated road when the attack took place. It said the bear "charged out of a thick, wooded area along the road at very close range."

"The two individuals sustained significant injuries before they were able to shoot and kill the bear," the statement released October 31 said.

They were transported to hospital via air ambulance. Details of their current condition were not released.

The attack took place on timberland near Smith Lake, north of Whitefish Lake. FWP launched an investigation into the incident and found a deer carcass nearby. "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.

Montana is home to populations of both black and grizzly bears. It is estimated there are between 500 and 600 grizzlies living in northwest Montana. The species tends to go into hibernation around November, with the months preceding known as "denning season." At this time they are highly active in seeking food.

FWP said the bear was estimated to be 20 years old and had no history of conflict. It said the bear had at least one cub when killed and that cameras have been set up to help identify any offspring. "No management action is planned at this time," the statement said.

While bear attacks on humans are rare, there have been at least three other attacks in the state in recent months. In June, a biologist with the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service was attacked during a research trip to the Centennial Valley. He sustained "serious bite wounds" after encountering two grizzlies. The following month, 50-year-old Shannun Rammell was attacked in an abandoned barn. It is thought the animal was attracted to leftover grain. In September, a 69-year-old hunter sustained injuries to his shoulder and hip after being attacked by a bear with cubs.

The FWP said it had received "numerous reports" of bear activity in the region, in a statement released in October. It said the animals are increasingly active in the fall and that most reports involve bears seeking food. Anyone who encounters a bear should stay at least 100 yards away and make loud noises to try to "haze" wildlife.

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Stock image of a grizzly bear. Montana officials said the bear was shot dead during the encounter with a father and son. iStock