Backpackers say grizzly shooting was self-defense

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The Montana Department of Fish, Wildlife and Parks and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service reported Tuesday they are investigating the death of a grizzly bear from a reported self-defense shooting in the Cabinet Mountains south of Troy.

Two backpackers from Sanders County reported shooting an adult female grizzly bear in self-defense on a forested trail near Dad Peak in the Cabinet Mountains Wilderness, wildlife officials said. The reported surprise encounter occurred along a section of trail with huckleberry bushes. The incident occurred Aug. 2 and the individuals notified authorities Aug. 4 after exiting the backcountry, according to a news release.

The incident remains under investigation.

Dillon Tabish, a spokesman for Fish, Wildlife and Parks, said the preliminary investigation determined the backpackers were not equipped with bear spray. He said they reported the grizzly charged them and they shot the bear with handguns.

“Each backpacker had a gun and each fired at the bear, based on the preliminary investigation,” he said.

He said the bear did not have a radio collar or ear tag.

Wildlife agencies have long been working to try to re-establish a healthy, genetically diverse population of grizzly bears in the Cabinet-Yaak ecosystem, an effort that has included moving bears from other populations into the area.

Tabish acknowledged that female grizzlies play a special role in this effort.

“All grizzly bears are important to the recovery of the Cabinet-Yaak ecosystem, but, yes, females drive population growth more than males,” he said.

Tabish said wildlife officials estimate there are about 50 to 60 grizzlies in the Cabinet-Yaak ecosystem.

FWP reminds recreationists to “Be Bear Aware” and follow precautionary steps to prevent conflicts, including making noise, especially around berry patches, densely forested areas and near streams. Bear spray is an effective deterrent and everyone is encouraged to carry it in the outdoors, the agency said.

More safety information is available on the Fish, Wildlife and Parks website, fwp.mt.gov. Residents can call FWP regional offices to learn more about bears or to report bear activity. In Northwest Montana, call 406-752-5501.

Reporter Duncan Adams may be reached at dadams@dailyinterlake.com or 758-4407.

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