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Grizzly attacks biologist in Beaverhead County
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Grizzly attacks biologist in Beaverhead County

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Grizzly bear

A grizzly bear attacked a federal biologist in Montana’s Centennial Valley during a surprise encounter at a research site on Wednesday.

The unidentified U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service biologist received serious bite wounds and was treated and released from a Rexburg, Idaho, hospital on Wednesday afternoon, according to FWS spokesman Joseph Szuszwalak. The incident occurred in the Red Rock Lakes National Wildlife Refuge about a mile west of Elk Lake in Beaverhead County. The biologist was monitoring a sage grouse research project.

Szuszwalak said the biologist heard a noise in the brush and saw two grizzly bears about 80 to 100 yards away. One bear stood up, while the other charged. The biologist deployed bear spray until the two bears ran away. Other FWS staff in the area came to help, and were able to escort the victim to medical treatment.

Both Montana Department of Fish, Wildlife & Parks and Idaho Department of Fish and Game investigators are reviewing the incident. This is the seventh person injured by grizzly bears in the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem this year. About 700 grizzlies inhabit the ecosystem surrounding Yellowstone National Park.

Recreationists and people who work outdoors should always be prepared to handle a bear encounter. Most bear attacks on humans happen in surprise close encounters. Activities that are deliberately quiet or fast moving, such as hunting, mountain biking or trail running, put people at greater risk for surprising a bear. When you’re outside, keep these precautions in mind:

  • Be aware of your surroundings and look for bear sign.
  • Read signs at trailheads and stay on trails. Be especially careful around creeks and in areas with dense brush.
  • Carry bear spray. Know how to use it and be prepared to deploy it at a second’s notice.
  • Travel in groups whenever possible and make casual noise, which can help alert bears to your presence.
  • Stay away from animal carcasses, which often attract bears.
  • Follow U.S. Forest Service (USFS) food storage orders, which have been in effect for public lands in Montana since March 1.
  • If you encounter a bear, never approach it. Back away slowly and leave the area.
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