We have been saying it for awhile, but another grizzly bear expert is urging hunters and hikers to carry bear pepper spray when entering the woods. It just makes sense.

This time, Mike Madel, a bear management specialist from the Montana Fish, Wildlife & Parks has reported an increase in hunter bear encounters over the past few years. As if you needed another reason to defend and protect yourself from an angry, 8 foot bear in the woods.

“Hunters like to rely on firearms, and things do happen pretty quickly,” Madel says. “But if both backcountry hikers and hunters have red-pepper spray on the hip, it can be accessed quickly and used.”

A mother grizzly was shot last month on Summit Trail between U.S. Highway 2 and the South Fork of the Two Medicine River near East Glacier. A hunter was imitating a female elk call, or “cow talking” when the mother bear and two cubs investigated the noise.

Madel says the mother charged the hunter who ended up shooting and mortally wounding the bear. The two cubs were not captured and a warden who responded to the scene and shot the seriously wounded bear, decided the two cubs were to fend for themselves. Pepper spray may have prevented the death of that mother bear.

The bear isn’t the enemy, we are invading their home. Most of us would rather deter the bear from approaching and leave the scene with both parties unscathed.

A year prior, a different hunter was attacked by a grizzly bear near Dupuyer in Montana, and then another hunter shot and killed a female grizzly that charged him near East Glacier. A third hunter was unharmed, although shaken up by a close encounter along the Rocky Mountain Front.

Madel believes a large number of elk along the Front is attracting many hunters, which in turn, leads to more encounters with the local grizzlies.

This is true with more than just the elk hunters in Montana. Anywhere hunters are in the woods hunting elk, moose, deer, wild turkey or any other hunting season prey, an encounter with a grizzly bear, brown bear or polar bear may be possible.

Even wilderness hikers and campers need to be careful and prepared for a bear encounter. Even when meticulous bear encounter prevention measures are and should be taken, a chance bear-to-face meeting could occur.

I have seen many bears at a rather close distance. Luckily the fences and zoo enclosures protected me quite well. In the wild, I’d rather have a can of bear mace strapped to my hip, with a back up can in my pack. I hope all my companions have their bear spray readily available too. Just in case.

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