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MT: Hunter survives bear attack in southern Gravellys

September 13, 2010

Hunter survives bear attack in southern Gravellys

An archery hunter in the southern end of the Gravelly Mountains was attacked by a grizzly bear Sunday, but survived with limited injuries.

Matt Menge from Bozeman was making his way back to his truck in the Fossil Creek area in the upper end of the West Fork of the Madison River drainage about 40 miles south of Ennis, said Sam Sheppard, region 3 warden captain for Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks.

Menge was in dense timber, when he heard a growl and the rush of attack. The bear was on him before he could get out his pepper spray, Sheppard said.

The attack was over quickly and left Menge with lacerations, punctures, head injuries and a broken forearm. He was treated at the Madison Valley Medical Center.

Menge was alone when the attack happened and told officials it was a small grizzly.

People have reported several grizzly bear sightings in the southern Gravellys this summer, said Kevin Frey, bear expert with FWP.

The area has a residential bear population and also gets frequent visits from grizzlies moving back and forth from the Madison Range, Frey said.

"The bears are expanding or drifting out of the Yellowstone core area," he said.

The group Menge was hunting with had seen grizzlies in the area prior to the attack, Sheppard said. The area is also part of the Beaverhead-Deerlodge National Forest food storage restriction area, so signs warning people of grizzly bears were already in place.

Archery hunters in grizzly bear country need to be cautious, Frey said.

"They're just inherently really vulnerable to sneak up on a bear," he said.

Some tips Frey offers are: carry pepper spray; if you kill something to immediately dress the animal and remove the meat from the kill site; leave meat where you can see it from at least 200 yards; if you have to leave meat in the woods, hang it at least 10 feet off the ground and 150 yards from the gut pile; when you return to the meat watch it with binoculars to make sure no bears are near; if meat is disturbed or a bear is in the area, leave immediately and contact FWP; and avoid gut piles, carcasses and areas where ravens are concentrated.

Lastly, Frey recommends always hunting with a partner. Statistically, groups of people are less likely to be attacked than individuals.

Officials have talked with other hunters in the area of the attack and many had seen bears, Sheppard said. The agency will not take any action against the bear that attacked Mange.

Grizzly bear encounters are an inherent risk of hunting in the southern Gravellys, he said.

"We're not going to go looking for this bear," Sheppard said. .

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