Billings man hunting black bear kills grizzly
By BEN PIERCE
Chronicle OutThere Editor
A Billings man accidentally shot and killed a 300-pound male grizzly
bear while hunting in the Taylor Fork drainage south of Big Sky last
Saturday, state game officials announced Friday.
Curtis Settergren, 54, shot the grizzly from about 100 yards in an
open area dotted with sagebrush while hunting for black bear in the
Gallatin National Forest.
After shooting the bear, another grizzly appeared from the same area
and scared Settergren off.
Settergren reported the incident to Montana Department of Fish,
Wildlife & Parks game wardens Monday morning.
“He did the right thing in turning himself in,” game warden Capt. Sam
Sheppard, of FWP’s Region 3, said. “It hit him pretty hard. He is hugely
Settergren is charged with possessing or taking a grizzly bear
unlawfully. He faces a $735 fine and $2,000 restitution for the grizzly
bear. His hunting and trapping privileges may be suspended for three
“There was a level of negligence, but he did not go out looking to
illegally shoot a grizzly,” Sheppard said. “The fact remains that it is
a huge damage to the resource.”
The incident occurred 1.7 miles up U.S. Forest Service Trail #33,
near Albino Lake. The Forest Service has closed the trail until further
“Taylor Fork is grizzly bear central,” Sheppard said. “There are
black bear, but there is a high likelihood that tracks and sign will be
FWP game wardens Brian Lloyd and Jim Smolczynski went to the scene
Tuesday to investigate. Settergren had given Lloyd a detailed account of
the incident, including directions to the location of the shooting,
where brass casings were recovered.
The head and paws of the grizzly were removed and will be used by FWP
for educational purposes. The carcass was left at the site for
A necropsy to determine the cause of death was performed Wednesday.
FWP bear specialist Kevin Frey said the bear was a sub-adult male.
The grizzly is the first accidentally killed by a hunter who
misidentified the bear since grizzlies were removed from the endangered
species list last year. Two other bears have been killed by hunters in
self defense since the delisting, both in the Gardiner area. The
delisting is currently being challenged in the courts.
“The population of grizzlies in the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem is
estimated at a minimum of 600,” Frey said. “Montana probably has 10 to
20 percent of those bears at any one time.
“Grizzly bears prior to and post-delisting have a mortality limit
that is hinged to a (population) minimum,” Frey said. “We are trying to
limit human-caused mortalities since the delisting. Those mortalities
are shared between Montana, Idaho, Wyoming, Yellowstone and Grand Teton
Frey said unsecured garbage is the leading cause of grizzly mortality
because problem bears are euthanized. A combination of self defense,
illegal kills and mistaken identification is the second-leading cause of
“This one looked very much like a grizzly,” Sheppard said. “He needed
to take more time before he pulled the trigger. Everyone needs to take
more time in this situation.”
The closure area lies north of Taylor Fork Road between the Albino
Lake and Meadow Creek trailheads. Taylor Fork Road and Meadow Creek
Trail remain open.