WILDLIFE ENCOUNTERS -- Bear spray apparently enabled a hiker from Wisconsin to ward off an attacking grizzly bear in Glacier National Park on Tuesday.
The man, 65, was hiking alone off- trail near Mt. Henkel in the Many Glacier Valley, where he surprised a sow grizzly with two sub-adult cubs about 5 p.m., according to Park officials.
The hiker was grabbed and shaken by the bear during the encounter. The man successfully deployed his bear spray, causing the bear to release him and leave the area.
The hiker received puncture wounds to his lower leg and injuries to his hand. His injuries were not life threatening.
The man hiked back to his vehicle in Many Glacier and drove himself to the emergency room at the Northern Rockies Medical Center in Cutbank, Montana. He was treated and released later the evening of Sept. 29, and continued on with his travel itinerary. He called Glacier National Park Dispatch to report the incident. Rangers are still investigating the incident.
According to park rangers, the bear’s response to the hiker was defensive in nature and consistent with a surprise encounter with a hiker.
A similar attack involving a bowhunter occurred last month near Yellowstone Park, except that the hunter used a handgun to thwart the attack. The result was similar, but the mother bear with cubs may have been injured.
Glacier Park officials warn hikers to venture out in groups, avoid hiking in obvious feeding areas like berry patches, cow parsnip thickets, or fields of glacier lilies, to make noise when hiking, and have bear spray accessible and know how to use it.
Click here for more information about recreating in bear country.
At this time of year, bears are entering a phase called hyperphagia. It is a period of concentrated feeding to prepare for hibernation. There has been a shortage of berries in many areas of the park this year, leading to the potential for increased bear activity in visitor use areas.