FWP: Grizzly bear killed in self-defense encounter in Whitefish Range

Two men were scouting for hunting season in the Flathead National Forest when they encountered a female grizzly bear with a cub.
Posted at 2:40 PM, Aug 28, 2023
and last updated 2023-08-29 11:27:47-04

KALISPELL — State wildlife officials report that two Whitefish men recently killed a grizzly bear in self-defense in the Whitefish Range north of Whitefish.

The two men were scouting for hunting season near Smokey Range Trailhead in the Flathead National Forest on the afternoon of Aug. 26, 2023, when they encountered a female grizzly bear with a cub.

The men were walking through a thick section of forest when they surprised the bears inside of 15 feet.

The adult bear charged the individuals, and both men shot and killed the bear.

One of the men was shot in the back shoulder during the incident and was taken to the hospital.

FWP game wardens and members of the Wildlife Human Attack Response Team responded and investigated the incident.

The bear’s behavior appeared to be defensive in the surprise, close encounter with the two men, according to FWP.

FWP shared the initial findings with U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) law enforcement, and the USFWS agreed that it was a self-defense situation, according to a news release.

The grizzly bear did not have a history of conflict and was previously tagged for population monitoring work in 2009. The bear was approximately 25 years old.

FWP continues to monitor the site for the cub.

Below is information from FWP about some precautions for people who work outdoors to avoid negative bear encounters:

  • Carry bear spray and be prepared to use it immediately.
  • 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 food storage orders from the applicable land management agency.
  • If you encounter a bear, never approach it. Leave the area when it is safe to do so.
  • Keep garbage, bird feeders, pet food and other attractants put away in a secure building. Keep garbage in a secure building until the day it is collected. Certified bear-resistant garbage containers are available in many areas.
  • Never feed wildlife. Bears that become food conditioned lose their natural foraging behavior and pose threats to human safety. It is illegal to feed bears in Montana.

Hunting in places that have or may have grizzly bears requires special precautions:

  • Carry bear spray and be prepared to use it immediately.
  • Look for bear sign and be cautious around creeks and areas with limited visibility and where any noises you might make do not carry well.
  • Hunt with a group of people. Making localized noise can alert bears to your presence.
  • Be aware that elk calls and cover scents can attract bears.
  • Bring the equipment and people needed to help field dress game and remove the meat from the kill site as soon as possible.
  • If you need to leave part of the meat in the field during processing, hang it at least 10 feet off the ground and at least 150 yards from the gut pile. Leave it where it can be observed from a distance of at least 200 yards.
  • Upon your return, observe the meat with binoculars. If it has been disturbed or if a bear is in the area, leave and call FWP.

Learn more at