State game wardens had to deal with a rare mountain lion attack and a grizzly bear relocation in northwest Montana last week.
A firewood cutter reported getting attacked by a mountain lion near Libby on Saturday. Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks Region 1 spokesman John Fraley said the man was placing a choker on a log when he was struck from the side and knocked into a tree.
“He said he swung at the animal with his arm, striking it, and it ran off,” Fraley said of the man. “He got up and ran to his truck and saw a mountain lion walking back towards the vehicle. He scared the lion off with his truck.”
The man was cutting wood near Boundary Mountain north of Libby when the incident happened. FWP game wardens and U.S. Forest Service law officers reported he received scratches on the side of his face and stomach but did not seek medical attention. Lion-tracking dogs picked up a scent of the mountain lion, but failed to catch it after several hours’ pursuit. A trail camera also failed to capture images of the lion.
“Mountain lion attacks are really rare,” Fraley said. “The last record in our region that I can find is from 2007 when a mountain lion attacked a hunter in the Swan Valley.”
In a separate incident, FWP game wardens relocated a three-year-old male grizzly bear captured in the Deep Creek drainage near Fortine on May 23. They reported the bear was very habituated to human activity, having been spotted feeding in yards and pastures near barns and houses. While there was no evidence of the bear getting into garbage or other unnatural attractants, neighbors were concerned about how much time the bear was spending near their homes.
Fraley said the grizzly had been captured once before in August 2016 on Whitefish’s Dakota Avenue where it was feeding on fruit trees. It was fitted with a GPS radio collar and released near Frozen Lake on the U.S.-Canadian border. It moved briefly into Alberta’s Waterton Lakes National Park before traveling south into Glacier National Park’s Bowman Creek area.
After emerging from a den near Glacier’s Boulder Pass, the grizzly needed just 12 hours to travel from the North Fork of the Flathead River, over the Whitefish Range and into the Deep Creek area — about 30 air-miles to the west.
“When talking with landowners, one of the reasons he might have been in some of the pastures was because he was feeding on ground squirrels that landowners had been shooting,” Fraley said. “Based on his level of habituation, sightings, and concerns by the residents, he was captured and translocated.”
The grizzly was placed in a remote part of the Spotted Bear Creek drainage on May 24.
FWP wardens have also responded to bear problems in the Eureka, Whitefish, Columbia Falls and Ferndale areas this spring. Fraley asked residents to remember to secure attractants such as garbage, pet food, livestock feed and bird seed, and protect fruit trees, livestock and poultry with electric fencing.
Montana law prohibits feeding bears and ungulates. This includes putting out grain and deer blocks. For more information on electric fencing and living in bear country visit: http://fwp.mt.gov/fishAndWildlife/livingWithWildlife/beBearAware/default.html.