BUTTE -- A 50-year-old Bozeman man escaped a mauling by the same sow bear — possibly a grizzly — twice on Saturday morning on the North Fork of Bear Creek. Still, he was able to drive himself about 17 miles to the Ennis hospital, authorities said.
While scouting possible hunting locations 3 miles down the trail, the unidentified man encountered a sow and her cub — suspected to be grizzlies, said Madison County Sheriff Roger Thompson. The first incident occurred at about 7:15 or 7:30 a.m.
Even though he yelled, used bear spray and rolled into a ball to play dead, the bear chewed on the man and jumped on him.
“(The man) did everything he was supposed to do,” said Thompson. “He got a small fracture in his left forearm when the bear jumped on him.”
Finally, the bear took off, and the man continued to make his way back to the trailhead.
But the bear wasn’t done with him.
“Out of nowhere, the bear attacked him again and did the same thing to him,” added Thompson. The man was still 2½ miles from the trailhead.
The man’s strategy clearly worked in his favor.
“She just seemed to lose interest because he was playing dead. Then she just wandered off. Bears can be that way when they have their babies with them.”
Bleeding profusely, the man eventually reached the trailhead and then drove himself about 17 miles to the Madison Valley Medical Center in Ennis, said Thompson. Along the way, he was able to get cellphone coverage, so he called the Madison County sheriff’s office to report his encounters.
“There was a lot of blood in his vehicle,” added Thompson, who joined the man and Ennis Police Chief John Moore at the hospital.
“He’s probably going to be released today after they fix him up,” said Thompson Sunday. “It’s like being struck by lightning twice in the same day; you don’t get attacked by the same bear in one day.”
The Montana Department of Fish, Wildlife and Parks will determine what, if anything, will happen to the bear.
The hunter's name has not been released.
“I think he did an excellent job under the circumstances, but he ran into a bear who wasn’t happy with his presence — and he lived to tell about it,” added Thompson. “I think he should go out and buy a lottery ticket now.”