An autopsy has confirmed that wildlife agents shot and killed the same black bear responsible for mauling a man who was camped in the Bob Marshall Wilderness Area on Sept. 14, officials with the Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks (FWP) said Monday.
An investigation by FWP and U.S. Forest Service officials tied the 185-pound male bear to the mauling, and determined that the animal had displayed predatory behavior, probably as a result of being conditioned to human food, The Missoulian reported.
FWP Investigator Brian Sommers reports that a number of food items found in the bear’s stomach were consistent with food at the camp, which the bear consumed after the initial attack. These included pieces of ziplock bags and dried pasta, he said.
Sommers also said that when agents went into the camp to dispatch the bear Friday afternoon, the bear displayed behavior consistent with conditioning and habituation to human food. The bear was killed approximately 70 yards from the scene of the attack, and was in the process of moving back toward the tent where the attack occurred.
“This was a predatory attack by this black bear,” Sommers said.
Blood was swabbed from the claws of the bear and will be tested to confirm a tie to the unidentified victim, he said, while traces of pepper spray were detected on the bear’s fur.
According to FWP Warden Sgt. Jon Obst, who interviewed the victim about the circumstances of the attack, the bear jumped on the man’s tent at about 7:30 a.m. in the Black Bear Creek area of the Bob Marshall.
The bear collapsed the shelter, tore through the fabric and then began to maul the man. The man then sprayed the bear with bear-specific pepper spray and the animal ceased its attack.
The bear remained in the area until a Forest Service employee and other trail-crew members arrived and hazed the bear off, and an ALERT helicopter flew the victim to Kalispell Regional Medical Center.
“The No. 1 message is have your bear spray ready and accessible,” said Chuck Bartlebaugh, the director of the Center for Wildlife Information’s Be Bear Aware campaign in Missoula. “We recommend having it right by your flashlight and having a knife nearby in case you have to cut your way out of the tent.”
After the bear was killed by an FWP response team that flew into the area by helicopter, all the food items and gear left behind at the camp were removed. Usable items were returned to the family of the man, who officials say is recovering from the attack.