Photo: USFWS Mountain Prairie/CC BY 2.0
When humans and nature collide, it too often happens that everyone loses. Tragedy has struck again as a hunter in Montana has been killed in an encounter with a grizzly. The grizzly lost its life to the victim's hunting companion. It is illegal to kill grizzly bears in the lower 48 states, and the case is under investigation, but it is not yet clear if charges will be brought. Our thoughts go out to the family of the victim, and to his companion, and we also hope that other hunters will learn from this unfortunate case. According to the AP the two men were tracking the grizzly after shooting and wounding it, believing it to be a black bear. As they approached the stricken bear's hiding spot, the bear attacked, mortally wounding one man before his hunting partner could kill the bear. Response to calls for help came too late in the remote area of Montana, along the Idaho border, where assistance arrived finally by helicopter.
For those working to reintroduce the threatened grizzly to six key habitat areas, this news will come as a blow. Losing a member of a threatened species hurts, but worse is the bad publicity it brings for the bears as humans focus on the threat rather than the beauty of these natural creatures.
For hunters, nature lovers, and those who live in communities co-habiting with bears, this attack will further stir the controversy. Hunters, often great advocates of maintaining the planet's natural wonders, will ponder the duty to fully identify one's prey before firing a shot. Communities that encroach on bear habitat (why is it we often speak of bears intruding in humans spaces?) will continue to debate the value of reintroducing aggressive species. In Idaho, for example, legislation is under consideration to clarify that shooting a bear in self defense is legal, after a man shot a grizzly cub when a couple of them wandered onto his property (charges were dropped and he paid a $1000 fine).
Sadly, increased human encounters are often the marker of a successful reintroduction, while humans learn to once again respect the dangers that were missing as populations waned. In fact, grizzly attacks remain rare, and the population in the area of this unfortunate event is reported to be only a couple dozen grizzlies, a fact that will certainly support the hunter's case as he probably did not expect to see a grizzly bear.
More on Grizzly Bears:
Police Helicopter Chases Bear Away From Joggers With Baby (Video)
When Animals Encounter Humans: Habitat Loss Stories, Both Tragic and Comic
Hungry Bear Takes Joyride, Totals Car Looking for Sandwich
Grizzly Bears Starve to Death as Salmon Disappear
Yellowstone Grizzlies Back on Endangered Species List