Grizzly Bear File

A grizzly bear turns over rocks looking for bugs along the Gallatin River on June 13, 2019.

Montana state and federal officials are investigating three human-caused grizzly bear deaths that happened last week.

Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks said in a news release Monday that a hunter shot and killed a grizzly bear in self-defense in the south Gravelly Mountains on Saturday.

The hunter wasn’t injured and reported the incident to FWP that day. The agency is investigating.

FWP and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service are also investigating two separate human-caused grizzly deaths that happened last week near West Yellowstone.

One of the incidents involved a cub and happened Thursday near the Axolotl Lake/Red Cub Trail (No. 205) in the Beaver Creek area, which is west of Hebgen Lake.

The Forest Service has closed the trail for about a mile where it enters the Cabin Creek Wildlife Management Area because the bear carcass is still there.

Jason Brey, the Forest Service’s Hebgen Lake district ranger, said the other death happened earlier in the week about 3 miles northwest of West Yellowstone in the Madison Arm of Hebgen Lake area.

Brey said the carcass is not near a road or trail and didn’t require a closure for safety.

There hasn’t been much grizzly activity in the West Yellowstone area thus far, Brey said. He said late summer and the fall have been “relatively quiet and what I would call routine.”

The incident in the south Gravelly Mountains is at least the fourth hunter-grizzly encounter in the range this year. Four people were mauled in three separate attacks in September.

Saturday’s shooting came on the opening day of general deer and elk season. FWP’s release said it happened in Eureka Basin, a remote spot in the southern Gravellys. Grizzlies have become more common in the range in the past several years.

FWP warned hunters to be careful of bears throughout Montana during hunting season. It’s a time when bears are preparing for hibernation. The agency recommends carrying bear spray and being alert for any sign of the animals.