An Idaho Falls man bow hunting near Island Park, Idaho, on Monday morning scared off an attacking grizzly bear by firing a .44 magnum revolver pistol at point-blank range.
The archer, Mike Adams, was carrying bear spray, but because of his struggle with the bear was only able to grasp his firearm, Idaho Department of Fish and Game spokesman Greg Losinski said.
“He was blocking with his left hand, and he’s left-handed, so he wasn’t able to reach his bear spray,” Losinski said.
Adams was able to get hold of his handgun with his off-hand and discharge the weapon “several times.”
“I don’t know how fast those shots went off,” Losinski said, “but the bear did withdraw from the area at that point.”
A crew of seven Fish and Game staffers investigated the site of the man’s scuffle with the grizzly Monday afternoon. They found neither a dead grizzly nor signs that the bruin had been struck by the gunfire from Adams’s revolver, Losinski said.
“They could not find any indication that the bear was injured,” he said. “We could not find any evidence at the site of blood or anything like that.”
The attack happened north of Island Park in the Caribou-Targhee National Forest near Sawtell Peak.
Losinski said early findings from the state’s investigation suggest that Adams was attacked because of food-guarding behavior or because he surprised the grizzly, a sow that had three cubs of the year. A cached deer was found at the scene of the attack, Losinski said.
The hunter was experienced, Losinski said, and had noticed grizzly sign earlier in the day. Ambient sound at the site may have played a role in the encounter.
“It was right next to a creek that was running very full and loud,” Losinski said.
The grizzly bit the archer’s hand and wrist and caused “lots of soft tissue damage,” but broke no bones, Losinski said.
The man was able to walk out of the woods about 1.5 miles, and then was driven by an ambulance to the Madison Memorial Hospital in Rexburg, Idaho. The Associated Press reported that Adams was treated and released.
The hunter was composed enough in the aftermath of the attack to take GPS coordinates from the scene, which aided the Fish and Game crew that investigated and swept the forest looking for the grizzly or its blood. At the site they found the man’s hat and the cached deer, confirming they were in the right spot.
The grizzly attack Monday was the first reported hunter-bear conflict of the fall in Idaho, Losinski said. Across the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem, on average a handful of grizzly bears are killed each fall by hunters defending themselves.
On Aug. 25 a Snake River fisherman in Grand Teton National Park scared off a grizzly by firing his handgun. The grizzly, which had two cubs, stood on its hind legs but did not charge before the Star Valley resident discharged his weapon, aiming toward the ground.
“The fisherman was issued a mandatory appearance citation for discharging a firearm within a national park,” a Grand Teton park statement said. “Initial reports indicate that the fisherman had bear spray but was unable to use it.”