NW Montana black bear bites through tent, into sleeping man's ear near St. Regis

Injured man had a clean camp, but previous campers nearby clearly had not-

I think most of us keep a clean camp, but I worry precisely about this.  What went on at a camping spot in the past?

Of course, if there is obvious past food and trash it’s best not to camp there.

Story in the Missoulian.

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Update 6-23: Man recalls nearly losing ear after black bear chomped through tent at campsite near St. Regis. By Jamie Kelly of the Missoulian
Update 6-25. FWP kills bear that bit man’s ear through tent; cub also euthanized. By Rob Cheney. Missoulian





  1. jon Avatar

    Another bear killed by human stupidity, what a shocker, not!

  2. Linda Hunter Avatar

    Bears are starting to bite people – it must be summer. I can’t say that if I was a bear I could resist biting people. I would for sure bat some of em around a little. I would be a dead bear in a hurry I am afraid.

  3. Mike Avatar

    “””It reacted to people, which is good,” said Mack Long, FWP regional supervisor. “But the downside is that once it is habituated, it’s almost impossible to change.”””

    This is simply untrue. I’ve personally witnessed habituated bears go back to normal after food sources were removed. Yellowstone grizzly bears did the same thing once the dumps were closed (although with great difficulty as that was an extreme case).

    If this is a remote, abandoned campground I think you just have to clean up the trash and close it for awhile.

    I spend a lot of time camping in the national forest of Montana, and at some of these unsanctioned primitive campgrounds with no improvements. In fact, when I was out fishing one time I came back to my car only to see some rustling which I thought was strange. As I approached, I realized my car door was open and a big black thing was on the passenger seat. I could feel my heart beating in my throat when I realized that a black bear was sitting on my front seat and eating a bag of Doritos. I charged the car, waving my hands and fly rod in the air, and the bear bolted from my car with the bag of chips. It sprinted to the forest without looking back. When I examined the car, there was a big muddy print on the center armrest and bear hair everywhere. It had eaten a bunch of slim jims and a peanut butter and jelly sandwich. It didn’t make a mess at all. The entire exterior of the car was covered in muddy paw prints. The bear had pried the door open while standing on the roof. Strangely, no damage was done to the door or the lock system.
    The next day I ran into a ranger at this same spot and he informed me there were two young sibling bears who had become habituated to human food because someone in an RV was feeding the bears large bags of cat food. I asked him what he was doing about it and he said “we fined the guy and kicked him out”.

    Two years later while fishing this beautiful spot, I encountered the ranger again and asked him what happened to the bears. He informed me that after the food spruce was removed; they both readjusted to the wildlife and moved on. IT can and does happen in these remote areas.

    I can tell you that the paw-print covered car was quite the conversation starter back in Big Timber.

    It’s definitely a scary story. No one wants to be bit on their head while they sleep. That’s awful. But again it seems like the bear could have done much worse damage if it wanted to. Just remove the food source.

    To this day I still scan the dark forest edges of that primitive campground near my favorite river, always expecting that bear to be there, jut waiting for me to leave so it can get my car again.

    1. Mike Avatar

      Correction to a paragraph in this post:

      “Two years later while fishing this beautiful spot, I encountered the ranger again and asked him what happened to the bears. He informed me that after the food source was removed they both readjusted to the wild and moved on. It can and does happen in these remote areas.

      Sorry! I’m writing a novel that mentions spruce a lot, lol.

    1. WM Avatar

      Four important points:
      1. The bear was attracted by prior human carelessness with food.
      2. The bear was doing what bears do in search of food.
      3. The injured human was not the one who caused the problem.
      4. The injured human does not hold the bear responsible for his injury.


      Spend enough time in the woods in the West, for work or play, and you will likely have a number of black bear stories to tell, mostly humorous in my experience.

      A growing grizzly population may produce different results, if people do not take proper precautions.

    2. Mike Avatar

      I spend a lot of time in various campgrounds and I’ve seen it all. The first thing I do in pack-it-out campgrounds is search the perimeter for trash. I have three favorite campgrounds in the Rockies. One of them is in Glacier, one of them is in the Gallatin National Forest and the other is in Grand Teton. The one in the Gallatin National Forest is about 9 sites and loaded with black bears. In fact, there was a sign on camp warning people that bears were frequenting the campround often. Many people leave trash at this campground. I even witnessed a group trying to leave a broken grill they had dragged up from town in the back of their pickup. All of the dumped trash I see is from locals in pickup trucks. Because of their numbers I usually end up taking the plate number and calling the forest district rather than confrontation. I’ve seen entire coolers emptied out next to the bathrooms, rotten meat, and even tents, blow up mattresses and huge tangles of fishing line just left there. It’s funny how the people who can bring the most stuff back from town always seem to be the ones who trash the place. I’ve seen heacy duty flood lights attached to trees which light up the entire campground, I’ve seen home stereos hooked to generators, I’ve seen bags of cereal, steaks and trout bones left on picnic tables overnight, I’ve seen bonfires reaching into the sky and engulfing the supposed fire rings during fire bans. You name it. Food dumping is just one of many things that happen, usually preceeded by some other offending activity.


Dr. Ralph Maughan is professor emeritus of political science at Idaho State University. He was a Western Watersheds Project Board Member off and on for many years, and was also its President for several years. For a long time he produced Ralph Maughan’s Wolf Report. He was a founder of the Greater Yellowstone Coalition. He and Jackie Johnson Maughan wrote three editions of “Hiking Idaho.” He also wrote “Beyond the Tetons” and “Backpacking Wyoming’s Teton and Washakie Wilderness.” He created and is the administrator of The Wildlife News.

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Ralph Maughan