Shot grizzly bear saved by vet and returned to the Montana wilds

Bird hunter-shot-sow treated and returned to the wild, minus an eye-

While numerous injured black bears are rehabilitated and returned to the outdoors, this medically treated mother grizzly bear will likely survive and this will save her cub too.

Story with photos





  1. skyrim Avatar

    Great story, but I doubt the conclusion that the animal’s ability to survive has not been compromised.

    1. Jay Avatar

      Bears frequently do damage to each other fighting for food, sparring for mates, etc.–I’ve watched documentaries showing bears with ears ripped off, large flaps of skin hanging loose, noses torn off, and any other numbers of injuries incurred from run-ins with other bears. You’re underestimating the toughness of these animals to suggest a missing eye compromises its survival.

      1. skyrim Avatar

        I’m not underestimating anything. These are hearty animals for certain, but when it comes to defending itself or the cub, losing half of it’s sight is a very big deal.

        1. Jay Avatar

          Well, I guess the bear experts that trapped, treated, and released this bear disagree with you. Perhaps they have a bit more insight into bear physiology and ability than you would like to give them credit for…after all, they are the ones that work with these animals on a day-to-day basis.

          1. aves Avatar

            You don’t need to work with bears on a “day-to-day basis” to realize that two eyes are better than one. If bears didn’t need two eyes they would have evolved to have only one.

            Being compromised and being able to survive aren’t mutually exclusive. The bear can be both at a disadvantage and capable of persevering.

            1. Ralph Maughan Avatar
              Ralph Maughan

              Certainly a one-eyed bear has a disadvantage compared to other bears, all things being equal; but it looks like they thought the chances were better releasing her after treatment rather than removing her and her cub from the ecosystem.

            2. Jay Avatar

              I’m sure if the bear could talk, it would say that it would prefer to have both eyes. However, that wasn’t the point–Skyrim questioned the wildlife professional’s assessment that the bear had a good chance to survive. Obviously they know bears better than you, Skyrim, or myself, and they indicate the bear has a good outlook to survive.

  2. Mike Avatar

    Yet more damage caused by hunters. What a horrific impact they have on wildlife.

    Best of luck to this bear, and may it remain very far from these doofuses in the future.

    1. rork Avatar

      Call them all bad names, at every opportunity, since there can be no hope of progress otherwise. Cousteau proved that.

    2. jon Avatar

      This hunter should be charged. Hunters doing what they do best and that is shooting our wildlife.

      1. Jeff Avatar

        What would you charge him with?

        1. jon Avatar

          for shooting a protected animal

          1. Ralph Maughan Avatar
            Ralph Maughan


            The facts of the incident matter.

          2. Craig Avatar

            So would you stand there and get mauled/killed or defend yourself? Oh that’s right, you stay in your little place on the East coast and dream of walking in the wild! Enjoy mister know it all! Dreams can be frighting!

      2. TC Avatar

        Sounds like the hunter was charged – by a bear. You know what that’s like, right Jon? You’ve handled it better than this hunter, right? Tell us about it.

        As to the rest of your post – on a good day, yes Jon, shooting (and killing, followed by butchering and eating) wildlife is what hunters do best. This was not a good day for hunter or bear, nor I’d wager the intended or desired outcome by either.

  3. Linda Jo Hunter Avatar

    Bear pepper spray would have been cheaper . Just sayin.

    1. jon Avatar

      There should be a law that forces hunters to carry bear spray.

      1. ma'iingan Avatar

        “There should be a law that forces hunters to carry bear spray.”

        But not hikers, Jon? Of the six people killed by grizzlies since 2010, all were hikers. And some of the bears involved died as a result of the hikers’ not carrying bear spray.

        That’s OK with you? As long as hunters are forced to carry bear spray?

      2. Craig Avatar

        There should be a filter that prevents ignorant posts from you and mike!

  4. Kathleen Avatar

    The news item characterizes the interaction as a “surprise encounter”–that doesn’t necessarily mean that the bear charged; indeed, if she had, it seems likely that would have been reported. At any rate, this is a fantastic outcome for an otherwise sad situation–kudos to FWP for saving this mom and cub and returning them to the wild. It isn’t always possible, given the world and the hazards we’ve created for wildlife. I recently visited two Montana cubs whose mom was killed as a “problem bear” seven years ago–they were sent to a zoo in Indiana. Anyone interested in their story can find it here

    1. Leslie Avatar

      I understand that many incidents go unreported to newspapers so the public stays unaware. I’ve heard some very sad stories this fall re: bears being shot and not killed but going crazy. Although you never know till you’re in that situation, bear spray does work as I’ve used it before.

    2. Leslie Avatar

      Thanks for the article you wrote. Enlightening. And I have to wonder why people living/moving to grizzly territory aren’t required by county zoning laws to protect food sources, live or dead. Very outdated thinking I suppose

  5. Ida Lupine Avatar
    Ida Lupine

    Was this a deliberate attack and harrassment by the hunter, or truly a surprise attack? I wondered about why he didn’t use bear spray either. Poor bear, happy that there was a good outcome for a change.

    1. Ida Lupine Avatar
      Ida Lupine

      I’m no expert, just a concerned citizen, but I tend to think (hope!) that the mother bear will do well and compensate for her injuries with her other senses. It’s not ideal, but think of how it is for human beings with injuries, the other senses conpensate, and I think it will be the same for this bear. I’m thrilled that the vet was able to help not only her, but insure the survival of her cub, and save theirr place in the environment. As long as the infection has cleared up, I think she will do ok! 🙂

  6. SAP Avatar

    All: Ralph & his crack team have conveniently put together a “tag” of bear pepper spray stories that have appeared on this blog.

    Although there may be something new to be said about bear spray, most of what has been said here, and most of what will be said, has already been covered at some point in the past five years or so here.

    This one story in particular just got beat to death:

    Of course, this is the first opportunity on this blog to debate whether one-eyed grizzlies will do ok in the wild, so there’s a plenty of fertile ground for conjecture on that topic. Have at it!

    1. SAP Avatar

      here’s the link for the bear spray tag:

      1. Ralph Maughan Avatar
        Ralph Maughan


        Thanks for pointing out the use of tags in the Wildlife News. If folks would read some of the past stories, discussions might not be so repetitive.

  7. Wm Bova Avatar
    Wm Bova

    When you are hunting you are usually cradling your weapon (particularly while bird hunting). If it’s a split second decision your only choice is the gun. Certainly, if you have time to deploy the spray, use it.

    Good pro bono by the vet.

  8. Salle Avatar

    An important point to be made here:

    Because bears rely more heavily on their sense of smell, Fraley said he doesn’t expect the operation will compromise its ability to survive in the wild.

    “A bear with one eye isn’t at as great of a disadvantage as a more sight-oriented animal,” he said. “We think that the prognosis for survival is pretty good.”

    I would have to say I agree with the comment. Two separate bear sightings came to mind when I read that part of the article.

    A couple years ago I had the benefit of regular visits into YNP and both these anecdotes come from that year, the first one in early spring and the other a day or two before the park closed for the winter.

    While watching a portion of a wolf pack loosely guarding an elk carcass on an open hillside with ever larger hills rising behind it for a couple miles, a bear came slowly strolling along on a hill well behind the one with wolves and carcass. The bear must have been well over three quarters of a mile away completely unaware of the wolves or the people watching further down on the road. There’s no way it could have seen the location of the carcass. We all watched and were trying to guess at which point the wind would carry the scent of the carcass up the next drainage and how quickly the bear would catch it. As soon as the bear caught the scent on the breeze, it made a sharp turn from it’s route and nearly trotted directly to the carcass and had a taste before the wolves decided to try and reclaim their prize. A couple nips at the bear’s hind quarters ended the snack.

    Later that year I was able to watch a large boar truckin’ down the powerline a couple miles west of Cygnet Lake trailhead. He was huge and my friend and I got to catch a couple spots through the trees where we could get a couple quick pictures of him without getting dangerously close. He was moving like he had some place to go so it wasn’t easy to get any pictures through the trees. The sighting didn’t last very long. When we were reviewing our pictures on large computer screens later that day, we noticed that the bear was missing his right ear. No blood or open wounds just didn’t have a right ear… huge, healthy looking, wouldn’t want to mess with it, well seasoned grizzly bear.

    Point: even though compromised by lack of an ear or an eye, the bears rely heavily on their sense of smell and that’s a major component of their natural survival “tool kit”. I think the vet and the FWP folks made a good call, especially since they were able to help her, and treated then released her and her cub back into the ecosystem (hopefully where there aren’t a lot of other bears to compete with right away). They will likely do okay. Even if the sow doesn’t last many years beyond the next one or two, the cub will have a good chance at survival in the wild and not be locked up in a zoo. Hopefully it will reproduce many times in the future. Maybe the sow will too.


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