BONNERS FERRY, Idaho (AP) — The two hunters were tracking a wounded grizzly bear into an area of heavy cover along the Idaho-Montana border when the animal attacked, fatally injuring one of the men before his partner could kill the bear, authorities say.
Steve Stevenson, 39, and Ty Bell, 21, members of a hunting party from Winnemucca, Nev., had been going after black bears in the mountainous, heavily forested region near the Canadian border when the attack occurred around 10 a.m. PDT Friday.
A bit earlier, Bell shot and wounded a young male grizzly, believing it to be a black bear, undersheriff Brent Faulkner said.
"They tracked the bear into an area of heavy cover where Mr. Stevenson was attacked by the wounded grizzly bear," Faulkner said in a news release late Friday.
"Mr. Bell was able to shoot the bear multiple times, eventually killing it," he said.
Bell used his cell phone to call for help but Stevenson died from his injuries, Faulkner said.
The area is extremely remote, with no roads and poor communications, said Ron Aasheim of the Montana Department of Fish, Wildlife and Parks. Authorities reached the scene in helicopters.
"This is big-time back country," he said. "There are no roads even close to this thing."
Authorities said the two were part of a four-person hunting party going after black bears in the area. Faulkner said the party had split up earlier into two-member teams.
The incident is under investigation. It is illegal to kill a grizzly bear, which is listed as threatened in the Lower 48 states, but there was no immediate word if Bell would face any charges.
This is at least the third man killed by a grizzly since July. In late August, a grizzly bear in Yellowstone National Park, some 400 miles south of here, mauled a Michigan hiker to death. In July, a female bear with cubs in Yellowstone attacked a couple from California, killing the man before fleeing.
This attack comes as Idaho's congressional delegation has proposed amending the Endangered Species Act to clarify that it is legal to shoot a grizzly bear in self-defense or in defense of another person.
The legislation was in response to the case of a northern Idaho man who shot and killed a grizzly cub in May after it and two other cubs wandered onto his property.
Jeremy Hill, 33, was charged with a federal crime of killing a federally protected species, but the case was dropped last week and he paid a $1,000 fine for a noncriminal infraction.