WEST GLACIER – A hiker in Glacier National Park fired a hand gun at a bear Saturday morning after deploying bear spray at it.
Around 9:30 a.m. park officials were notified of the incident on the Mount Brown Lookout Trail on the west side of the park. An initial investigation found that a 57-year-old man from Texas was hiking alone on the trail when a bear charged him from below the trail. It is unknown whether the bear was a black bear or grizzly.
The hiker deployed his canister of bear spray and then discharged one round of his handgun. It is believed the bear was wounded and ran away. The hiker then turned around and hiked back to the trailhead, warning other hikers on the trail of the incident. The hiker met a park volunteer backcountry ranger on the trail, and the ranger notified park dispatch of the situation. The hiker was not injured.
Officials closed the trail and started an investigation into the incident. Park rangers and bear specialists hiked from the trailhead, and were transported via helicopter to the summit of Mount Brown, to investigate and search for the bear. Officials say it’s likely the bear was wounded. The trail remains closed as the investigation continues.
In another incident, park officials were notified that a hiker in the Lunch Creek Drainage needed emergency help around 2:15 p.m. Saturday. A 54-year old woman from Kalispell fell, tumbled a short distance, dislocated her knee and was unable to hike out of the area by Going-to-the-Sun Road. Her hiking companion hiked to the Going-to-the-Sun Road to get help. Two rangers found her in a steep and rugged area, off trail. The hikers were hiking off trail when the incident occurred.
Three rangers were flown to the area via helicopter to provide medical assistance and help evacuate the hiker. Due to the terrain and the injury, rangers determined she would need to be hoisted out of the area. Members of the Flathead County Sheriff’s Office aboard the Two Bear Air Helicopter responded to the scene and hoisted the hiker to the helicopter, and then transported her to the West Glacier area where an ambulance was waiting. The ambulance transported the injured hiker to Kalispell Regional Medical Center.
Glacier officials urge hikers to hike in groups, stay on designated trails, carry bear spray that is easily accessible, and make noise at regular intervals along the trail. The park is home to grizzly and black bears. Bears spend a lot of time eating, so hikers should be extra alert while in or near feeding areas such as berry patches, cow parsnip thickets or fields of glacier lilies. Hiking early in the morning, late in the day, or after dark is not encouraged. Trail running is not recommended as it has led to surprise bear encounters.