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Surprise encounter with mother grizzly in Montana ends with bear killed, man shot in shoulder

Coexisting with grizzlies in Montana
Finding ways to coexist with grizzly bears in Montana 13:44

Two men shot an adult grizzly bear in Montana, and one of the men was shot in the back, after a surprise encounter in the forest, officials said in a news statement on Monday. 

The 25-year-old female grizzly bear was out with her cub when she ran into the two men in a thick section of the woods near the Smokey Range Trailhead off Canyon Creek Road in the Flathead National Forest, officials said. The men were scouting for hunting season on Aug. 26, when they came within 15 feet of the bears.

The mother grizzly bear charged at the men, investigators said, and the men fired. One of the men was shot in the back shoulder during the incident, but investigators didn't release information on how that occurred. Investigators at Montana Fish Wildlife and Parks determined the incident happened in self-defense. 

The bear that was killed "did not have a history of conflict and was previously tagged for population monitoring work in 2009," the Montana Fish Wildlife and Parks said.

In 1975, grizzly bears were among the first animals to be protected under the Endangered Species Act. Since then, Montana –in particular around Glacier and Yellowstone National Parks– has seen its population of bears grow. In the last four decades, the number of bears in the region has tripled, Hilary Cooley, a grizzly bear recovery coordinator at the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service told CBS News.

But as the population has grown, so have encounters between grizzly bears and humans. Bryce Andrews, a rancher, author and field director for a nonprofit called People and Carnivores, which tries to minimize human-bear conflict, told "60 Minutes" that "anything with caloric value, a bear will turn it into what they need to survive."

To avoid unsafe human and bear interactions, Montana Fish Wildlife and Parks recommends following food storage orders, never approach or feed a bear, and carrying bear spray.

Bill Whitaker contributed reporting.

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