UPDATED: 11/7/17, 7:20 A.M. -
BILLINGS - Billings resident Joe Kiedrowski was mauled by a grizzly bear while hunting elk near Tom Miner Basin in Park County Sunday with five other hunters, according to the Montana Department of Fish, Wildlife and Parks.
Kiedrowski said Monday he shot a bull elk Saturday night, but it didn't go down right away. He decided to return to camp and come back the next day to find it.
Kiedrowski hiked back to the area alone Sunday morning. Unsure if the bull was still alive, he remained quiet, with 5 inches of fresh snow further silencing his movement. As he came down a hill and made his way through the brush toward a clearing, he spooked the grizzly coming around a tree about thirty feet away. He believed the bear had claimed his elk.
"The next thing I know I can see him opening his mouth, and the picture I'll never forget is canines about an inch long or so coming toward me," Kiedrowski said.
He put up his arms to fend off the attack, but the charging grizzly bit his right wrist. He threw himself on his back and rolled to his stomach so the bear would maul his backpack instead of his ribs.
The bear backed off and circled back into the brush, out of Kiedrowski's sight, which he said gave him time to ready his bear spray.
"I got really quiet because I knew it wasn't over yet... You could hear him huffing over behind where he originated from... and then all of a sudden it came around the exact same way but this time I was actually ready for him," he said.
Kiedrowski sprayed the bear as it charged a second time, covering the bear's face and getting some on his own as well. The grizzly shied away and circled back again. As it came back a third time, Kiedrowski realized his bear spray was empty. With his face "on fire," Kiedrowski threw the empty can at the bear, causing it to back off into the brush, he said.
Kiedrowski said the entire attack lasted about two minutes.
He readied his rifle and made his way up onto a ridge, where he had a better view of the surrounding area. He stopped to assess the situation and made a call to his brother, Zach Kilwein, who was about three miles away.
"I just got attacked by a bear," he said to Kilwein.
"How bad is it?" Kilwein asked.
"It's pretty bad."
Kilwein talked Kiedrowski through fashioning a tourniquet out of a trailer tie down from his pack around his wounded arm. Then, his phone died.
Kiedrowski made his way to a road where he was picked up by a ranch hand, who drove him a few miles to the main road where he met back up with Mike and Ryan Mershon, two of the five men in the hunting party.
They drove to Livingston where Kiedrowski was treated before being transferred to Billings Clinic, where he stayed from Sunday to Monday afternoon receiving antibiotics.
Kiedrowski said he is holding up well and thankful to be alive. He is also thankful for bear spray.
"That's why I'm here today," he said. "Honestly, if I would have used my sidearm, I don't know if he would have stopped."
Kiedrowski suffered injuries to his right arm, including deep cuts on his wrist and dislocated carpal bones in his hand. He also suffered a large bruise on the side of his head.
The bear was not injured.
An FWP bear specialist said a number of very active grizzly bears are on the move, despite some beginning to hibernate. He advised people to remain bear aware and take these steps to reduce chances of an encounter: