BOZEMAN — Most close encounters with a bear are usually pretty frightening and dangerous. But one Bozeman angler has a bear encounter story that just leaves him laughing.
“We headed out that morning doing a little bit of fishing,” said Jason Veitch, owner of Arctic Spas near Four Corners.
He was fishing with a friend at the Yellowtail Dam, south of Hardin.
“This bear come out of this cherry stand and headed straight down to the water’s edge, where we were,” said Veitch.
Bears are common in that area, but what happened next caught Veitch off guard.
“He just kept coming,” said Veitch.
That’s right—the bear swam right out to Veitch’s boat.
“It was a hell of a lot more exciting than the fishing was, I can tell you that,” said the store owner.
This is far from the first unusual bear story of the summer. So what’s going on?
Sgt. Matt Wemple, an FWP game warden has an idea. He said, “Well, we are in an extreme drought year this year. And, whenever you have a year like that it affects so many things for wild animals, especially food sources and food and water.”
Veitch also has a theory about what brought the bear to his boat.
“Given the amount of traffic up there and boaters and it’s a very popular recreation area, that and, you know, that bear had been fed and was sort of conditioned to boats and had a food reward,” he said.
“Bears can smell things that we just can’t. And there’s a very good chance that whatever you have on your ice chest, on your hands, in your hand, whatever, they probably can smell it and it’s probably drawing them to you.”
While this certainly seems like a Yogi and Boo-Boo moment, Wemple says people could be putting themselves, and this bear itself, in danger.
“Do not feed bears, for one thing. We have had that happen this year and unfortunately a lot of times that results in the bear being euthanized because it creates a public safety issue,” said Wemple.
His advice? Back away slowly when you see a bear—don’t run. And don’t forget to carry your bear spray.
Wemple went on to say, “Bears can smell things that we just can’t. And there’s a very good chance that whatever you have on your ice chest, on your hands, in your hand, whatever, they probably can smell it and it’s probably drawing them to you.”
“You know, Montana’s amazing in that regard. You know, around any given corner there’s an opportunity to experience something like that, but you know, you certainly have to be bear aware and treat wildlife as wildlife,” said Veitch.
Wemple reminds everyone that there have already been two fatal bear attacks in Montana this year. He says hikers and bikers are reporting numerous bear encounters and mock charges by grizzly bears. He says so far this summer, the FWP has euthanized nine bears.
DIGITAL EXTRA: Extended interview with Sgt. Matt Wemple, FWP warden