Berry picker has harrowing griz encounter

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A grizzly sow and her cubs feed in a patch of huckleberries in Glacier National Park in the Swiftcurrent Valley in this file photo. A bear like this one charged a huckleberry picker near Lion Lake Tuesday.

Hunter Dana, 17, had a nerve-wracking encounter with a grizzly bear sow and three cubs at Lion Lake Tuesday morning.

Dana, of Columbia Falls, hiked up to his family’s usual huckleberry-picking spot near Hungry Horse and sat down to pick. Dana’s mother, Jennifer Wheat-Dana, said that her son reported “something didn’t feel right.”

One of Dana’s empty gallon jugs clanked against another jug and the sow came flying out of the woods.

“She kept coming after him,” Wheat-Dana said. “He would spray her, get away, and she was coming again. She followed him clear around the lake.”

At one point, the sow charged Dana, he sprayed her, and her nail caught his pant leg and tripped him. The spray had subdued her enough for him to get up and get moving, she said.

Dana is scratched from the underbrush and hit the ground hard but is uninjured. He lost his voice from screaming at the bear.

Dana’s father was on the phone with him during the attack, and simultaneously called 911 with a co-worker’s phone.

When Wheat-Dana arrived, Flathead County Sheriff’s deputies and a game warden had already arrived. Dana was picked up at the south end of the lake.

Montana Fish, Wildlife, and Parks wildlife manager Neil Anderson said the agency will not be removing the sow or cubs.

“We have no intention from my standpoint. It was just a bear protecting her cubs. No one was injured,” Anderson said.

But recreationists and berry-pickers should plan to avoid the area.

“She’s a pissed-off mama bear so I highly recommend staying out of the area,” Wheat-Dana said, and confirmed that the bear spray had saved her son’s life. “Imagine if he had a gun, if he only injured her. He wouldn’t be here.”

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