A Montana hunter returning Sunday morning to the area in which he wounded an elk the night before was surprised by an attacking grizzly bear that apparently found it first.
Joe Kiedrowski of Billings, Montana, was on a hunting trip with five others near Tom Miner in Park County when he shot an elk Saturday night.
Since the animal didn’t go straight down, Kiedrowski decided to return to camp and search for the elk the next morning, according to KTVQ. Kiedrowski was alone when he encountered the grizzly bear.
He had just made his way through the brush and the fresh fallen snow to a clearing when he noticed the grizzly bear coming around a tree 30 feet away.
“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 told KTVQ.
He was bitten in the right wrist and sustained other injuries as he fought off the grizzly. He then fell to the ground and rolled onto his stomach to use his backpack as a shield, but the bear backed off into the bush and gave Kiedrowski time to deploy his bear spray.
“I got really quiet because I knew it wasn’t over yet,” he told KTVQ. “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.”
Kiedrowski covered the bear’s face in bear spray, and even got some on his own. The grizzly bear backed away but wasn’t finished. It charged a third time.
Unfortunately, Kiedrowski had used all the bear spray, so he threw the empty can at the grizzly, prompting it to retreat for good into the bushes.
With his rifle at the ready, Kiedrowski made his way to the top of a ridge and called his brother, who instructed him on how to fix a tourniquet around his arm.
He then made his way to a road where a ranch hand picked him up and drove him a few miles to the main road. There, he met up with Mike and Ryan Mershon from his hunting party.
Kiedrowski was treated in Livingston, Montana, before being transferred to St. Vincent Healthcare in Billings. He sustained injuries to his right arm, wrist and hand, and a bruise to the side of the head. He had deep cuts on his wrist and dislocated carpal bones in his hand.
He told KTVQ that he was thankful to be alive, and thankful for the bear spray.
“That’s why I’m here today,” he told KTVQ. “Honestly, if I would have used my side arm, I don’t know if he would have stopped.”
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