HELENA, Mont. – An Oregon man was recovering in a hospital Friday from wounds inflicted by a bear at a Montana campground a day earlier, and wildlife officials were trying to trap the animal they believe is a grizzly.
The man was at a campground about five miles from the northeast entrance to Yellowstone National Park when the bear entered his tent and attacked him early Thursday.
Steven Bartley, 59, of Springfield, Ore., said he received about a dozen puncture wounds to both hands, some deep lacerations and a broken bone below his thumb that required surgery.
He is likely to be released from the West Park Hospital in Cody, Wyo., on Sunday, hospital spokesman Joel Hunt said.
In Montana's Cooke City area near Yellowstone, two baited bear traps were in place Friday at the Soda Butte campground where the attack occurred as Bartley lay in a sleeping bag inside his three-man tent, said Melissa Frost, spokeswoman for the state Department of Fish, Wildlife and Parks.
Bartley told The Billings Gazette that he and a friend were on their way to Gillette, Wyo., for an international motorcycle rally when the attack occurred.
He said he awoke that night when something bumped his feet and then head-butted him.
Bartley sat up and began to unzip his tent, and a bear bit his right hand. He was unable to see the animal in the darkness.
"It was just over so fast," Bartley told the Gazette Friday from his hospital room. "I really feared for my life."
Bartley yelled for help while striking at the bear with his left fist. The bear bit that hand, then clamped again on his right hand.
"I was just going nuts, screaming at the top of my lungs," said Bartley, a former Colorado law enforcement officer who now works part time for the Springfield parks and recreation district. "When that's happening, you'll do anything — swing, kick."
His yelling woke up nearby campers, and the commotion apparently caused the bear to run off.
Bartley received emergency care at the campground host's campsite, then was taken to West Park Hospital.
Careless food storage sometimes is a factor in conflicts between wildlife and people, but not in this case, Frost said. Bartley's campsite was "spotless," she said.
"He didn't have any food in his campsite outside of a bear-proof container," she said. "He didn't cook at his campsite. The campground overall was very clean."
Given the bear's behavior, wildlife officials believe it was accustomed to people and their food, Frost said.
If the bear is trapped, it likely will be killed, she said.
"This kind of behavior is a serious concern for public safety," Frost said.
Both the Soda Butte campground and another nearby remained closed Friday, for the second day.
In southwestern Montana, state wildlife officials trapped and killed a black bear north of Dillon after a backpacker was bitten while cooking fish at his campsite earlier this month, The Montana Standard reported.
Fish, Wildlife and Parks told the newspaper the bear trapped July 10 at a campground in the Pioneer Mountains was euthanized. The agency said it could not be certain the bear was the same one that bit the backpacker. He received hospital care for puncture wounds and was released.