IDAHO FALLS, Idaho – An archery hunter pursuing elk is recovering after being attacked in Idaho by a grizzly bear with three cubs.
Wildlife officials say they could find no signs the bear had been wounded when the hunter fired at it with a .44-caliber handgun.
Gregg Losinski of Idaho Fish and Game on Tuesday said the hunter received no broken bones but had soft-tissue damage to his left hand and arm from the Monday morning encounter in eastern Idaho in the Island Park area below Sawtell Peak. That's about 15 miles west of Yellowstone National Park.
Fremont County Sheriff Len Humphries said the hunter, Mike Adams of Idaho Falls, used his cellphone to call for help and officials were able to use an advanced 911 system to pinpoint his location and direct him several miles out of the Caribou-Targhee National Forest using the easiest route to a waiting ambulance.
"He had an arm chewed up pretty good," the sheriff said. "He was able to wrap it up and stop the bleeding and walk out."
Adams was taken to Madison Memorial Hospital in Rexburg, where a hospital spokeswoman said he was treated and released.
The estimated grizzly population in the 19,000-square-mile Yellowstone ecosystem is 757 bears, and they are listed as threatened under the Endangered Species Act.
Losinski said a team of seven investigators went to the area on Monday that Adams marked with a GPS. Losinski said the team found Adam's hat, evidence of a grizzly bear in the area, and a dead deer the bear was likely feeding on because it had been "cached," or covered with dirt.
He said the team spent about six hours in the area but found no signs the bear had been wounded. If the bear had been shot, "with that caliber of handgun, you would expect to find something," Losinski said.
Adams could not be reached by The Associated Press on Tuesday.
Losinski said a creek in the area running full from recent storms likely prevented the bear from hearing Adams approaching.
"To be a good hunter you have to do everything we recommend people not do," Losinski said. Officials advise people traveling in bear country to go in groups and make noise, the opposite of what successful hunters do.
He said the bear's quick attack and then flight is typical of a surprised bear protecting cubs or food.
Losinski said Adams is left-handed and had bear pepper spray on his left side, but couldn't get to it during the attack. Losinski said Adams with his right hand was able to reach his handgun on his right side and fire shots that Adams told officials he thought struck the bear.
"He was doing off-hand shooting while being attacked by a bear," Losinski said. "How accurate he may have been no one knows."
Losinski said he doesn't anticipate the hunter will face any charges as he did nothing wrong.
"I wasn't surprised when we had an encounter between a hunter and a bear," said Humphries, the sheriff, noting his office has been fielding complaints about bears over the summer.
Officials euthanized a 25-year-old male grizzly bear in the Island Park area last week after it repeatedly broke into buildings. Officials said its advanced age and decreasing ability to forage naturally increased the potential for conflict.