BOZEMAN — 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,” explained Jason Veitch. He and a friend were at the Yellowtail Dam south of Hardin.
“This bear comes out of this cherry stand and headed straight down to the water’s edge, where we were,” explained Veitch.
Black bears are common in that area, but what happened next caught Veitch off guard: “He just kept coming.”
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 Veitch.
This is far from the first unusual bear story of the summer. So what’s going on?
“Well, we are in an extreme drought year this year," explained Matt Wemple of Montana Fish, Wildlife, and Parks. "And whenever you have a year like that it affects so many things for wild animals, especially food sources and food and water.”
Veitch, who has a spa store near Four Corners, says he has an idea what brought the bear to his boat. “Given the amount to traffic up there and boaters and it’s a very popular recreation area, that, you know, that bear had been fed and was sort of conditioned to boats and had a food reward,” he said.
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," said Wemple. "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.”
Wemple’s advice? Back away slowly when you see a bear, don’t run. And don’t forget to carry your bear spray.
“Bears can smell things that we just can’t," he said. "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," said Veitch. "Around any given corner there’s an opportunity to experience something like that, but you certainly have to be bear aware and treat wildlife as wildlife.”