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Greenough Lake area closed due to grizzly bear

Posted at 11:06 PM, May 08, 2023
and last updated 2023-05-09 12:50:05-04

An aggressive grizzly bear is wreaking havoc in the Beartooth Mountains.

The bear, looking for food, stared visitors down from across Greenough Lake.

In response, the U.S. Forest Service (USFS) Beartooth Ranger District temporarily closed all entry to the lake and Parkside Trail area.

A news release states: "The closure forms a loop starting from the intersection of Forest Road 2421 and the Parkside trail, heading south towards the second intersection of the Parkside trail and Forest Road 2421, north of MK Campground."

A Billings woman and her husband encountered the bear while hiking in the area.

She did not take pictures and they strategically found a way to get out of there without having any contact with the bear.

According to the USFS, the bear is attracted food, which includes dead fish in the lake that may have come from flooding and prolonged ice coverage.

"I could hear it breathe out of its nose, kind of like a grunting exhale," said Ashley Richards. "And that was terrifying."

Richards and her husband had walked from the campground area to the lake, a favorite hiking place of theirs for many years.

"When I heard the rustling I didn't know what it was immediately, but once I saw it, take up the slope a little bit and saw it was this big brown creature, yeah, I knew right away what it was," Richards said.

At first they ran, but then took a different tact.

"I realized that I shouldn't be running because he might charge," Richards said. "So then I stopped and then he stopped. And we just stared at each other. And then I walked backwards slowly. So I was like good. And then I ran out of there as fast as I could."

For safety, the road to the campground was closed on Monday, and will remain so until the bear leaves the area.

"It's a boar grizzly, and it seems to be foraging and it's showing defensive characteristics and it seemed to have drawn a crowd" said Morgan De Meyer, U.S. Forest Service public affairs specialist.

Others hiking in the area told the Forest Service the actions they had witnessed.

"He could do a bluff charge or a true charge standing up on his hind legs flooding out a warning growl," De Meyer said.

The Richards luckily made it back to their car safely and left immediately.

"Once I did get out of the bear's sight and I couldn't see him anymore, that's when I ran as fast as I could back to my car," Richards said.

The encounter is a good reminder about being careful and prepared.

"Always make sure that you have your bear spray," said De Meyer. "It's good to travel in pairs or groups and make sure you're making noise if you're backpacking. Food Storage is very important. If you come across a bear, definitely give it its space. And if it is aggressive, you can report it to the Forest Service."