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Monday, September 19, 2011

'It just kept coming': Mother's terror for son mauled to death by wounded bear seconds before friend shot animal dead

By Daily Mail Reporter

Tragedy: Steve Stevenson, 39, and Ty Bell, 21, had been going after black bears when the attack happened

A 39-year-old hunter killed by a wounded grizzly bear yelled out to draw the 400lb male bear toward him in an effort to keep it from attacking his young hunting partner, the man's family said.

Steve Stevenson, of Winnemucca, Nevada, died on Friday after 20-year-old Ty Bell wounded what he thought was a black bear and the two men tracked it into thick cover along the Idaho-Montana border where it attacked at about 10am .

'They both shot it and it kept coming,' Steve Stevenson's mom, Janet Price, said. 'Steve yelled at it to try and distract it, and it swung around and took him down. It's what my son would have done automatically, for anybody.'

'They tracked the bear into an area of heavy cover where Mr. Stevenson was attacked by the wounded grizzly bear,' Lincoln County Undersheriff Brent Faulkner said in a news release late on Friday.

'Mr Bell was able to shoot the bear multiple times, eventually killing it,' he said.

Mr Bell used his cell phone to call for help but Mr Stevenson died from his injuries, Undersheriff Faulkner said.

The area is extremely remote, with no roads and poor communications, said Ron Aasheim of the Montana Department of Fish, Wildlife and Parks. Authorities reached the scene in helicopters.

'This is big-time back country,' he said. 'There are no roads even close to this thing.'

The two were members of a four-member hunting party from Winnemucca that had been going after black bears in the mountainous, heavily forested region near the Canadian border when the attack occurred.

It's unclear if the attack happened in Idaho or Montana. The sheriff's office said GPS coordinates put the attack directly on the state line.

Mr Stevenson's family said he was an active outdoorsman who had made previous hunting trips to the area.

He worked as a gold and silver miner for a company called Hycroft, said his stepfather, Christopher Price. Mr Stevenson was married and had two daughters, ages 14 and 10.

'He was a great friend to everyone, great fun,' said Ms Price. 'A wonderful man.'

Yellowstone: The have been two other reports of grizzlies attacking people in Yellowstone National Park, some 400 miles south of this latest attack

John Fraley, spokesman for Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks, said four agency workers were flown to the remote area by helicopter on Friday.

Mr Stevenson's body was taken out by helicopter and turned over to the Lincoln County authorities in Montana. The sheriff's office said the body was being taken to the Montana State Crime Lab for an autopsy.

Mr Fraley said the grizzly was one of about 45 the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service estimates live in the Cabinet-Yaak Ecosystem Area in north-west Montana and northern Idaho.

Mr Fraley said the bear is being taken to the agency's lab in Bozeman for a necropsy.

He estimated the bear's age at six to eight, based on its weight of 400 pounds.

'That's a good-sized grizzly bear,' he said.

Ms Price said the hunters had the necessary licenses to hunt black bears in both states and had decided to hunt in pairs after spotting what they thought were signs of a grizzly bear in the area.

She said they planned to leave the area if they spotted one.

Ms Price said that after Mr Bell shot the bear, the two hunters waited until they thought the bear had died and then tracked it into thick cover.

The incident is under investigation.

It is illegal to kill a grizzly bear, which is listed as threatened in the Lower 48 states, but there was no immediate word if Bell would face any charges.

This is at least the third man killed by a grizzly since July.

In late August, a grizzly bear in Yellowstone National Park, some 400 miles south of here, mauled a Michigan hiker to death. In July, a female bear with cubs in Yellowstone attacked a couple from California, killing the man before fleeing.

This attack comes as Idaho's congressional delegation has proposed amending the Endangered Species Act to clarify that it is legal to shoot a grizzly bear in self-defence or in defence of another person.

The legislation was in response to the case of a northern Idaho man who shot and killed a grizzly cub in May after it and two other cubs wandered onto his property.

Jeremy Hill, 33, was charged with a federal crime of killing a federally protected species, but the case was dropped last week and he paid a $1,000 fine for a noncriminal infraction.



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