Montana bear encounters: defending yourself - KPAX.com | Continuous News | Missoula & Western Montana

Montana bear encounters: defending yourself

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Many know how to behave when encountering a bear in the wild, but for American pioneers, trekking across Montana for the first time it was a different story.

That story was told to an audience at Montana Wild on Thursday by someone who knows a lot on the subject.

Duane Buchi of the Lewis & Clark Interpretive Center in Great Falls came to Helena to talk to residents. Buchi donned traditional attire to tell the harrowing stories of William Clark and Meriwether Lewis as they explored the west centuries ago.

It was near the Montana border that the pair would have their first encounter with a bear. Up until then, most on the east coast of the United States had only heard stories about the mysterious creatures.

The first bear the two met was eight feet long and took nearly a dozen bullets before dying. Buchi said as a country, we owe much of what we know about bears to Lewis and Clark.

“Some of the very things [Lewis and Clark] learned about the grizzly bear and about operating in bear country we still practice today,” Buchi said. “That whole idea of, ‘Hey, going out alone into bear country,’ we realized after just a couple of incidents that that wasn’t a good idea and we still preach that in bear awareness today.”

The group also went over the proper way to use bear spray. That includes keeping it easily accessible while in bear country and making sure any packaging materials are already removed from the canister.

RELATED: Montana Made: Grizzly attack spurs man to start bear spray company

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