KALISPELL, Mont. (AP) — A female grizzly bear that was shot by a bird hunter in northwestern Montana about two weeks ago has been relocated, along with her cub, after a veterinarian removed an eye damaged in the shooting, wildlife officials said.
"Usually we don't have the luxury of finding an injured bear and operating on it, but this situation lent itself to an operation," Fish, Wildlife and Parks spokesman John Fraley told the Missoulian. "I can't recall us operating on a bear and releasing it back into the wild in my time here."
A bird hunter reported shooting the bear in an unexpected encounter east of Bigfork. The sow grizzly had been radio-collared after she and her cub were captured on the Rocky Mountain Front earlier this year and relocated to the east side of Hungry Horse Reservoir.
Both bears were spotted feeding on a road-killed deer near Ferndale earlier this week and Fraley said the agency decided to capture the bears and move them again. However, when the examined the bears, they saw the sow's eye was badly damaged.
Kalispell veterinarian Dan Savage removed the remnants of the bear's left eye during surgery Monday evening, stitched the wound closed and administered antibiotics for the infection that had developed.
The sow and the cub were released in the Spotted Bear area on Wednesday by FWP grizzly bear management specialist Tim Manley. He will continue to monitor the bear's movements.
Fraley said the bear's prognosis for survival is good because bears rely more on their sense of smell.
"A bear with one eye isn't at as great a disadvantage as a more sight-oriented animal," Fraley said.