A Boise man sustained injuries from a black bear attack near the Middle Fork of the Salmon River early Friday morning, according to the Idaho Department of Fish and Game.
Stephen Vouch, 29, and two friends were hunting bighorn sheep in the Frank Church River of No Return Wilderness and camping near the Middle Fork of the Salmon River when the attack happened. He told Fish and Game employees that he woke up around 2 a.m. to something tugging his hair and realized it was a black bear biting his head.
Vouch screamed, and one of his friends shot the bear with a .45 caliber handgun. The injured bear fled up a tree, and Vouch shot the animal a second time, killing it.
Vouch said he and his friends were prepared with emergency medical supplies but didn’t have a satellite phone, so he didn’t receive medical care for three days. Vouch’s friends patched him up and the group rafted downriver to where they could fly out of the wilderness, leaving Sunday, according to Fish and Game.
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Vouch was treated Monday at a St. Luke’s clinic for lacerations to his head.
The hunters gave the bear’s hide and skull to Fish and Game, apparently a young healthy male weighing between 200 and 275 pounds. Jon Rachael, state wildlife manager with the Idaho Department of Fish and Game, said it’s not clear why the bear entered the camp since the hunters had stored their food properly.
The bear tested negative for rabies. Because the bear was shot to save Vouch’s life and not through an illegal hunt, Vouch will be allowed to keep the bear’s body, said Greg Wooten, chief of enforcement for the Idaho Department of Fish and Game.
There was a similar recent bear attack in a fire camp in the McCall area, said Wooten. A bear attacked a person in a sleeping bag and inflicted minor bites. Wooten says that the dry summer and a meagre berry crop means that more bears will be moving into lower elevations in search of water and food.
“If you encounter a bear in the wild, one of the hardest things to do, but the most important, is don’t run,” said Wooten. “Stay where you are, raise your arms above your head to make yourself look bigger than you are, and make a lot of noise.”
Rachael recommends bear spray rather than guns as protection because of the danger of accidentally shooting fellow campers while trying to fend off a bear.
The Associated Press contributed to this story.