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Investigators believe a bear bit a woman who was camping in Beehive Basin northwest of Big Sky, according to a Tuesday news release from Montana, Fish, Wildlife and Parks.

The victim and another person were camping on private land near the Beehive Basin trailhead when a large animal pushed or fell on their tent early Thursday morning, per the release. The campers kicked and yelled to scare the animal and it bit one on the leg from outside the tent.

The animal then left the campsite and the campers did not see the animal. The victim’s injuries are “relatively minor,” FWP said. She reached a medical facility and received treatment. The campers reported the incident Friday.

Officials believe an adult bear bit the woman based on her account and the bite wound. They’re uncertain, though, because they haven’t found bear tracks in the area, FWP spokesman Morgan Jacobsen said. The lack of tracks could be due to “all kinds of factors,” he said.

“This behavior isn’t particularly out of the ordinary,” Jacobsen said. “A bear having an encounter with campers is still somewhat concerning.”

There also is no clarity on whether the animal was a grizzly or black bear since “there’s a large variation in size in the configuration of bear teeth,” which alone isn’t a reliable indicator of species, according to Jacobsen.

The campers’ food was in their vehicle and they were wearing clean clothes, the victim reported.

“If a bear encounters something like a tent, it’s not a natural object and they’re trying to figure out what it is,” Jacobsen said. “They’ll use their body to test it out and learn more about it. It seemed to be an investigative bear” rather than one that was predatory.

FWP is working with the U.S. Forest Service to monitor the area for potentially hazardous bear behavior. Signs have been posted at the trailhead warning of recent bear activity.

Not finding tracks and learning of the encounter a day later posed a problem in locating the bear. Since the campers didn’t see the bear, correctly identifying it would be difficult.

“We’re going to be watching this area closely,” Jacobsen said. “If we do have similar encounters in a similar nature, that would indicate we have a bear accustomed to being around people.”

The FWP continues to warn people of the dangers of being in places bears live and recommends carrying and knowing how to use bear spray, traveling in groups and making noise.

“We just encourage people to to be cautious especially in our part of Montana,” Jacobsen said. “When recreating in these areas, its important to be prepared for a bear encounter.”

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Paul Schwedelson can be reached at pschwedelson@dailychronicle.com or 406-582-2670. Follow him on Twitter @pschweds.

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