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Bear badly mauls hunter in Montana

(Reuters) - A man who was hunting for bears with his father in a remote corner of southwestern Montana had the tables turned on him when he was mauled by a bruin over the weekend, state wildlife officials said on Monday.

The 47-year-old hunter, whose identity has not been publicly released, was attacked by the bear at about 11 a.m. local time on Sunday in the mountains of Beaverhead National Forest near Dillon, about 100 miles southeast of Missoula, officials said.

The man's 68-year-old father, who was a short distance away at the time, heard a rifle shot and hurried to the location to find his son severely injured, but the bear had by then vanished, said Andrea Jones, a spokeswoman for the state Fish, Wildlife and Parks Department.

The injured hunter, who is from Stevensville, Montana, was initially taken to a hospital in Dillon, then was flown by helicopter to Seattle in Washington state for further treatment, Jones said.

Jones had no information on the man's medical condition except to say that he was too badly hurt to have been questioned by authorities about the circumstances of the attack. It was not immediately clear whether the hunter was mauled by a black bear or grizzly bear, she said.

A team of specialists from the state wildlife agency and the U.S. Forest Service were dispatched to the scene of the mauling to investigate the incident.

Bear attacks in which a person is killed or severely injured are relatively uncommon, typically resulting from the animal being surprised by a human's presence, so the stealth exercised by hunters puts them at higher risk of startling a bear, Jones said.

It remained unknown whether the hunter mauled on Sunday precipitated the attack by shooting at the bear, or whether he shot at the bruin only after it charged him, or whether the gun went off during the attack, state wildlife officials said.

(Reporting by Steve Gorman; Editing by Diane Craft)

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