Confronted by what they termed a "weird-acting" white-tailed deer, two women hiking along the Going-to-the-Sun Road in Glacier National Park fired off a round from a .357 handgun to scare off the animal.
The incident June 12 is the second reported occurrence of visitors to national parks resorting to handguns in dealing with wildlife since February when a law that allows park visitors to arm themselves took effect.
In the Glacier incident, two unidentified women from Whitefish, Montana, were hiking along the Going-to-the-Sun Road near Logan Creek when they said they were approached by the deer. One woman tried to spray the animal with pepper spray, but she was about 30 feet away and the spray was ineffective, Glacier spokeswoman Amy Vanderbilt said Friday.
"They had differing views on the distance that they were from the deer. One said 5 feet, one said 30 feet. The one who was 30 feet dispensed the pepper spray,” the park spokeswoman said. “They reportedly yelled, stomped their feet, and also waved a jacket at the deer to chase it off. It was somewhere between 30 feet and 5 feet away, depending on the two women’s perspective, and it continued to move toward them, swinging its head.
"The other woman retrieved her handgun and discharged a single round. Not at the deer. She directed it into the dirt, in what she described as a safe direction away from the deer," said Ms. Vanderbilt. They indicated that the deer stopped and moved into the brush, but continued to act 'weird.'"
There was no indication whether the deer was a buck or a doe or whether there might have been a fawn or fawns nearby that the animal might have been trying to protect.
No one witnessed the shooting, and park officials didn't learn of it until two days later when the women called rangers to describe their encounter.
“The women were not aware that they could not discharge a weapon in the park, so they were educated as to the fact that ... They cannot discharge the weapon except in instances of imminent danger or harm," said Ms. Vanderbilt.
The women were not cited for firing the .357 as there was no resource damage and since no one else witnessed the incident, said the park spokeswoman.