Although last weekend's search for a grizzly bear and its reported human victim west of Glacier National Park came up empty, witnesses and others involved with the search say they're not sure the report was a false alarm.
"I think it's authentic," Flathead County Sheriff Chuck Rhodes said of the grizzly bear sighting. "The problem is, it all looks alike out there.""Out there" is a remote area of the Flathead National Forest north of Polebridge, where mushroom pickers have been gathering this spring. The area was burned severely by last year's Red Bench forest fire, making much of the terrain look the same.
Rhodes said people who said they saw a bear feeding on a human leg had trouble identifying where it happened. A ground and air search by more than 60 people Friday afternoon and evening turned up no evidence of a bear attack.
"There are multiple witnesses, but they are shaken up and are having trouble showing us where it happened," added Gary Keifer, a ranger with the Flathead National Forest.
But one witness said he is "99 percent sure" of what he saw - a grizzly bear feeding on a human leg.
Undersheriff Gary Franklin said he did not doubt the sightings of a bear, but questioned whether it was a human leg that the bear was feeding on.
"I think they may have gotten excited when they saw the bear and mistook a branch or something else for a leg," he said.