Friday, March 31, 2023

Allen Schallenberger, Bear Researcher, .357 Colt Python, a Large Grizzly bear in 1976



Wildlife biologist and bear researcher Allen Schallenberger reported the details of a successful pistol defense with a .22 H & R revolver, by Chuck Jonkel in 1962. As this correspondent conducted an interview with Allen, he revealed that he had acquired a Colt Python .357 magnum revolver with a four-inch barrel for $60.00 used, in 1963 from a person who previously worked for a sheriff’s department. He needed the revolver as he was working alone on bighorn sheep research in the rugged Sun River Canyon in Montana both summer and winter.

Allen used the .357 three times to fire warning shots to scare away grizzly bears
in the years 1976, 1977 and 1978, while doing grizzly bear research. The bears
were all adults, and one male was also present in a 1977 incident but did not
charge workers until 1978. 

He worked for the Montana Fish and Game Dept. for ten years 1965-74 as a game management biologist out of Choteau on the very rugged and mostly without roads, Rocky Mountain Front extending from just north of Helena to the Canadian Border. He also worked on the plains east to the Sweet Grass Hills. 


Allen Schallenberger, Christmas, 1971. 

 In 1974 he did big game and range research for the United States Forest Service in the 123,000- acre Badger-Two Medicine wild area of the Lewis and Clark National Forest just south of Glacier National Park. In 1975 he started doing grizzly bear research in that area and later expanded it to most of the Rocky Mountain Front. In 1977 the research was associated with the University of Montana at Missoula until the end of 1979. The final report of 207 pages was completed in spring 1980. Horses and mules and tents were used in the research, and we were generally in the field from mid- April till late November when most of the grizzlies were in their winter dens. In spring we ran 20- mile snare lines to catch grizzly bears and black bears so we could mark them. The grizzlies got radio collars with transmitters so we could track them from the air and ground until they denned. The snare sites were in aspen patches and a V shaped log snare cubby with smelly road killed deer bait was generally set up about a mile or two apart on the line. The 5/16- inch Aldrich snare cable was tightly fastened to a tree to hold the bears which were caught by a front leg just above their foot. 

The three separate encounters where the .357 Colt Python was fired in defense against bears  happened in 1976, 1977, and 1978. This correspondent interviewed Allen and corresponded with him. Allen checked his field notes and research papers and was able to give these detailed accounts of the three incidents where he fired the .357 Colt Python in defense against bears.

 In Allen's own words starting in the summer of 1976: 

 In the summer of 1976, I was working alone on the grizzly bear research and was on a trip in the Scapegoat Wilderness south of the Benchmark Road end on USFS land. I was riding my saddle horse and leading two pack horses with my equipment and camping supplies. I rode into a small grassy opening suitable for horse feed north of Half Moon Peak at about dusk. I unloaded the two pack horses and turned them loose to graze with hobbles and was starting to unsaddle my riding horse. A very heavy, tall, dark colored grizzly bear appeared walking on the nearby USFS trail about 30 yards away. He made no bad threats and kept walking. I had been out about two weeks and my flashlight batteries were dead. Quickly I threw some stove fuel on dry sticks and got a large fire going for light. I put a double halter rope on my horse so he could not break loose from the tree. I set up my small tent and then I stood outside watching my horses and listening to the bear circle the small clearing breaking sticks. The horses with hobbles were not eating and were pivoting sensing the travel of the bear circling around us. After about two hours, I knew I had to do something to scare away the very large and aggressive bear. I fired six fast shots with my Colt Python and reloaded quickly. The bear left and I tied up all the horses, ate some supper and went to bed in the tent. The horses were allowed to graze the next morning before we headed back to our pickup and trailer at Benchmark Road. The bear’s tracks were in the trail dust for several miles. The front paw print was 8 inches wide which indicates a very big grizzly in Montana. That was the last trip I ever made in grizzly research without a 760 Remington pump 30:06 rifle with ghost ring peep sight and 220 grain loads or a short, barreled Remington 12 gauge 870 with sights and a combination of double 00 buck and slugs along with my revolver and hard cast lead bullets.

The incidents In 1977 and 1978 will be covered in a future article. 

©2023 by Dean Weingarten: Permission to share is granted when this notice and link are included.

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