updated 9/23/2011 9:00:08 PM ET 2011-09-24T01:00:08

A hunter attacked by a wounded grizzly in a Montana forest was killed not by the bear, but by a gunshot fired by a companion trying to save him, authorities said Friday.

Lincoln County Sheriff Roby Bowe said an autopsy determined 39-year-old Steve Stevenson of Winnemucca, Nev., died of a single gunshot to the chest. The cause of death was determined by a medical examiner with the Montana State Crime Lab.

The shot was fired by 20-year-old Ty Bell, also of Winnemucca, as he attempted to stop the bear's attack. No charges are expected.

The autopsy also found bite marks on Stevenson's leg caused by the bear.

"We're fairly convinced it was obviously an accident," Bowe said. "But the county attorney will review the final report once we're done."

Bell and Stevenson were on a black bear hunting trip with two other people along the Montana-Idaho border when the attack occurred Sept. 16.

The foursome had split into two-member teams and early in the day Bell shot and wounded what he thought was a black bear. He and Stevenson tracked the 400-pound grizzly into thick cover, where it turned on the men.

Stevenson's family has said he yelled at the bear to distract it and keep it from attacking Bell. When it instead went after Stevenson, Bell fired multiple shots trying to kill the animal, Bowe said.

It was unclear how many times the bear was hit, or whether the bullet that hit Stevenson had first traveled through the bear. Bowe said that possibility was under investigation.

The bear also died. It is illegal to kill grizzly bears, and the case is under investigation by wildlife agents.

Copyright 2011 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.


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