A male grizzly bear attacked and killed a woman who was camping near a small town in Montana earlier this week. The 65-year-old woman from Chico, California, had been on a bicycling trip with friends.
The attack triggered a massive search conducted by Montana Fish, Wildlife, and Parks (FWP) as well as local law enforcement. Now, however, it appears the hunt is over.
“Last night, the Powell County Sheriff’s Office took a report from a resident who came home and found her door ripped off and large claw marks were present. A short time later, a male grizzly bear was killed in the area,” the Powell County Sheriff’s office wrote in a Facebook post early Friday morning. “Samples were immediately taken from the bear and were sent to a testing facility where we hope to make positive identification within the next couple of days. Early indications are that this is likely the bear that was involved in Tuesday’s attack.”
A Horrifying Encounter
The attack took place near Ovando, a town of fewer than 100 people approximately 60 miles from Helena. The town sits near the edge of the Bob Marshall Wilderness, a 1,500-square-mile expanse of public forests that extends to the Canadian border. The area, which includes Glacier National Park, is home to the largest concentration of grizzly bears in the contiguous U.S.
The encounter with the bear began when it wandered into the campsite.
“The bear initially woke the campers but then ran away,” FWP said, a Backpacker article reports. “The three campers removed food from their tents, secured it, and went back to bed.”
The bear quickly returned to the campsite. At around 3:30 a.m., two campers in an adjacent tent woke up when they heard their companion being attacked by the bear, according to FWP. The bear had already pulled the woman from her tent. After they sprayed the animal with bear mace, it fled the scene.
Sometime that night, a bear which is believed to be the same animal, also got into a chicken coop in town — killing and eating several chickens, a USA Today article reports.
Montana is home to a large bear population, so encounters are not unknown. Indeed, a backcountry guide was killed by a grizzly bear last April while he fished along the Yellowstone National Park border in southwestern Montana.
Then again, Tiffanie Zavarelli, a saloon owner in Ovando, says in an Associated Press article that this is the first fatal bear mauling that she knows of in the community.
“Everybody’s pretty shaken up right now. The population here is 75, so everybody knows everybody,” Zararelli said, “The people from Montana, we know how to be ‘bear aware,’ but anything can happen.”
Know Before You Go
When traveling in bear country, visitors should not store food in tents. Instead, food — as well as all scented items, including toothpaste — should be properly stored in a bear-proof container or in a vehicle with hard doors and closed windows, the U.S. Forest Service explains. In addition to never leaving food unattended, visitors should clean up food or garbage around the campsite.
More information about safely visiting bear country may be found here.